Part III of Act IV
is dedicated equally
to the translator of
and the authors of
As You Like It
The Glittering Gate.
ACT IV. BELOVED FOOL:
BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA
retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script
(with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare)
- Part III -
[the Hall: the Ten and Beren are teaching the Sea-elf how to play chess, while over on the Hill Finrod is sitting on the grass with an air of assumed nonchalance in the midst a group distinguished by extreme discomfort, where none of the participants are at ease with each other for a spectrum of reasons, ranging from guilt to anger to distaste for witnessing family tension to conversing with the dead/the living, and the peace is extremely fragile --]
For how long didst thou hold sway over the Havens of Balar, then?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
No, I thought I made that clear -- we were allied with the coasts, and maintained the defenses at Brithombar and Eglarest as well as as improving the shipyards in the south, but I never administered those areas. Lord Cirdan and I were friends, but he was never my subject; it would have been absurd for one as inexperienced as I, and a foreigner, to claim dominion over the Sea-elves of Beleriand on the grounds of being their former King's grandson! I gave him counsel, sometimes, as he advised me well in turn.
Indeed, and wert thou not most singularly counselled in the course of thy reign throughout?
[they both glance at the group by the falls, briefly, and Finrod becomes very stern]
I bestowed my trust on those who proved themselves trustworthy, and authority on those who showed themselves fit to wield it. If they are not the most easy-tempered of Elves, what of it? I know you consider them responsible, like everyone else who didn't turn back with you, and a bad influence -- but you really don't grasp what things were like in the Old Country, how much work there was to be done, and how little ready resources to do it with --
[leaning forward, intense]
-- and especially what the Crossing was like. I needed every trustworthy and willing soul I could get. I used my siblings' help when I could -- but they had their own domains to administer and Work to do, and I couldn't go yanking them off that whenever I needed something looked into. And I never did figure out how to be in three places at once. Nor had I your option, of delegating or diverting delicate matters of negotiation and personal conflict to my partner and co-ruler. So I'll thank you, Father, not to speak slightingly of those friends who did stay loyal to me.
[Finarfin looks down, not saying anything in his own defense]
They are rebels, notwithstanding.
Yes. We are.
[she looks away, fiddling with her sash, and he does not pursue the matter -- instead he turns to his elders with an air of innocent curiosity:]
So -- were you engaging in yet another instance of sibling rivalry with us, or was it purely coincidental that we've got the largest families of anyone in Valinor, at least as things stood when we left?
Thy query is past comprehending, child.
Finrod: [to his father]
Of course it could simply be that Grandfather wanted a lot of kids, and you all simply took it for granted as something to strive for, internalizing it without realizing it, and nothing deliberate about it, but --
[to his aunt]
When my cousins and I were -- not friends, as it after proved, but friendly -- we started wondering, after Cur pointed out the respective ages and we did up a comparison table, and they remarked on how exceptionally pleased you two were when the twins were born, as if something had been definitively settled, that you'd gotten so far ahead that no one else could catch up.
[she gives him a very frosty Look]
Thine other uncle hath also more children than most commonly is custom.
We know. I've asked him, but he just ignores the question.
I suppose it could just be coincidence, but there does seem to be something in the fact that there do seem to be these batches of cousins all right around the same time in our House.
Nay, is it yet more of yon quaint fashion of speech from the Old Country? for surely thou dost not mean to speak of people as were loaves, else cakes -- ?
Finarfin: [even more quelling]
Finrod -- what, deemst thou, thy mother should say unto such malapert inquiring?
I've no idea. That's why I'm asking, because I haven't any way of knowing whether it's the truth, and since she isn't here and you two are, I'm asking you instead.
Thy manners improvéd not at all in the Old Country.
I must have lost them back there, too.
Majesty, it is not gracious to make light of the matter of unhousing -- not all of us have had the same leisure to grow accustomed to the business, and such jests are most distressing.
[the living Elves look relieved that another shade has raised the issue where they might not.]
Sorry. I meant my wits, as it happens. I hear so many witty remarks made concerning my lack of sanity on, for lack of better phrasing, a daily basis, that it seemed the obvious comparison to me.
So -- were you all having some sort of an artistic competition, then?
[the camera leaves them and moves to focus on the chess-lessons, where the Teler Maid is playing against the Captain, who is presently glaring at Beren, who is kneeling down next to the board watching]
Please don't tell me what I should be doing. -- Even if you're right. And nobody go quoting stupid sayings about things coming and going around, either.
Teler Maid: [her brows narrowing as she stares at the board]
I do not care much for this game.
[the Youngest Ranger is sitting beside her, advising her on moves]
Youngest Ranger: [encouraging]
You're doing quite well, for a beginner, truly.
That is not my meaning. In this fashion of it, there is no way to win, unless another does die.
Yeah, that's . . . sort of what happens, in war. Which this is based on, I'm afraid.
Teler Maid: [shaking her head]
But might it not happen, that from thinking this so like to war, that one might come to think of other Elves --
[looks at Beren]
-- or Men -- as but such small pieces to be set here and there, and in harm's way, and so to be knocked aside without regret, so that the purpose of winning be attained?
[dramatically she flips one of the pawns over with a snap of her fingers to reinforce the point, as if shooting a very large marble]
Erm -- I don't see how. It's but a game, after all.
First Guard: [disturbed but definite about his answer]
No, I'm -- sure, it -- isn't possible that any of us should come to such a point, where the loss of life meant nothing whatsoever -- that would be unthinkable, Maiwe. There would be no difference between us and the Enemy's minions at that point.
You were not killed by your own folk.
And does that not but go to show my sayings' truth, that you were set aside without regret by others, that did not care enough to care of your deaths as if they were their own?!
There was a Curse invoked, Curlew, and a great deal of other currents involved in that turn of affairs.
[at his words she tosses her head and looks over at the Steward]
And what do you say, my learnéd lord? Think you my notion's but folly, as well?
[the Captain winces at her words; the Steward does not answer at once, but instantly stops the strings, making it clear that he's paying attention and thinking about it first]
It is true that of those who rebelled against our lord, were many who favoured the board as a means of honing skills of strategy, beyond mere diversion; but at the same time it is no less true that the game was unknown, to those who first committed the sacrilege of murder against our people.
That is two answers -- which is to say, none at all!
Indeed, in former days I should have said at once -- Absurd, to think that a mere pastime might change the reasoning mind, a mere thing that thought employs itself about, as though the wax might shape the burin that sculpts it equally, though it be soft and bronze or agate hard. But now upon reflection it comes to me that it is true, that what is carved does indeed chafe and shape the tool that works it, for its respective hardness and softness thereof, and perhaps in like fashion the mind should be affected, pendant upon the self's own powers and determination. For does not thought, which shapes speech, and gives birth to the words that the tongue utters, hold precedence and rule over the fleeting sound? And yet --
[absent-mindedly running his hand around the forepillar of the harp]
-- having seen how varied speech may be, and how alike, and how unlike, are the ways and manners of thinking that each has that employs a different one, I wonder -- rather, judge it so -- that speech does truly shape the mind that makes it, even as the different densities of stones, and woods, and metals, do change the sculptor's very hand, both in pattern of gesture and by increase of strength. Yet this is but analogy, of course, and nothing definite.
You still have not said yea or nay, but yea and nay.
Isn't that an Elvish thing? I thought it came from being Eldar.
Were I not fearful of giving offense, I should say that it comes of wisdom, which often accompanies years but does not inevitably follow upon them, but which may by the course of time and wide experience allow to overlook a great many things, as from the topmost branches of the tallest trees, and thus reveal that things in truth be other than at first presumed while in their midst, as a distance might be less great than seemed, or greater, or things thought far apart lie close beside, and only such slow and laborious ascent to such a height may grant the view, and also must require as well the courage to look so far and through so lofty a gap.
[raising an eyebrow]
-- Or else, at other times, it comes but of mental sloth, that does not care to take the trouble to think on it, or possibly of simple ignorance, that is too proud to grant it.
[his ex gives him a wary look, and then an even more uncertain one to their companions, who are chuckling over this . . . answer]
How did you win, sir? Against His Majesty the High King?
I just assumed you cheated with the Sight.
[nods from several of the Ten]
No, I -- merely played kingstone, where he was playing chess proper.
How could you do that?
I took the offensive to his side, by putting my king into play, and setting all my pieces in guard around as a doubled nernehta. At first he was so thrown by the unprecedent and seeming-madness of such a hazardous ploy, that he could not mount an effective defense -- and then as certain similarities to unpleasant past events became increasingly manifest, aided by the fact that he had drawn black, His Majesty's uncle became increasingly, as you would say, rattled. I nearly felt badly at putting him in check with my remaining knight. But I doubt the stratagem would work again, now that he has had time to study it.
I can see where making him play Morgoth to your Fingolfin might make him a tad upset and careless.
But it is little like to Arda, after all's done, no matter how like your War -- for when one battle's ended, you but lay the pieces down for yet another.
[she gives them a slightly uncertain, challenging look, receiving only sad affirmation in return: only the Steward disagrees at all]
Steward: [shaking his head]
It is not much like the world Outside -- but it is very like to here.
[he returns to playing, still quietly; beyond, the Royal Guard sent on errand to Fingolfin returns, and approaching the hill, comes up quietly and kneels down discreetly behind his King, tapping him on the shoulder to get his attention.]
Third Guard: [aside to Finrod, in a rather frustrated tone]
Sir, your uncle's being gloomy over things again and wants you to go talk to him yourself. I did tell him you were busy with your father, but he's not in the mood to listen.
[he notices the surprised expressions of the living Eldar and gives Finrod a worried look]
Finrod: [very amused]
You're scandalizing my family with our informality.
[bites his lip, straightening as he kneels, and begins again -- very formal tone]
-- Sire, the High King would have your Majesty attend upon his presence most presently, and requests that His Majesty the King excuse your Majesty's absence for the whiles.
How's that, Sir?
Finrod: [approving nod]
What do you want me to tell him next?
Finrod: [cool glint]
Nothing. He'll be getting my response shortly, and regretting this game. He should know by now that I play to win.
-- On the other hand, he won't be able to complain about being bored.
[to the Guard]
-- Thank you.
[his follower nods and makes his departure with rapidity and relief, heading over to the much more relaxed, if still strained, gathering by the waterfall]
There is ill-will twixt thee and thine uncle?
[Finrod shrugs, shaking his head a little]
Finrod: [a shade wearily]
He's not gotten over the fact that most people here think of him as my uncle, rather than me as the High King's nephew. We try not to make an issue of it; but the fact of the matter is, I held more territory, and more followers, than all the rest of our family combined. -- For all the good it did me.
[Finarfin restrains a grimace]
But tell me, was that not ever truth? Surely thy father's elder was not so blind to see it not?
Yes, but it didn't matter to him then, because he never paid much attention to anything that happened in the south. All his concentration was fixed on Thangorodrim, and everything else was important only in so far as it related to the Leaguer. I might have ruled most of Beleriand, but it never registered saving insofar as it meant that I could guarantee deliveries of weapons and wine and gemstones and seafood and safe passage for all of that and his messengers and troops to the siege.
Whence, then, this sudden and much-belated cognition of such state as did obtain o'er all for nigh well all this Age?
Because -- an awful lot of them are here. And yes, technically we are all of us subject to him -- my people, including my brothers and their people as well, along with the Feanorian dead -- but that doesn't change the fact that an awful lot of them, including occasionally my brothers and some of the Feanorians, come to me first for advice. Which -- as I've tried to tell him -- has some little thing to do with the fact that he's spent much of the past decade moping about and playing endless rounds of chess with whomever he can conscript into it.
I mean -- Grinding Ice! -- what difference does it make any more? First of all, it's completely in the past; secondly, as you said, Aunt 'Danel, nothing really has changed except that he's been forced to notice it. I don't understand why he's so touchy about it now. When I was alive my kingdom came close to encircling Elu's, and he never gave me such a hard time as Uncle Fingolfin is giving me now. Not even when he threw us out.
Yes, but you freely gave him the one thing he did desire, you and your siblings and your following -- respect.
[stops, fights back a grin]
I give my father's brothers all the respect they are due. No less than I gave my grandfather's brother.
And thus His Majesty could but ever give his royal nephew hearing, whether the words were much to his liking or little, nor long stay angry with you, Sire.
[Finrod sighs deeply]
-- Too many Kings . . . !
Finarfin: [very measured and slightly-mocking tone]
So, my son, -- art thou King, or not? For first thou dost deny it, and yet thy folk aver it, and thou dost act in such wise ever amidst all, and now, in guardless speech thou eke averrest. Canst thou yet, in full cognizance, and all consideration of these things, deny me thus once more?
[they match stares for a long, intense moment, far too much between them to be said otherwise, and then Finrod sighs, yielding, but not weakening:]
Finrod: [equally-measured, and very proudly]
For so long as my people do hold me such, for so long as any of them stand in need of my protection, and for so long as we abide within these Halls -- I shall be their true lord, as they are true beyond all my deserving, for how can I choose other?
I had deemed no less. -- Glad am I in truth to find it so.
[Finrod is not sure what to make of his father's words; Amarie, who has up till now been very quiet and taut, now addresses him, in an edged, brittle tone.]
Thou -- thou dost not such things, in truth? To strike, with the sword's keenness, thy fellow shades?
Usually, -- worse.
D -- Fire-breathing serpent-monsters. Molten rivers. -- Things out of their worst nightmares to haunt them.
Then how mayest hold thyself superior to these thy -- foes?
They ravaged Swanhaven. They haven't regretted it. Now I harry them. -- Not unprovoked, I assure you.
[she does not respond, but only stares at him with a strange intensity; he gives his living relatives a defiant look. In the background, the Feanorian contingent returns, strengthened by the addition of a few more bolder souls]
My nephew, didst not assure that yon unquiet dead should ne'er dare to return and trouble ye?
[looking around, he grimaces at her dry words]
Unwarranted optimism -- ever our bane.
[sighing, he gets up and goes over to the incipient conflagration, shaking his head wearily at it all. With unspoken accord, the other four rise and follow to see what happens. The confronted parties are in much the same arrangement as before, with Beren and Huan together remaining reluctantly by the falls, while the two followings face off without yet coming to blows.]
What seems to be the trouble, gentles?
Seneschal of Formenos: [airily]
What trouble would you have, sir?
None whatsoever, by my wish. But I fear you bring me some.
Seneschal of Formenos:
No, you and yours brought it on yourselves. Your servant owes my friend a debt of pain, and we are here to see it paid.
You know what my decision on that was -- that judgment should be left up to them that rightfully judge here, and I bid you go and make your grievance known to them. Have you not done so?
Warden of Aglon:
Hah -- as if they'd judge honestly between you and yours, and us! You know what the truth of that is, I'll warrant.
As I know the truth of what I say -- that I know not what judgment the Doomsman would pronounce, but that it be just.
My lord, they will not give you peace, until I yield. Let me --
For the common good, and Beren's --
-- No. I do not betray my own.
[the Steward bows his head in obedience, though not relieved by the refusal]
Seneschal of Formenos:
So quickly you yield, Enedrion. I hardly recognize you these days -- you must have been at some pains to blend in over the years with House Finarfin's "meekness," as I believe you used to call it over dinner at Gatherings in the old Day, considering how much you said it wore upon you.
[he seems somewhat disappointed and surprised that the Ten express no surprise nor dismay whatsoever at this revelation"]
Warden of Aglon: [frowning thoughtfully]
No, it's the other way 'round, I think: he found his proper level with these, who almost instantly forgot their Noldor heritage -- such as it was -- and "naturalized," I think they put it, when it's plants. None quite quite as much as the little sister -- but you'd swear they were all Dark- elves themselves, the way they've been running and hiding from trouble, these last few years. Of course, if he'd been truly High-elven, at heart, and not just from birth, he'd not have held back and gotten caught up with these stragglers back in the initial stages of the Departure.
[the Steward does not respond, though his expression reveals the strain -- Finarfin gives him a surprised look]
Is this ever their way and fashion of words unto ye?
Yet thou dost not strike him down for such form of insolence?
Truly, my lord, I -- I seldom, if ever, permit my anger to rule my deeds. -- That -- was a most uncommon exception.
I usually take care of any necessary violence, Sir.
Aye, yet -- he derideth not only ye, but my son the same, in his words to thee.
[another quick nod]
That's my jurisdiction as well.
I aver thy former actions seem less worthy of reprehensions -- the both of ye.
[to the Feanorian lords, impassioned:]
Wherefore ye seek naught but to feed this malice that doth overgrow thee like unto mossy greens o'ersliming rocks that do stand in water -- deem ye not that it shall be the more fitting employ of spirit and strength to seek an end, or some form of speech or form of service that shall give solace to thine injured mood, young shade, that doth not give to other injury? Nor that it befits thee better, that art his elder both in earthly years alike in death, to urge him peace, belike discovering of thine own wisdom such appeasement even, that shall be acceptable to all who now contend?
Seneschal of Formenos: [shaking his head]
No one can stop you from talking, I suppose -- but I can't imagine what you think you'll accomplish, Finarfin old chap. Your skills as a peacemaker and a leader haven't exactly been shining successes, what? After all, you couldn't even keep your own children in line -- though I'm not sure whether that says more about your parenting skills than your -- ahem -- "leadership abilities," eh? Not like your brother at all . . .
[he trails off, raising his eyebrow challengingly -- Finarfin only gives him a level Look, matching him stare for stare, while to the side Finrod's jaw hardens, though he doesn't say anything]
He is King of the Noldor, by right of descent that hath been confirméd full by Taniquetil's Powers -- and by desert, thou rebel, thou thief!
Warden of Aglon: [bored tone, not even looking at her]
Go back to your Valmar birdcage and ring your bells, Firstling.
Amarie: [to Finrod]
-- And dost thou stand there, my lord, and hear, and do naught?
What do you want me to do, exactly? I thought you were against violence.
It is thine own father he mocketh, nor I alone!
I can tell him to be quiet, but you've seen how much good that does. If I hit him, it's going to escalate, which is what I'm trying to prevent. A bit counter-productive, wouldn't you say?
[she snorts angrily; the Feanorians look on with malicious glee]
After all, it's hardly fair of you to condemn Edrahil for losing his temper at the same sort of thing, and then goad me into it, -- unless you're actually trying to get me to do something to further justify your bad opinions of me --
Amarie: [loudly interrupting him]
[she grits her teeth as if biting down on any further imprecations, looking as coolly unaffected as she can, but there are tears in her eyes]
Warden of Aglon: [affecting innocence, gesturing back and forth]
So -- are you two married, or not? I can never get a straight answer about that, and my Lords weren't quite sure either.
[to Amarie first]
It's just as well, considering, that you stayed behind, Firstling -- you do know he was notorious for running off and not finishing things properly before getting distracted with something new. Saved yourself no end of grief, I'm sure --
-- It's hardly surprising that nobody in Nargothrond followed you, when you couldn't even convince your own lady to do the same! Of course, that's not really surprising either, considering you never stayed there long enough to unpack your bags. -- I wonder if they've even missed you yet?
[without looking around Finrod flings out his arm, blocking the Captain from moving forward; Amarie is white with fury]
We finished the defenses of Barad Nimras, didn't we? And th --
Seneschal of Formenos: [cutting him off]
-- Yes, and from what I've heard, that was a signally pointless waste of resources, wasn't it? They didn't strike there, after all.
At least we didn't just hang about on a perpetual shooting vacation enjoying ourselves at other people's expense!
[the Feanorian lords just smile, the baiting succeeding quite well]
Have you anything of substance to impart, milords?
Nerdanel: [sternly chiding]
Ye should stand ashamed, that have not learned aught of mercy else of wisdom for the workings of Doom.
[they don't even look at her, although a few of their following do.]
They are Kinslayers, noble lady, and one expects nothing else of them, if one is wise.
[the Seneschal and Warden give him a glance and then ignore him, as unworthy of attention, while Nerdanel draws herself up to deliver another rebuke.
Do not waste your time and trouble, please -- it will only incur you needless grief, and insult.
[she gives him a a quick approving glance, and continues to rake those who formerly owed her fealty as well with an adamantine glare. Some of them display signs of clear discomfort, despite their affectation of her non- existence.]
Finrod: [disgusted exasperation]
What do you want? I'm not about to let you hurt any of my people, and I'm not going to allow you to start a melee in here. Now you have the choice of letting it stop, now, quietly, and taking it up with the Powers that are here, as I advised -- or of pressing it to open conflict. We are not, -- have not -- and will not be the initiators of aggression. We do our best to keep the peace here, even in the face of your determination to break it.
Warden of Aglon:
Oh, such pretty, pretty words! What a pity they aren't true. -- Or have you forgotten how your vassal there ran me through when I had done nothing to him?
[the Steward lowers his head, but does not turn away or retreat; Finrod is unmoved by the retort, as are the rest of his friends.]
You hit the Sea-Mew.
Warden of Aglon: [blank]
Teler Maid: [loudly -- very loudly]
[he glances over, startled, and registers her presence]
Warden of Aglon: [exasperated, to Finrod]
I did no such thing. I merely moved her aside as she was obstructing me -- all right, perhaps a little too much force, but nothing to hurt her, really.
[she snorts angrily, giving him a glare to which he is quite oblivious]
Obstructing you -- and from what?
Warden of Aglon:
? ? ?
[Finrod sighs, and looks at the Youngest Ranger]
Youngest Ranger: [clearly, if with reluctant expression]
From trying to strike me, gentles.
Warden of Aglon:
-- Who had struck me without warning and most unsportsmanlike -- with not even a proper weapon!
-- And, as I understand it, to forestall you from harming the Lord of Dorthonion. -- A Man unarmed, crippled, occupied in peaceful pursuits, and offering you no cause for violence. Not to mention a valiant enemy of our common Enemy.
[pause, in which everyone looks over at Beren where he is standing unhappily holding onto Huan's neck]
Warden of Aglon: [sullen]
He provoked me.
[derisive noises and loud jeers from the Ten & Huan -- Finrod gestures them quiet]
Truthfully? I admit that Beren's social skills are not always employed, but tell me -- who spoke first?
Seneschal of Formenos: [patronizingly]
Finarfinion, you can't really expect us to take such insolence from one of these yearsick Followers, behaving as though he were one of us, our equal -- nay, our better -- and not a thief, come of a breed of thieves, overrunning and taking all that's ours by right.
Warden of Aglon: [nodding]
Indeed -- if he'd shown me respect, as would be appropriate for someone who owed everything to our sacrifices in the Leaguer, I'd not have lost my temper with your Man servant there. Instead he behaved with less civility than the rest of your people usually do -- which I admit is a difficult thing to manage!
Don't listen to them --
It isn't true, Beren, don't pay attention.
Still dost hold fast to this thy jealousy, that art not even earth enough to hold to aught of earth, but like a shadow hast but swept 'cross the lands, until thy time of Doom hath swallowed thee as the night ever swalloweth all such transitory shadows? Wilt thou ever grasp at that which thou canst not bear off, even as thy true Master doth ever seek to clutch all within's own ever-increasing hunger?
Teler Maid: [disdainful]
We might have preferred the Twilight -- but only to better see the holy Stars, and not to hide our deeds!
Indeed, gentle maiden, they are but Orcs that can endure the Sun, as your words imply -- for so they have most clearly shown themselves to be.
Seneschal of Formenos:
Small your sort's gratitude ever was, but it seems to have vanished altogether, Dark-elf.
What gratitude is owed, for a deed unintended, sir? You did not have any thought of our welfare when you assaulted Morgoth, nor beleaguered him -- it was but a consequence, and quite as fortunate for your interests as for those whose holding Beleriand rightly was!
[the Lord Seneschal ignores him]
Warden of Aglon: [caustic, to Finrod]
I want satisfaction, Your Majesty.
Finrod: [looking at him as though he were a beetle]
And I want you and your people out of here, or at least quiet, if you insist upon staying.
Warden of Aglon:
And that's unfortunate, since you can't enforce your will here any more than you could in Nargothrond.
I don't recommend you test that premise.
Warden of Aglon: [smiling a knowing smile]
No, you wouldn't -- since the Powers won't let you actually do anything any more. And, of course, like a dutiful little slave you promised to obey them -- sorry, child, not thrall.
I gave my word because the Weaver was so upset, and it was a small thing for me, to give her peace of mind.
Warden of Aglon:
Oh, that's right -- you're just too nice for your own good. No wonder you lost every battle and contest you engaged in -- but considering you've but a quarter Noldor blood, it's perhaps more impressive that you ventured so far from home and even made the effort -- some sort of pity prize in order, I should say!
Finrod: [raising an eyebrow]
The roads might have been different -- but haven't they led us both to the same prophesied place?
Warden of Aglon:
. . .
Seneschal of Formenos: [graciously, to his confederate]
At least your Doom meant something, saving our kinsfolk in the Battle of Sudden Flame.
[Finarfin moves forward -- remembers -- checks, and turns to the Captain]
Finarfin: [low and fierce]
Smite him, friend -- and my blessing for it.
Gladly, my lord -- were I allowed.
Is't within chance's bounds, that any should have seen yon Doom unfold, borne witness to all its direst workings, and seen the truth of't borne out, that all such unblessed efforts end in misery and ruin -- and yet offend thus blasphemously, and most unsorrowing yet mock at it!?!
Seneschal of Formenos: [to Aglon and his supporters]
It's amazing how those who have caged themselves will continue to insist they're free, and better off for being slaves, than those who have escaped. No prisons like those of the mind, don't you agree? We might be held here against our will -- but at least we have our own free wills!
[as his friends smilingly agree, a strange woman's voice echoes loudly through the Hall:]
-- Whenever are you going to learn -- Father?
[all turn to look at the new arrival, who is standing just at the edge of the dispute -- on the inner side of the Hall; clearly she didn't just come in through the door. Her appearance is striking: it's impossible to tell which Kindred this shade belongs to (hard even to tell what gender) as the disorder of her hair and ragged mismatch of her clothing makes Beren look well-groomed, and her expression makes Luthien at her most frazzled seem calm and sane. She stalks forward, stiff and awkward, as though not used to people, or to welcome, and everyone else draws back a little from this hollow-eyed, ferocious-looking madwoman -- with the notable exception of Finrod's following. Ideally Natasha McElhone from Ronin would portray her.]
I never thought to hear myself say this, but -- I am ashamed that I am of any connection to you all.
[her voice is harsh, and her way of talking sharp and erratic like her movements. The Feanorians stare at her, stunned, most of them without recognition -- the Seneschal of Formenos stares at her in shock, completely speechless]
Not a word? After having been so glib in your own defense for so long!
[she folds her arms, wound up taut as a crossbow, staring at those whose primary self-identification is as Noldor, and waits for someone to respond, smiling without humor at their leader.]
Who are you?
One of those who consented, who stood by while you were killed. By my ill-fortune I was not drowned in the storm, the ship I rode on made the dark voyage to Losgar, and I lived to earn my Doom honestly.
[Beren shoulders through and comes around to face her, Huan at his side guarding him]
But how come you're here?
Ex-Thrall: [genuine surprise]
You recall me?
Of course I remember you. You gave me half your scarf.
[someone in the crowd makes a noise, quickly cut off, and he looks up. Earnestly:]
Don't laugh. From someone who hasn't got much, that's a kingly gift.
[to the Ex-Thrall again]
Didn't you go home? -- I didn't know you could talk.
Ex-Thrall: [bitter laugh]
What was there for me to say? My deeds were sufficient. I went to the City.
[she shakes her head]
Something went to the City, at least, and ate and bathed and walked in rooms that did not stink of decay and stared at every light like a witless moth. Until Sun-return, when there was no gift-singing there or joy, nor any way to hide from the truth: that I too, was an empty shell and nothing more, and that there would never be light again for any of us under that stone -- and I lay down upon my couch, and left.
[he tries to put his hand on her shoulder, but she shrugs off any attempt at comfort]
I did not speak to any here until I heard your name, and knew that someone else that might comprehend what I might say was here, and came forth from the shadows to ask -- and stayed to tell instead.
[she flashes a glance over towards the Steward, who bows slightly in her direction, his expression lightening a little, though still grim and stressed]
I have found no other company here one-half so congenial, though 'tis thought I am aloof and care not for any.
No, -- I think most of us know you're severely agoraphobic and would be present more if you could manage it.
[She closes her eyes and smiles a faint, brief, genuine smile, while some of the Ten look a little penitent. Emphatic:]
-- You don't have to talk about it.
[at once she lifts her head again, defiantly, shaking her head. The Seneschal of Formenos takes a step closer to her, and opens his mouth to say something -- but she gives a terrible scream of rage and pain, drowning him out]
Do not say it! I have no name! She that had that name died long ago -- would you hear how? -- and only I am left. -- Kinslayer. Murderer. Bloodguilty coward. -- Yes! Murderer thrice over, and more.
Seneschal of Formenos: [in helpless protest, shaking his head over and over]
No -- you were never a warrior --
I never wielded a sword. -- I did not need to. Others always killed for me. First you -- all of you -- and then the servants of my Master, so that I never might stain my hands with death -- only my heart!
Warden of Aglon:
But you got away safely -- we died to guard the evacuation --
[he is just as horror-stricken as his friend]
No. There were wounded who were unable to continue; I was endeavoring to heal them enough to carry on, when we were overtaken.
[looking at her father]
After you were killed, as the War crept on, I vowed to honor you by saving as many of our folk as might be from the fighting, and became a Healer, as it's done in the Old Country -- but I went beyond, and rode forth with the companies along the Northern Front, as very few other maids dared, or dared trouble their kindred's hearts by daring to do. -- But was I not your daughter?
How could I be any less brave, nor any less concerned, than you who died in effort to end the War before it truly began? -- I never did believe that our lord had gone to the parley in anything but good faith, because I'd have had to think that of you, too. Not while I was alive.
[he opens his mouth, but doesn't say anything, and she keeps going, addressing them all equally:]
When the War broke out and broke our lines, and all the rest of it, and those of us who survived the initial assault on Aglon knew it wasn't possible to hold it, and we thought to pull back to Himlad and join our forces with the garrison there, and keep that, at least, firm against the invaders -- but you know all about that, you've argued it over for a decade now. But it wasn't possible, instead we were joined by a cavalcade from Himlad, where the Enemy had got round, and pushed past round Himring through the March as well, so that our lords were forced to lead us west with Prince Orodreth's company, down the Old Road where even orcs would not dare to follow, using their combined powers to keep off the Gloomweaver's spawn. But I never got so far.
[looking at the Warden of Aglon]
Your younger brother was badly wounded, by an axe-cut. -- And others, as well, but -- you understand.
Warden of Aglon: [anguished]
He -- he's not a slave now too -- ?
[she smiles, a sinister, sinister smile, shaking her head]
No. I'll get to that. I stayed back, with some others, trying with all our might and main to patch our friends -- and loved ones -- sufficiently for them to keep on, but in vain. The smokes confused us, and we ended up captives, like so many others, harried back across the lands we had once held as ours, that now were reclaimed by their true Master. Two years I served in hell, two years -- but Time isn't the same there, as it wasn't the same here, after the Sun came.
[shaking her head]
It's always dark, there, always the same, and her seasons don't bring renewal or strength or plenty or peace by turns. Two years I struggled to stay alive, to avoid the notice, and the lash, of his fell Commanders, and their underlings -- and to stay others, wielding my skills in the domain of Death, for those burnt or broken in machinery, and doing it in defiance, though I knew it was tolerated as a useful thing, by our Lord and His people. Every little was an unimaginable gain, in that place that is Him, where the very air corrodes the lungs that breathe it, and the walls throb with His anger when you fall against them.
Seneschal of Formenos:
But you're free now -- it's over --
-- Never. I left there, in the company of many other slaves, for the south, a group given -- selected by what miserable fate I do not know -- to the victorious Commander who had just overthrown one of the last few bastions of Elvish resistance, and was working on consolidating the entire North from the Pass to the River. He needed workers to arm his troops, and serve them, and to repair the damages done to the fortress in its taking. And so we came to Tol Sirion, who had not thought ever to leave Angband again.
[she gives Finrod a significant Look]
It was . . . different there. For one, it was more depressing: Angband might be built in part by Eldar hands, but not originally, and nothing of its design says so. For another, there's no such thing as anonymity: you can't hide amid the herd, be just another number, keeping your self to yourself, so long as you keep your head down and stay lucky, in a place that small. I found that out very shortly, when I was summoned -- well, that's technically true, though most likely not what you'd first think of, for the word "summoned" -- to the presence of our new Doomsman, the Necromancer, from whom it was whispered that not even death might set one free, though we Light-elves, and most lately captured, could hardly credit such superstition.
Ranger: [automatically starting to correct]
It wasn't --
[but is interrupted himself by the Youngest Ranger -- his junior in age, but superior in rank, silences him with a hand over his mouth and a Look; the Noldorin warrior is apologetic and shamefaced, but the Feanorian lady doesn't seem to notice the disturbance]
The dread Lord of that Island gave me to understand that he understood very well, that there were many among the thralls who were not equal to their set tasks, whose strength had failed, or was failing, and who were covered for by their friends and dearest ones. I denied it; he laughed. "You heal them," he scoffed, "you know it even better than I. So long as you get them back to work, it's all the better for my purposes. But when it comes to feeding useless drones -- no more, I say. What I want, is for you to take note of such, and inform me who is incapable, as you find them so."
[she looks at the lawful Eldar grouped together]
Not even pretense, now, when setting Elf against Elf -- raw and unvarnished, his mastering of treason. I said nothing -- he mistook me. Or so I thought. "In return for your services, I can assure you of far better treatment, not only for yourself, but for those you -- minister to," he pledged, offering improved medical care as the payback -- for the survivors, that is.
It made sense, when he explained it: his staff had to eat, not just the Orcs and the Wargs, but also his couriers as well. They needed fresh blood, but it was always risky for them to hunt, the chance of being caught on the ground, and by culling -- his word -- the slaves for those who were going to depart soon anyway, this meant less danger of messenger, and message, being lost; and of course the rest of the body would be eaten by his other minions, if it were not too wasted. A proposition triply beneficial -- to him, to me, and to the majority of us. And I refused.
[she smiles grimly, and pauses]
Seneschal of Formenos:
You've not been here eight years -- ?!
Haven't you been paying attention? No, he had me tossed in a closet for a week -- I think it was a week, at least -- not wide enough to lie down in or high enough to stand in, pitch dark -- it had been a chimney-breast once, but was blocked off for more useful purposes; he didn't trouble much with keeping a cheerful atmosphere going throughout the place. But I held fast, and did not yield in the least, not even in imagining -- I sang against him, songs of Valinor, until physically unable, and still I thought resistance at him, and finally they hauled me out of there and brought me into the Terrible One's presence. And then, I thought I'd won -- that either he'd send me back to my labours, or harder ones, or kill me then and there. No such luck.
[she looks sidelong at the Ten through veiled lashes, her expression more sneering than ever]
Finrod: [very serious]
Is this going to do you any good?
What does that matter?
[to her father]
Oh, but I was defiant, I was strong -- I hadn't let them break me, and I would not be broken. No matter what. And he didn't say anything, not a word, just smiled at me, while I stood there shaking from hunger and cramped muscles, weeping in the torchlight, and telling myself, and him, in my mind that it was purely physical reaction, and meaningless, and believed it. Some of his minions carried in a block of iron, by the rings set in its sides -- it was huge, the size of a wall-stone, too massive to be moved by any one's strength, not even one of us. I stared at it, trying to think what new torture it could be for -- I couldn't see any moving parts, except for the circular handles -- but I didn't show them my fear. I would not. And then they chained me to one of the rings, and I laughed inside to think that all this terror had been for but another beating -- that there was nothing so effective as the fearful mind for defeating itself, and all that was needed was true Eldar spirit, to withstand the vaunted Power of the Terrible One. I actually pitied the Grey Kindred at that moment, for all their terror of him and his kind, poor weaklings without the resistance of our people.
[she gives a quick glance towards the Youngest Ranger]
I was such a fool.
[to the Lord Warden of Aglon]
-- I told you there was more to your brother's story. They dragged him in -- and what a reunion that was, when I hadn't known he was there -- or even still alive -- or he the same of me. His defiance, and challenges, and brave words in my behalf -- they would have made your heart blaze with pride, I'm sure, as they did mine. It never occurred to us -- to me, at least, and I'm sure to him as well -- that we were nothing new, nothing the Enemy and his followers hadn't seen a hundred times before -- our courage, or ignorance. We were so sure that the Dark was weaker than our love, that nothing could defeat us, even though they killed us -- even though they made hideous sport of us first.
I don't know what Sauron wanted from him. I don't know that he wanted anything, and would have killed him whatever he chose. I've always assumed that -- that he died simply because of me -- but perhaps that's but my arrogance as well. I don't know, now.
[pulling herself together, in her sarcastic tone again]
So there we were, both cuffed to this block in the middle of the floor, not enough length to the chains to reach across it nor around it and hold hands -- but by leaning over it as far as one could stretch, we managed to touch another way -- I must have looked as frightful and orc-like as he did, but that didn't matter. The soldiers applauded and made all sorts of comments, but we didn't care about that either. There was just us, and the Dark didn't matter. Then -- something growled above us, and we broke apart so fast I split my lip on his teeth -- or mine, couldn't tell -- and tried to get away, crawling back as far as the chains would allow.
Seneschal of Formenos:
Not -- not a Balrog?
[his daughter shakes her head, smiling a little]
No. A Werewolf. The big silvery one, the captain of his elite guard. Oh yes. You've seen Wolves before, seen his minions out and about, fought them, fled them, killed them -- they're not so terrible, truly, no more than the Orcs, isn't that so? Stronger, swifter, a little more canny, in strange ways, harder to understand -- but not like the Fiery Ones, the commanding demons of our Iron God. Wargs can be answered with a spear, a sword, an arrow or a word on the wind to bear your scent elsewhere or blind them to you -- Nothing like Balrogs, right?
[she looks at her former comrades and relatives with a self-mocking sneer, while they avoid her eyes]
That depends. On where you are in relation to 'em, and if they know you're there or not.
[she doesn't turn towards him, but the slight lift of her chin acknowledges his words, while she continues to stare at her parent]
Handcuffed on the floor, waiting for an execution order, looking at those dripping fangs, those glowing eyes -- it was, for me, at least. No fire left, not even embers of that blaze that was so bright -- both of us like grubs, dug up from their roots, writhing in the cold air -- no voice left to speak defiance, nor love, now. This was his place, and his power, and no other song is possible in his presence, far less than our common Master though the Terrible One might be. He strode through my shields as though they were not even there, and I realized that nothing had been hidden from him, all along, and that there is no hope.
[though she does not, others cannot help but glance at the Nargothronders -- who look sorry for her, but not particularly fazed, Finrod least of all, as the former Healer continues:]
"You know what I want," he told me. "If you will not serve me, you are no use to me as you are. Shall I reduce you to your component parts, and make use of them separately?" I was still, and did not answer -- the Wolf's breath down my neck, that should have been warm, but I was in a winter gale, ice all over me. "Which will it be?" he asked my soul again, and smiled at us. "Whose flesh will feed my servants -- yours, or another's?"
[smiling through her teeth:]
I didn't say anything -- I didn't have to. It was that easy.
[the Lord Warden shakes his head in helpless protest -- then looks around suddenly with a wild expression as if he might see his brother here, too]
I hid my face, and didn't watch. While it was still going on -- but mostly over -- they unchained me and let me get dressed again, and I walked out of there, and did not look back --
[her father interrupts her, involuntarily, with a spastic gesture of his hand]
Seneschal of Formenos:
[he cannot go on, but she tosses her head scornfully, snorting]
Of course. You don't feed people to the Wolves with their clothes on.
-- What, you don't laugh? You don't find the idea at all amusing now?
-- I did not look back. Not then. Not after. Not ever -- until the dark that we crawled in ripped open and the Night came pouring into our cells, our prison-rooms -- our tombs; and we remembered. We remembered -- things we had never known. Not truly. Not how precious they were, until we lost them -- destroyed them -- threw them away. All that time that I silently handed over my fellow prisoners for destruction, naming them as too weak to work, and telling myself that it was mercy, that they should die sooner, and kinder to be eaten quickly, than slowly by the Dark and the malice of our Master -- lying to myself, even as they thanked me for healing them and caring for them, while I gave them over in my stead, and none of them ever knew -- I had to do, it for my own survival, and I could not regret it, because if I ever looked back -- I could not go on.
[shaking her head without stopping]
Only -- that High-elven lady whom you knew in Beleriand did not survive. She too died in that hour, eaten just as surely as the other, and what walked away without regret is all that remains.
[with a mocking smile]
Will you call me your jewel, your songbird, your beautiful one now? Will you embrace me and call me your star, your sweeting, your treasure, now, Father?
[she stares at him, daring him to reject her, but hoping against hope that he will not. With a cry of anguish he turns, clutching at his temples, and remains standing hunched over as if mortally wounded, his head bowed and eyes closed. She laughs wildly.]
I knew it -- I knew it! You too cannot bear the thought of me, murderess, Kinslayer, weakling -- thrall --
[she reaches out her hands to the Lord Warden of Aglon, who is looking at her with an agonized expression, filled with embarrassment as much as horror]
And you, my friend -- all of you that were my friends, whose lives and limbs I saved, those many years of the Leaguer, whose hands held mine in dance and peace, even as for comfort when you lay wounded -- will you disown me too?
[they look away from her in shame, some of them lifting hands in protest, or in appeal for her pity, and she falls on her knees, bent over, weeping, but still defiant and challenging: as the Ten move closer to try to lift her up or console her she flings their hands away from her, and shouts at the Feanorians:]
-- Only these -- who alone have the right to scorn me, of all you ghosts and vainglorious shadows, who faced the test and did not fail it -- only they've not fled from me in horror! O robbers, brigands, thieves who struck down the helpless when they tried to resist us -- and yet even you have not fallen so low that you don't see the poisoned aura about me, and shrink from it -- !
[she starts rocking back and forth, her arms clenched around her chest, trying not to cry out loud, gasping]
Youngest Ranger: [very seriously]
I don't think it's that -- I think it's that you're plain crazy.
[she gives a hoarse bark of surprised laughter, but he goes on in the same way:]
That's what scares them. There's others have done worse things, you know. Or at least -- more of them. But they're not so plainly mad, as you.
[pause -- she chuckles through her tears]
-- Or else they're worse, that they don't see that they should be.
[the Ex-Thrall pulls herself together and looks up at the onlookers around her, first her own kin and people, and then at the watching faithful, living and dead.]
What would you say to me, Finarfin son of Indis? That I should have turned back with you at Araman?
I am King of the Noldor now --
-- eke of them that do own me thus, even as them that yet do not --
[the Ten look down awkwardly, a little ashamed; the Feanorian contingent gives him startled looks, some angry, some wondering]
-- nor be it meet that I should add one measure to the judgment that hath been given unto thee, presuming to greater wisdom than the Powers thereby. Aye, and thou hadst known less sorrow, hadst indeed returned home in that time, -- but this thou dost even ken, ere didst speak it.
Like son, like father --
[the two Noldor Kings steal glances quickly at each other, before she goes on, this time to Amarie:]
-- And you, Fairest One, come down from your mountain -- what word for this bloodstained one? -- Or will you turn away in silence as well?
Thou art far from first, nor yet the last, that Feanor hath led astray -- nor indeed the mightiest. Bereft of the heartening strength of this Land, of Light, how might ye help but fall beneath our Enemy's sway in the Shadowed Realm?
[some of the Feanorians bridle at her words, but others look troubled and downcast; the Seneschal remains bent, anguished, where he has turned away]
You speak of him -- but what says she who would not be led, nor driven, but held firm in her resolve despite all persuasion?
[turning her head, she matches stares with Nerdanel, who draws near to her with an untroubled expression and kneels down a short distance in front of her while she addresses her:]
What hast thou done, child, that mine own children did not? -- And yet I love them, nor shall ever cease.
[the former Healer bows her head a little, closing her eyes, and then squaring her shoulders looks up coolly at Elu Thingol's emissary.]
Well, lord of the Grey folk -- hold you still with your lord's judgment on us? Or have you learned mercy in your own death?
Ambassador: [in a detached, level tone]
You have acknowledged your deeds, Feanorian. Anything further that I might say would be both needless and cruel.
[they both sigh, recognizing that this isn't enough, and it's the best that he can give or she will get -- and then she turns to look at the shade from Alqualonde.]
And you, Foamrider, who said but a little while ago that such a fate was no more than such as I merited -- what do you say to me, Kinslain?
[the Sea-elf stares at her directly, her eyes very wide, her face otherwise expressionless, for a long moment.]
I think -- I think you have been tortured enough.
[the Ex-Thrall flinches as if the other had struck her instead, shaking her head a little in protest, and then looks at Beren]
Now that you know the truth of me, traitor as much as victim -- will you shun me, mortal?
[he shakes his head, very deliberately]
[the Hound walks slowly over beside her, tail dragging, and puts his head down by hers: she doesn't respond, but doesn't push him away either. Moving softly, as if not to startle a hurt animal, Finrod comes to kneel down directly in front of her, putting his hands on her shoulders and looking her directly in the eyes]
Someday -- you will take up your name again, and it will be true again, and you will sing once more, under the Stars.
I don't know. Someday.
[as he speaks, her father half-turns and looks at them, as torn between hope and remorse and doubt as she]
When you are ready, you will leave the shelter of these Halls, and you will walk under the sky, and your voice will give as much peace to your hearers as presently brings pain.
[The Ex-Thrall sighs . . . and vanishes from under his hands without another word. The Lord Seneschal flinches, bowing his head, and disappears as well, leaving his cohorts in disarray as well as dismay. Finrod gets up and turns to face the remaining Feanorian supporters, addressing them in a quiet, matter-of-fact, but uncompromising tone:]
Why don't you just go now?
[the living Eldar look at him in shock and dismay of their own, while a warrior of Aglon asks his commander anxiously:]
Sir -- what -- what ought we do now . . . ?
But -- what of yon poor maiden?
-- What of her?
[the Lord Warden makes a helpless gesture to his follower, struggling for articulate speech]
Warden of Aglon: [shaking his head, struggling against tears]
I -- I -- ah -- !
Finarfin: [with a perceptive look at his son]
Such trouble is not strange to thee, but oft thou must give thy counsel to the broken of heart, is't not so?
Not infrequently. Sometimes we talk. More often I listen. Generally they just want to be seen by someone who won't dismiss them, and then we just sit quietly, or I play --
[glancing over where the harp rests on the stones]
-- until they're ready to speak to someone higher. That was a tremendous improvement -- usually you can hardly tell she's there.
[as the four lawful Elves look at him, and each other, and the stunned Feanorians with lingering shock and distress, Nienna's Apprentice comes in through the doorway in determined haste, sees the gathering and flings up his hands in disgust.]
Oh, threnody, not this again! Would you people go away and find something constructive to do?
[he makes a sweeping, dismissive motion with his arm. Afterthought:]
[the Warden of Aglon turns, welcoming this new challenge as a replacement for prior emotions, as do his companions]
Warden of Aglon: [extreme haughtiness]
You will not address me in that fashion, boy.
Actually . . . I will. -- Ghost.
[the Elven warrior shakes his head, standing his ground, his lip curling at the retort]
Warden of Aglon:
You -- can't compel us to do anything. Can you?
[he sneers over at the Captain]
-- That's what you were getting at, trying to be cryptic.
[to the Apprentice again]
-- Can you?
No, I can't. -- But I can make things unpleasant enough that you'd wish you'd cooperated in the first place.
Warden of Aglon:
Erm . . .
Warden of Aglon: [snorting]
You can't even bluff properly, you fool.
[his followers and associates grin savagely at the put-down]
Apprentice: [shakes his head, reasonable tone]
I wasn't bluffing, I was considering which option was the more appropriate one. I know which one I'd like better, but I don't think my Master would like it at all. So -- I'm just going to annoy you by pointing out certain hard truths in the presence of people you're trying to impress, one of which is the fact that you feel you have to impress them demonstrates that you in fact respect them enough to care about their respect, deny it as you may. You can't just walk away from them, or leave them alone -- can you? But they're indifferent to your good or bad opinion of them, and that's a second hard truth.
[ticking the points off on his fingers, and beginning to pace restively in front of them -- in the background several of the would-be combatants quietly fade from view]
Thirdly, you're blinded by your self-importance to the fact that you thereby make yourself ridiculous in the eyes of most of your fellow-dead, by pursuing these personal grudges beyond reason.
[he frowns, trying to remember, and more of the rival faction discreetly slip away]
Oh, yes -- and the fact that you always come off the worse in these little exchanges and yet you keep persisting in the same course says a great deal for your tenacity and even courage, -- but not a lot for your intelligence, I'm afraid.
Warden of Aglon: [ice]
I have better things to do than waste my time listening to your chatter.
[he spins about with a flourish of his cape and stalks off, followed by his remaining fellow-partisans.]
Success! Without having to hit anyone, either. Though I don't know I'll agree with his definition of "better."
I thought about the way you usually manage to dissipate things without recourse to violence, and decided to try it myself, since people just ignore me when I ask them nicely, and laugh when I get angry.
[noticing that both Finrod and Amarie are both standing there glaring at him with identical expressions, arms folded.
[to Amarie, brightly]
There you are -- I was obliged to leave for just a moment, and when I came back, you were nowhere to be found.
[she raises an eloquent eyebrow; he flinches.]
Have you got anything for me?
Erm -- oh. Right. That. Ah -- hm -- becalmed. Lulled, so to speak.
Circling on a thermal. Stable. Static. Or stagnant.
Finrod: [piqued, to the Captain]
Have you any notion what he's getting at?
[the Elven officer shakes his head, amused; the newest arrivals are giving Nienna's student some very strange Looks]
Apprentice: [looking conspiratorially towards them]
But -- I mean, we'll be overheard --
Just say it. I'm tired, annoyed, and out of patience --
[the other looks alarmed]
[as the Apprentice glances meaningfully at the four bystanders]
Go ahead -- they're all my family, after all, to greater or lesser degree.
After all, if you can't trust your kin, whom can you trust?
[while Nienna's student gives him a very askance Look, there is a great deal of sudden throat-clearing and turning aside of faces among the Ten; the law-abiding contingent bridles somewhat at this, but manage to refrain from comment]
Well, if you say so -- your cousin suggested that recourse be made to the highest authorities, and was met with resistance -- but the subject of debate shifted again to other things, and . . . they're still arguing again over whether it was a mistake for our divine King and Queen to heed my Master's plea and release His Majesty's brother --
[in a rush, very forcefully]
-- and please nobody start arguing about that now, all right? -- and that's where things remain.
[Finrod looks at the Captain, frowning]
Captain: [shaking his head]
That hardly seems worth the trouble of reporting, now.
[the disguised Maia shrugs, giving Finrod an apologetic look]
Sorry -- I'd actually come back to ask if you'd mind -- much -- doing me a favour.
You're asking me a favor.
Just a small one. Not you specifically.
[encouraged by Finrod's silence, he hurries on:]
I -- I've been given another errand to run, and I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on things, and I thought I had that situation under control, but then something unpleasant occurred to me: what if the system I set up to do that simply wasn't working at all, and that's why there hasn't been any alarm? And so I thought I'd better check.
[blank, suspicious looks from all around -- hastily]
You know the, um, the remote viewer over at His Lordship's throne -- that stone sphere, well, it's made of stone -- you haven't noticed it, well, doing anything, have you?
No. -- Of course, I've not been here.
I know. That's why --
[he glances around]
-- if anyone had happened to see, I was hoping . . .
[the Ten share looks, headshakes all round]
We've not noticed anything.
Would -- would you, let me know if you do? If you wouldn't mind keeping an eye on it?
We can try -- but I don't know that we won't get distracted and forget. Things have been rather -- well, distracting, lately, to put it mildly.
No. Never mind.
I was going to try to argue that you owed me assistance in return, but that isn't true, even considering the rather-underhanded way you obtained mine. And this -- having several tasks assigned at the same time, each one having top priority -- that's something that preceded it, anyway, and it's quite apart from it. So I really can't claim any, erm, claim on your time as a result of that, either. It isn't as though it's your fault. And you did promise to do your best.
[raising his hands in a resigned gesture]
Just have to muddle through somehow, I suppose.
[frowning, noticing something about the falls]
I say, somebody's put that all wrong again.
[the apparent-Elf gestures towards the flame-illusions over the shallow end of the spill-pool, lowering them.]
Stop that! That's someone else's work.
But they're all wrong --
So? You don't just come and change others' Art without leave.
You used to do it all the time, I recall.
Yes, but I learned better.
[pause -- frank admission]
After the villagers complained to the King and it was explained to me. At some length.
[he looks at Finrod, who raises his eyebrows bemusedly]
Thank you, Sir.
[to Nienna's student]
I understand how tempting it is to remake something you think is flawed, but you really ought to ask first. And if they don't want to change it, you can't just correct it for them. That's just like Morgoth, really.
[the disguised Maia looks quizzical, but doesn't say anything]
Nay, 'tis false -- the Dark One would but to break, and not to build.
Yet dost thou not recall how our High King hath spoken of the Enemy's wish to shape all according but to his will, nor only after did so strive to wreck, that was not given over unto him? Of such matters Lord Ingwe hath most deeply questioned the gods, and hath knowledge most profound and widesome of us all, Vanyar, Noldor, or Teler, in truth.
[Finrod can't help but cast a quizzical glance at the Apprentice, who looks suspiciously blank]
Yet is't not true as well, that such ill-making should be most rightly named destruction?
Finarfin: [smiling slightly]
Thou art most resolute, my lady.
[she gives him an unamused Look]
Ranger: [ignoring their argument]
Anyway, you shouldn't. It's our project, not yours. Go make your own light-display elsewhere, if you don't like this one.
But I haven't time, and I'll probably get in trouble for it.
That isn't our problem.
Actually, it is -- only you don't care.
[to the Ten, cajolingly]
But don't you want it to be right? Surely you can see it's all wrong the way it is!
But it looks right.
[appealing to the bystanders]
Doesn't it look better the way it was?
I fear I did little mark the difference.
'Tis a curious amalgam of sundries, the which might eke be little changed for better as for ill.
I must say that I prefer the brighter display myself.
Nerdanel: [consolingly to Nienna's Apprentice]
Nay, I do confess thou hast belike the right of it, and most aptly so, for being of the coasts and seeing therefore most frequent th'effects of light on water. Yet, naytheless must I alike hold with all who hold it finer to the eye, to give thereto the greatest expanse of scintillation, the tallest of flames thereby.
Oh, all right.
[he nods, putting the flames back as they were. Reluctant]
They do look prettier that way . . .
Teler Maid: [muttering to herself in bewilderment]
-- He is not Teler. He sounds not like to us at all! Why say they so, when clearly he is Vanyar?
Captain: [aside to her]
People find what they expect to find. And don't find what they don't, either.
Your riddles are as poor as ever.
[she frowns, tossing her hair back, and stares critically at the Apprentice, who feels it and looks over to see her]
Apprentice: [reacting with pleased surprise]
Oh! How nice to see you out and about, talking to people finally.
[she folds her arms and looks very prickly and put-upon]
Despite what reservations some might have about your choice of company. Will you be going home soon, then?
Do not slight my friends!
[she is joined in her glowering by Finarfin, whose glare is perhaps more daunting due to recent events]
I was only joking.
Good try, bad timing.
[Huan makes a sudden attempt to ambush the disguised Maia but is successfully thwarted and fended off, being obliged to remain at arm's length, held by his collar, grinning and panting -- next time, perhaps!]
Apprentice: [mock sternness]
There you are, you -- wretched mongrel! Lady Vaire's quite put out with you, and so am I, because I've been wasting my time looking for you to tell you to stop. What were you racing around the Halls making such an uproar for?
I told him to.
Why in the Music would you do that?
He was acting kind of crazy in here so I told him to go run around outside for a bit. -- I didn't tell him to bark, though. I don't know why he was doing that.
[to the Steward]
-- Remember when he first came to Nargothrond and the tunnels unnerved him?
[wincing, the Steward nods; Finrod explains to those who were not there for it:]
He'd never been in such a large enclosed space, with such echoes, and they'd startle him, and he wouldn't stop barking until Cel took him out in the forest for a while. He was still rather unsettled in those days.
Everyone was, then.
I think he rather enjoyed the ruckus as well, though, -- and the extra runs and treats it won him, until the newness wore off and he got bored of it and used to the City.
Beren: [nodding agreement]
That sounds like a dog. We had one that got scared as a puppy by Ma's hand-mirror, used to bark like crazy whenever she saw her reflection, even after she was full grown, so we were always sneaking it out and bringing it to the dinner table or the hearth and trying not to get caught with it.
I mind me of like happening, though indeed Huan swiftly grasped the illusion's truth and no more did raise alarm 'gainst the glass. But hounds do greatly take joy in singing, and oft and easily and with light excuse do lift voice in it.
How did we get back to talking about the habits of dogs? Isn't there anyone in Aman who can keep to the subject at hand?
And now that I've managed to annoy everyone -- I really must be going. Good-bye.
[spinning on his heel, he all but dashes out of the Hall, leaving the remaining company shaking their heads and staring after him.]
Nerdanel: [half to herself]
Who is he? Ever and anon he doth put me in mind of another one, but which, I cannot tell . . .
[she, Finarfin, and Amarie turn their attention now to Finrod]
Finarfin: [beginning very low key, switching tone abruptly halfway through]
I trust and have no doubt of it, that I shall speak for us all, to enquire of thee -- Finrod, what matter is this, and what dost thou take upon thyself to meddle amidst, that seekst to interfere e'en with the deliberations of the Powers?
The Song, Father.
Amarie: [slow emphasis]
-- Thou art full as mad as all do say -- !
Oh, I doubt that. I don't think any dozen Elves together could manage to be as mad as report would have me.
All of us together, however -- that's another matter.
[there is a nonplused silence as the lawful Eldar struggle for meaningful expression of their thoughts/emotions . . .]
[Elsewhere: the council chamber]
[Luthien is still hand-weaving away, the pattern having expanded significantly in width and complexity since last we saw it -- still apparently paying no attention to the verbal battle in full spate over her head. At the moment the Lord of Dreams is upbraiding the Hunter with atypical acrimony:]
No, the real problem was the failure of you and your people to finish routing out all of Melkor's beastly followers and properly destroy all of his property so he couldn't use it again. That would have forestalled his ability to wage a second subversion of the Light by giving him no resources to fall back on.
[jabbing his finger repeatedly upon the arm of his chair as he declaims:]
-- However, you didn't eradicate his support structures, and as a consequence, he was able to wreak havoc without even having to be in Middle-earth -- and he had a ready-made base of operations to encourage him to make such a move, which he wouldn't likely have done if he hadn't had any safe bolt-hole and servants to defend himself with. He was always a careful and cautious sort, not the type to act if he thought he was likely to come out the worst of it. So at the least your neglect is responsible for encouraging him --
Orome: [slouching back, very blasé -- and calculated to annoy]
Pfft -- you think he knew that all his surviving cronies had survived and scuttled themselves away deep underground to regroup and rebuild? That git was in solitary confinement, and after he was released it wasn't like he had any Messengers flying over the Sea to bring him news. I didn't see any, at least. And I don't think any of the Sea's People would have been gossiping with him, do you? Not even Osse would give him the grace of the Hour, even after he "reformed."
[frowning, Luthien reaches over and helps herself to some more of the glowing dew, spinning more luminous strands from it to add to her project]
Of course he knew -- he's tied himself into everything he can reach over there, haven't you been following the news? Or did you just give up your job and retire to a country life when the Eldar embarked for this shore? I'm telling you, Tav, that you're being very, very, blind if you go on insisting it's all Nia's fault, and ignoring the fact that your failures contributed at least as much to the disaster as anyth --
But you're forgetting the Spider, brother. -- And the fact that logic and self-interest had very little part in anyone's response to the Silmarils. Rational or not, I am quite certain myself, that he would have tried to take them eventually -- even if he had been unable to enlist Her help in it.
Perhaps that's so. But even if it is, your negligence made it possible for him to re-entrench himself with minimal effort, whereas if you'd properly destroyed all of his Works he would have had to start from scratch, and then, regardless of what happened here, someone would have been able to deal with him over there -- whether us, or the rebels, or all of us together if there'd been no rebellion --
Orome: [a slighly nettled tone creeping in despite his efforts]
-- We spent decades mopping up. Whatever we missed was impossible to find. Anyone, anything that slipped through did so because of Fate. We pounded that place flat. There were no obvious -- or unobvious -- hiding-holes left when we finished.
[Namo shakes his head, gazing into his teacup with a melancholy expression as he gently swirls it about]
Nonsense. You didn't try hard enough. Surely your specialists could have done a more thorough job of tracking the rest of his crew down -- combined with selective tectonic realignment --
You haven't the least notion what you're talking about. I could explain it to you, if you'd pay attention long enough, but I think you can understand when I say -- again -- that one doesn't -- doesn't, do you understand? -- muck about with the basic structures of the world without dire consequences. It would have been a fine thing, would it not, to eradicate the very people we were put here to protect, in the process of saving them from their enemies?
Orome: [with a dubious look at the Smith]
-- Though I do wonder how much of your concern was for the Firstborn, and how much for your own Children? Honestly, what possessed you --
[Aule's Assistant leaps (figuratively) into the fray before it gets even uglier]
Aule's Assistant: [urgent]
-- Please, please, please! Noble ones, gentles all! We are not here to refight old defeats, really now, are we? -- If you will forgive my impertinence in saying so, of course.
[abashed silence all around]
Now, we are here, if again you will permit me to go so far as to state the obvious, for the purpose of solving the problem of this anomalous mortal presence. And -- though I am but young in the Song by comparison to you, my Lord -- my Lords, my Lady -- still, I might venture to say that it seems to me that there might well be an acceptable solution, if you will graciously hear me out . . . ?
[Luthien looks up with a sudden eagerness that belies her apparent obliviousness and uninterest in all that's been going on, her eyes blazing, letting the threads of liquid light fall from her hands unheeded]
Luthien: [fiercely passionate]
[now Finrod and his following (which now includes not only Beren & Huan but also his mother's former assistant) are confronting the law-abiding contingent, who look extremely worried, (as do some of the Ten, admittedly) and expressive of definite concerns as to the level of sanity at present]
Strictly speaking, I'm not meddling with it in the sense of trying to change it. None of us are.
-- Pray tell, of what others thou dost speak, that are set upon this . . . venture, with thee?
[she gives the Ten a cold, suspicious look]
Well, everyone. Obviously. Only some of us are aware of it, and others aren't.
I confess I take not this declaration by thine ungarnish't word, all unavailéd of proof, child.
It's quite simple, really. You just do whatever it is you do, and it makes a difference -- subtle, usually -- in the way the Song plays out.
That is not by any chance possible, forasmuch as that which is done, shall be done only so that it is Sung, and must be so.
So are you saying that choice is an illusion, then? That Feanor only did as he did because he had to, because it was Sung, and had no other recourse than to deny the Earthqueen, defy the Powers, and summon all of us to join in his rejection? What does that make the gods to be, then, but hypocrites, or mad?
[looking at the Ambassador]
Or that my royal and holy aunt had no will nor options of her own, neither to betray my cousin's secret counsels nor to abet her in her escape, and that choosing the easiest road of unresisting silence was all that she might do -- rather than that the Lady Melian was as torn as any Elf or mortal might be in similar circumstance, caught between conscience and desire?
[the Ambassador bows his head, as Finrod goes on:]
-- Do we say, then, that the Powers too are helpless in the torrent of the Song they helped to make, like chips of wood in a river -- all of them, that is, except for Morgoth? That's a lot worse than anything I'm saying, it would seem.
Yet thou sayest not what, most plain and simple-spoken, 'tis indeed thou dost, or wouldst -- ?
Finrod: [very much the teacher]
The way I've come to see it, there is the Song, and the Song is full of discords, which weren't supposed to be there. Everyone knows this, it's what we're taught as children, is that not so? But then what? How do we respond? Do we simply ignore them, and focus on the harmonious bits? Or do we join the discordant elements, which spread all too easily, and drown out the rest -- back the winning side, so to speak?
[Amarie tosses her head in open scorn]
Amarie: [very haughty]
Indeed, but one rightful choice betwixt yon twain, nor might any not Turned from truth countenance other choosing to be made!
But who says those are the only options?
Why not increase the harmony? Wouldn't it be best of all to try to reclaim some of the ruined parts and rebuild them, so to speak?
Thou -- deemst self able to unwork the makings of the greatest of all the Powers, after Lord Manwe even, even to restore the Great Pattern as 'twere unbroken and ne'er was, ere the Marring?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
Oh, no. I'm no match for a god -- nor even a demi-god, and who knows it better than I? But isn't that what was done in the first place, to stop the whole of Ea from being made a wreck like Utumno, like Angband? So, then, is it not a worthy goal -- even knowing it Doomed to failure -- to try to repair what one can, restore harmony even for a few notes out of the Age, to the best of one's ability?
Finarfin: [mildly, shaking his head with a look of bemusement]
-- And thou deemst thyself no wise ambitious?
Nay, this is true madness -- else worse, that thou dost set upon such path as the Marrer's self did make, striving in truth to set all to thine own will, else other there be none, to overstrike the fashioning the Powers -- nay, indeed, the One! -- did adjudge at end to best resolve the Dark One's changes --
Finrod: [interrupting her]
-- No, you see, that's the difference, what we do, knowingly or unknowingly, to restore harmony doesn't replace what's been changed -- that's not even possible, without worrying about the right or wrong of it -- it's just adding to it, the way you resolve a chord, turn a harsh note to poignancy, or a weak note glorious, by giving more sounds -- and the addition changes it, completely. Or like the story we all know about ice -- cold being tried as a way of stopping everything, but instead, through constructive application of new notes, resulting in snow crystals and frozen waterfalls and icebergs and all sorts of beautiful things that have their own fitting places in the world. There might be in principle a better way to have composed it, but working with what we're given, it's an improvement.
Maybe it's kind of like when part of the hall's been wrecked by a storm or a fire or just the posts getting rotted out, and you don't tear it all down, you just fix up what's there, maybe not the same way, but you still gotta live there while you're working on it, and maybe the new way works better for something else?
That too. And sometimes it means going against advice, and even common sense, and even yes, breaking rules and disobeying orders.
[he stares defiantly at Amarie, who gives it right back to him, while Nerdanel looks thoughtful and Beren asks the Guard next to him:]
Is he talking about the Return?
[the Elven shade nods]
And paying the price for it, of course. Always.
Finarfin: [looking thoughtfully at the Ten]
And hold all thy folk with these thy curious tenets, else theorems, whichever they be, or art the only proponent of such . . . strangeness?
Not the only, certainly, but certainly not all. Some find it far too complicated or too troubling --
[the Warrior looks abashed, but Finrod gives him a sympathetic grin and goes on]
-- and I grant it's much easier to look at it as just a matter of doing wrong and receiving the just penalty for it. Or not breaking rules, and not doing wrong. Others find it far too optimistic -- and I can't deny that, either.
[he and the Steward share a meaningful Look]
Nay, I confess it seemeth little of cheer, to hold that one needs must do that which is forbid, and that avisedly-so, and suffer after for the doing, and all for chance that good may come to pass of it, but little like, and how then may one know of surety which is good or which is ill, when all law be set aside as subject to disdain?
Amarie: [sharply to the Ambassador]
Hast thou heard such heretical uttrances, my lord, of him in thy lands -- or did he perchance learn such justifying words of thy shadowed folk?
Many such deep matters are often spoken of, when my Lady Melian is present, and many thoughts put forward, and questions asked, to which not one, but many answers may be offered, and each but bear another riddle to the questioner.
Finrod: [disregarding Amarie for the moment]
No, Aunt 'Danel, it isn't like that, of course you can't ignore everything and of course you can't just do anything. But I did say it was too complex for many people.
[she looks rather miffed, as he continues:]
As far as being too cheerful, that isn't what Edrahil's objecting to -- but there's more to it. You see --
[he is interrupted as a pair of Elvish shades enter (or as it proves re-enter) the Hall: the Youngest Ranger who is still rather twitchy and hypervigilant, quickly draws another arrow and sets it to the bow he has not reslung since the last conflict, but only keeps it trained on the latest arrivals -- even when it become clear that they are the King's brothers.]
Oh, good grief! -- Put that away!
[he ignores the fact that the Teler warrior doesn't, and with Angrod strides up to the ongoing family reunion.]
Fourth Guard: [aside]
-- Who's using mortal slang now?
Aegnor: [with a bright, fixed, savagely pleasant smile]
Quite the little Gathering you've got going on here, Finrod. Taking over hospitality functions along with counseling and building maintenance, hm?
Hullo, dear sister -- you've met our newest cousin, I believe?
[he nods towards Beren, and she frowns, first curiously, then in sudden thought, but he goes on before she can say anything:]
You were right when you said we'd all come to a bad end, you know -- but I never expected to see you here as well --
Why are you here?
Angrod: [trying to calm things down]
We could tell you were in trouble so we came to help.
Well, it wasn't needful -- I could have managed it on my own, there weren't enough of you to make a difference if I hadn't, and you're too late anyway. But -- I thank you for the intention.
Better late than later, what?
[the two siblings do not appreciate this at all; he gestures to his subordinate to stop covering them, and the Sindarin Ranger denocks the arrow, but doesn't put his weapons away.]
If you hadn't been dithering about what you were going to say to Father et al, you might have got here in time to provide moral support. As it is you managed to get the worst of both outcomes.
[Aegnor is resolutely avoiding looking at Finarfin, who is in turn looking very sadly at his children. Nerdanel draws near and pats his arm consolingly. Amarie does not seem to have been successfully deflected by Aegnor's attempt to direct her attention to Beren. The Ambassador from Doriath is looking at his King's grand-nephews and shaking his head.]
Please don't be difficult. -- We're trying not to.
[he turns back to the conversation as if there hadn't been any interruption]
Anyway, Father, what I was saying was, it isn't an attempt to change the Song from what it was intended to be originally, or to make it back into what it was intended to be, either.
Thou has returnéd upon thine own words most uncommon paradoxical.
No, it isn't really that complicated, listen --
[Aegnor addresses Beren quietly, in a tone gruff, but surprisingly polite, considering]
Has he said the word "destiny," yet, Beor?
Uh -- not recently. I -- don't think.
Not in this conversation?
[Beren shakes his head, Aegnor elbows his other sibling and shakes his head.]
Angrod: [a bit guiltily]
[Beren gives them an uneasy look, and then glances at the Ten, who are either ignoring them or ignoring them obviously]
-- because it can't be put right without undoing the World, but it can be mended. The gods can't do everything -- we just help them out a little. If we do good, that is, and not ill.
[Amarie closes her eyes, shaking her head in exasperation]
Nay, thy pride surpasseth all no measure, for 'tis deeper than Osse's crests, wider than Uinen's tresses, and ceaseless as the restive Sea! Hast thou not shame, to so set limits to the very Powers?
But surely you don't think they're all-powerful, all-knowing? That's what I said before -- that if you think that, then you have to either accept that they're completely deranged, -- or just plain evil.
Why "plain" evil, indeed and how differeth such from evil of other kind?
Finrod: [rolling his eyes]
It's an emphatic. It means evil, and nothing more, no justification. -- The Song is too big -- there's too much of it for any one soul to understand, god or not.
Yeah, like the myth about the Earth-queen forgetting how she'd already made herself Children, too, until King Manwe reminded her.
Thou didst speak of that to all-and-sundry? 'Tis not enough hast gossiped of me, of us! but must e'en bruit about the private quarrels of the Holy Ones as well?
You mean he shouldn't have taught us the true stories, when we only had the foggiest ideas about Valinor? We thought it was in Beleriand, even. And we --
Finrod: [a little too quickly]
And because of that, even if things are Sung, it doesn't mean that freedom's but an illusion, because there's all the difference in the world between a piece composed and the actual performance, which is what we are, this world, only we're also the performers, don't you see? and moreover there are so many competing and conflicting and just plain different things going on, that the results when they collide or overlap or run together are something no one, not even the Singers, could have predicted.
[gesturing animatedly with increasing enthusiasm]
-- Or like waves, out against the coast, they don't come neatly up to the headlands in even rows, though logically they ought to always, and keep on so - but they cross, and divert, and set up overtones, and then there's the Moon, and that rearranged everything! Because there are the completely mysterious parts, that the Powers themselves didn't put in, and no one knows what they'll do, or how they will affect the Song -- and us, that are of it -- and all we know for certain is the destiny of Arda will be changed out of all expectation.
[Angrod takes off the ornate torc around his neck and gives it to his sibling. Finrod sighs, tolerant but a little disappointed-seeming.]
What are you two betting on?
[now that everyone is looking at them, the Princes are unsuccessfully trying to hide embarrassment with nonchalance]
Erm -- the question of how long -- or little -- time, how many exchanges, it would be before --
[he can't meet Finrod's gaze, and breaks off]
-- Before he started talking about his visions and this cracked idea he has about how the world will be after the end of the world.
Not visions. There's just the one. And I'm not mad.
[Beren glances around with a wary expression]
Um. I feel really stupid asking this, and maybe it's obvious to everybody here who isn't human, but -- isn't "the world after the end of the world" a something-or-other, whatsit, uh, you know, a --
Steward: [quick and unobtrusive]
-- Contradiction in terms.
[before Finrod can begin to explain, his brother cuts in:]
Hasn't he told you? You're supposed to save the universe or something.
Well, obviously, since you've managed to pull off marrying one of the Firstborn. Luthien too, since she's managed the corollary. It's got to be the case that you're the ones to bring about this great destiny, to carry out this vision of his, because otherwise you wouldn't have been any -- luckier -- than your aunt and myself. You're just pawns of Fate, you see.
[he looks around at them all, baffled and not a little disturbed; the Captain covers his face with his hands]
Dear Lady, here we go again -- please no!
[Finrod glares at his brothers with smouldering anger, well under control, but appearing for the first time]
I thought you were not here to cause me difficulty, nor to harrass him, but to help.
[to Beren, rather helplessly]
There is a -- a prophesy, so to speak. But it's only mine. Not the gods'. And it -- it isn't a definite one. Not like the one for my death. And you remember how -- uncertain, that one was, how I told you it seemed as though it were about to be fulfilled at the Bragollach -- and would have been, were it not for your kindred. I didn't only help you to somehow further my own convictions, as if -- as if you two were some sort of experiment.
Beren: [shaking his head]
Have I ever doubted you, Sir? I understood why you thought we were a bad idea when you talked about it with me in the City. Even before I knew about the problems in your -- our -- family.
[at this last, Finarfin looks from them across to his other two sons, who hastily look away from his gaze]
I wouldn't have thought you protected me just to obey a prophecy or some ulterior motive. But if you thought that some great destiny had to be involved for us to get together in the first place, then it makes sense that you'd go along with it in spite of your doubts, and maybe for that reason let your judgement get overrode by enthusiasm. And I don't think it makes any difference one way or other for you helping me, any more than than your being dead or your debt to Da.
[nodding towards Aegnor and Angrod]
-- I don't listen to these guys, anyway. It's not like I know them or anything, not like you.
[the Princes look severely disgruntled, the Ten wickedly pleased]
Go on -- I'm not gonna get upset.
All -- all right.
The very Powers daunt him not a whit, yet this Follower child confoundeth him that ne'er did I see uncertain . . . !
Finrod: [a little weary and flat, now]
It seems to me that all of us are Called to something, whether we know it or not, and perhaps we -- the Firstborn -- are helpless to work against the Song, the parts of it that are Marred or otherwise, with any real effect because we are too closely bound to it to change it, too close to see it properly, the way one must step back from any Work to judge it in its setting and overall. But the Secondborn are not, and what we Elves have have thought of as weaknesses, to be pitied and feared, might be instead strengths, to be used for good or ill to reshape the world. -- For good, of course, is my hope.
You mean that we -- mortals, us -- might have been put here to help undo the Marring?
[he looks around to see if the Eldar around him think this is a joke, but not even the Princes are smiling in derision]
And that my finding Tinuviel was supposed to be part of that?
[quiet keening, not quite loud enough to be obnoxious]
[pause -- Finrod looks at him anxiously, but when he continues it is a bit sadly, but not anguished:]
I think -- probably we already did it, only -- I botched it all up. -- The Silmarils.
Finrod: [shaking his head, earnest]
You're still here. The story isn't over yet. You don't know that that was the reason for your existence, the Great Work you were meant to do. It might not even be anything, not a thing like the Trees or the Silmarils, or a Deed like finding the Children and leading them West. I thought mine was Nargothrond, and then I realized that it wasn't, and that was a terrible shock -- but I had to keep doing it, I couldn't just stop and do something else.
And what, child, dost thou hold this Great Work of thine to be, that thou dost strive for but makest not, if not indeed the mending of all that's Marred?
Finrod: [faint smile]
I don't know, yet. If I tell you my suspicions, you'll have no doubts as to my sanity at all.
Nay, but doubt after which fashion, absent or present?
[Finrod starts to share a grin with his father, and then checks himself; the living King sighs and looks away]
Hast not fear to offend the Valar further, that hast been so gently pardoned and thy transgression set aside?
No. I . . . am already dead, I have no job nor place left to go back to in the world Without, and my lady doesn't want anything to do with me.
[Amarie spins half away, her arms folded tensely; he does not notice]
What else could they do to me, assuming they were so inclined? But arguing the ins and outs of the universe with Lord Namo and his family isn't particularly stressful, in any case -- his Lordship gets impatient sometimes, but not offended. A little brusque, but that's just his manner.
No, Aunt 'Danel, he's just crazy, that's all.
Hey, you shouldn't call Lord Mandos crazy --
No, I think the Doomsman's quite sane --
[Aegnor snorts in disgust, while other family members look on in disbelief or resignation]
Angrod: [aside to Aegnor]
You certainly set yourself up for that one.
Thou speakest, son, with such little deference as the Powers were thy very kin!
Well -- they are.
Yours too. All of you.
[the silence continues, though most of the Ten are finding it hard to keep from breaking it]
I'm not crazy -- am I?
[this to the Doriathrin lord]
Our Lady is most certainly of the Powers.
[with an apologetic glance towards Finarfin and Nerdanel]
-- And as certainly kin to your children, so I am forced to conclude that the same holds true for you.
[before any of them can comment on this]
And it's been true all along, only we didn't know it, because we didn't know what happened to Mother's uncle. And now it's true three different ways -- by marriage, by blood, and by marriage again.
[the Ambassador winces; so do Finrod's brothers, but his father and aunt only look puzzled]
-- Marriage, to Elu; blood, through their daughter our cousin, Luthien; marriage, by Luthien too.
[this does not dispel their confusion, but rather increases it all around]
No. That doesn't work. You can't count Luthien twice, Finrod.
I fear he is correct, my lord -- through Lady Luthien you may now claim kinship with Beren, for that prior bond of blood that unites your and her common ancestors; but that does not permit you to reckon the Princess as kindred anew, through that marital bond in reverse, as though she were now her own sister-in-law.
Are you sure?
[his counselor nods, his expression quite sober -- but there is a faint twinkle of amusement to match Finrod's own]
Teler Maid: [loudly]
Oh, he is being most silly, and all for to madden you, can you not see it?
[everyone stares at her]
Do not all look at me, or -- or I will vanish, I promise!
[she ducks back behind the Ten in an attack of shyness]
Finarfin: [to the ceiling]
I do believe that here is one Maiwe, whose songs my hall long hath missed, and my lady as long withal and more of grief than merest echoes' lamentation. Oft hath Earwen asked of me, whether of deed, or of undoing, what wrong we did thee that thou shouldst rather gray death prefer, thereunto our House?
Teler Maid: [calling from the background]
No! I mean, it was never your fault, good my lord. -- Or my lady's. Please do you tell her I am sorry from me.
I think she's only accepting family apologies in person, Maiwe -- though she might make an exception, you only being a cousin six or eight times removed, wasn't it?
[Finarfin sighs, looking as though disappearing sounds like a very good option]
Nerdanel: [to the Steward]
Indeed, it did clean fly from my mind, that I had meant to ask of thee: is this the same young Teler whose name was so frequent coupled with thine own, by many tongues, saving ne'er thine own? Is she thy true-love, in truth, Enedrion?
For my part, the answer should be yes.
What web of words dost thou make e'en now?
None -- presently. Your question is nigh unanswerable, my lord: do I say no, as it seems the present truth now rests, I shall most infallibly make it thus; but if on the contrary I declare it so, then such presumption should, I deem, have but the same result in the end.
[while his hearers are trying to decipher this, the subject of their discussion emerges from cover again, her arms folded and a very impatient expression on her face]
He would say that I will be angry with him no matter what he says, and then I shall not be, but he wishes that I were.
[she looks at him in amazement]
You have confessed your love for me, and before your own great House, and strangers -- ! Nor act you as if ashamed of that no more than of me for all my folly . . . and so did I ever hope for, and now you do thus, -- and I am afeared of you for your readiness to strike, and more so for your cleverness, that even here you might twist words to deceive and confuse, and belike you do so even now to win me subject to you once again, and how shall I ever know you are true then?
[her voice is almost a wail at the end, and she wrings the ends of her braids distractedly while he only looks at her seriously, saying nothing]
Alas, poor child!
Teler Maid: [drawing herself together in sudden temper]
I am not a poor child!
Well . . . perchance. -- Stop talking over me! You are here to harry Lord Ingold, are you not?
[Finrod's relatives look at each other askance, while the Ambassador shakes his head wryly]
Just my lady, as it happens, Sea-Mew. The rest of them are actually here to harry Beren's. It's merely happened to work out that way. But that's all right.
[to his family]
Of course she's correct, I was jesting -- except not to annoy so much as to anneal the conversation with humour before it fractured from the stress. You're all worried about the wrong things.
It gets better, you see.
[his eldest brother gives him a warning Look]
Indeed, and some such form of it hath reached unto the multitude, else some such semblance of these discourses. -- But I had for my part rather hear it out most plain and free of mitigations.
Don't worry -- I'll gladly incriminate myself further. The substance of it is this: the world is broken, the Song distorted past all hope of restoration -- even if it were somehow possible to overcome the Enemy and repair the effects of his destructive acts all in a moment, that wouldn't make it whole, wouldn't undo what was done, nor make it other than a botched mess suffering from the lack of all those that were lost as a result. So. We either have to say the whole project was ultimately a failure -- which certainly could be the case -- or that we're missing part of the pattern, and that's what I've Seen. This isn't the whole of it at all. Unless you're willing to admit that the One is a worse loser than I am, the hypothesis that there will be another Song that will make the world anew is the only one that makes any sense.
[this has a predictable effect on his Vanyar bride, and not much less on his other hearers, rebel or not -- even repeated exposure to such heresies has not entirely dulled the impact. His father, not seeming as troubled by all this radical speculation as his companions, glances at Beren before looking at his eldest once more.]
Whence cometh thy certainty the Secondborn shall have part in this -- new Music, even as the Ainur, and greater verily than we?
Well, they've got to be doing something after the world ends, right? You don't think the Timeless Halls are just going to be filled with bored spirits playing pointless games like us here, surely?
[someone behind him snickers nervously -- Beren and his father however only look at him with sincere questioning, and he sighs, going on in earnest]
Because they are part of the correction, and so -- assuming of course the One is at least a little better organized than we are -- the ideal world is not as some of our family have argued one in which there are no other Children than ourselves, but one in which their music is not drowned out nor co-opted by either ours nor the Enemy's: they were made to answer the first Discords, so the only question is what shape does that purpose take?
Yet even so are we, and to us hath been given understanding of the cosmos, that by virtue of our nature alike as our ceaseless days doth possess a greater breadth and potentiality than might any brief transient soul.
[he nods seriously]
And that is all we know. We don't know how to give it up -- how to to look at it as the Powers must, as something apart from them yet dear to them, that they must outlast with sorrow as a parent who outlives children, and which cannot be grasped at nor held from death forever -- because we can't. In that way we're closer to Morgoth than we might think --
Amarie: [cutting him off]
Out on thee -- !
Ambassador: [frowning, very perturbed]
Why do you say th --
[Aegnor has been endeavoring to contain himself, but the endeavor fails.]
Aegnor: [talking over them both]
So none of it matters, not Miriel, not the Kinslaying, not the killing of the Trees, not the torture and slavery of the ones left behind or the poisoning of the lands, because it's all going to be done over properly, you see -- this is all no more than erasing out bits on a rough sketch --
[as his brother and several of his Following start to answer at once, and chaos is about to take over, Nerdanel interjects, raising her hand:]
Be ye still, my kinsmen.
[to Finrod, her tone dryly meaningful]
Though the impulsive force of mine own speech be haply less by some degree than thy brother's, as hath been given to me to understand these several years -- still it doth much incline upon the same direction as mine own, forasmuch as such a . . . recasting should most greatly disdain all that hath preceded it, and make no reckoning of the griefs eke the glories of the former Day.
So all the many years of struggle and pain to perfect an art are worthless? The burns, the cuts -- the half-finished works that aren't quite right, but still have beauty in themselves, worthless? The efforts -- repeated -- to learn to play or sing in proper balance, weighing and subordinating individual perfection and sublimity to the whole and with regard to every performer's own abilities, meaningless because directed to a greater purpose, mastering of beauty that encompasses all prior work? You wouldn't say that about anything made within Arda -- so why say that of the world itself?
From both your words and the unspoken implication of them, I must guess, Sire, that you hold your vision to have come from a Source other than either of the usual channels -- that is to say, neither Beyond the -- this continent, as rarely if ever has been possible since the Dark One's Return, nor from the currents and tides of Ea itself, bearing message and meaning either as cargo or riddle, freight to be unpacked or deciphered or set into the mosaic of days, as the early flight of birds in autumn. Do I take your meaning aright?
[clearly this means something significant to the gathered Elves, from their expressions, as Beren looks at them, trying to piece out the overtones and undertones of the conversation; the center of the intellectual storm is undisturbed by this challenge:]
Yes, that is rather the obvious conclusion, since working within a closed system doesn't usually give rise to variables and outcomes hinging on factors not part of that system. But surely you don't want to assert that such isn't possible -- ?
Aye, and for what shall it be given unto thee?
I don't know. I've no idea why a god spoke to me out of the night and told me to build a City either -- why me, that is. The benefits of a hidden stronghold being obvious to even pacifists, I should hope.
You don't know that he didn't Call anyone besides you and your cousin, as it's proven from the White Lady's words. It could be, Sire, that the rest of us were simply deaf to it.
Ar-Feiniel is slain as well?
Ranger: [aside, shaking his head]
We should just make a list and hand it round.
Out of what? Stone?
And think how long it would have to be.
Aegnor: [brightly, not looking at Beren at all]
Yes, she married some local fellow there under questionable circumstances -- and he killed her.
[predictably, they all look at Beren, who looks miserable]
[sharp growling bark]
Finrod: [pleasantly, to his lawful kin]
Excuse me for a moment while I berate my sibling.
[turns and grabs Aegnor by the shoulder, furious]
All right, I've just about had it with you. I've taken your guilting about Lady Andreth and about my failure to convince the High Command to invade Angband because I'm not completely free of blame and I feel sorry for you. But you know, I really didn't have the power to make anyone obey me. You didn't have to listen to me telling you what you wanted to hear --
[as his brother raises his hand]
Go on, hit me, that's part of my job, isn't it? -- to make the unpopular decisions so no one else has to and take the blame for the consequences, because there are always consequences, and never make mistakes, never be wrong, because I'm the King. -- How dare I get myself into a situation I couldn't get out of, trying to save your lives? How dare I lose the Northwest Passage, and the North, and Nargothrond? You might almost think it was Fated, now, mightn't you?
[Angrod tries to intervene, but doesn't get a chance]
-- And when it comes to it, why weren't you able to convince your own best friends that an attack was in everyone's best interests? Hm? Why didn't you work on getting Cel to push his brothers into going along? Though I gather you did -- so why didn't you succeed?
[letting go of Aegnor and gesturing widely]
I couldn't solve all your problems for you in Beleriand, and guess what, I can't solve them here either. I'm sorry about that, that I can't fix everything that's gone wrong on either side of the Sea -- the Starmaker knows I tried, as well as failed, even if you don't -- and I'm sorry I couldn't even avenge you -- but right now there is a problem that possibly I can affect, and must at least endeavor to, and if it is a matter painful to us both, and cannot but bring to heart that sorrow afresh, still must we endure it.
[a little quieter]
I'm not asking you to believe me. Nor even to help our cousin and our friend. I only insist that you not cause any more problems for them. -- But that is all I'm going to say to you on the subject. One way or another. Do you understand?
If you don't, or won't, -- then get out of my sight. Now.
[Aegnor stares at him, his mouth working, but unable to speak; torn between hauling off and slamming his eldest, and vanishing, he flickers for a moment, then pulls away and stands a little ways off, his arms folded, his eyes closed in pain. Huan comes up to huff comfortingly in his ear, and gets a hard shove on his nose for his pains; meanwhile Finrod turns back to the conversation, and the horrified gazes of his family. Puzzled:]
You . . . displayed ill-humour, Majesty -- if I may understate.
Finrod: [still slightly manic]
Yes, well, it does happen from time to time.
[his relatives are all still taken aback: ironically]
-- It isn't as though I drew a blade on him, after all.
Teler Maid: [almost whispering]
But -- you shouted at him . . .
[their reaction leaves him a bit off-balance -- he looks at the Ten for reassurance, and gets it, if a bit strangely:]
Considering, my lord, that of all us that are present I have known you the longest, the latest, and the most continuous, and I have only seen you mastered by anger four times in as many yen -- to your cousins, at Alqualonde; your father, at Araman; against the Enemy on the battlefield at the Sudden Flame, and towards Nargothrond at our exiling -- it is I believe infrequent enough to warrant marvel.
[with a shrewd look at all the Finarfinions]
There were perhaps other occasions when I was not present to witness, certainly, and I do not reckon such situations where a severe rebuke was required and furnished with appropriate mannerims -- of which last I incline to judge this latest outburst, at least in part.
Somewhere near half -- I'm not sure of the exact proportion, myself. I trust there won't be another occasion for it in the near future, either.
[picking up where he left off again]
So, anyhow -- it depends on how you look at it, whether you see it as contradiction, as change, or as but a wider understanding of Fate than we've grown up accepting, unquestioningly. I don't think it's as radical or unsettling as everyone seems to believe: after all, I'm not saying that the Song won't end and we along with it -- only that there will be a new Music, and everything made new in it. -- As we should have been.
Dost reckon full the consequence of this thy claim? Even unto Morgoth, verily?
[again he nods, seriously; clearly she wants to say more, but it's too much to be able to get out]
Beren: [unfolding realization]
That's what you meant. That's -- what you were trying to tell me when -- right before -- before you died. When you said . . . we might not meet again, but maybe it would be all right somehow. I thought -- after -- you meant about --
[nodding towards Huan]
-- that they might win. Not that we'd meet like this -- or after . . . after the after-everything.
I didn't dare raise any false hope -- I owed you honesty, not comforting lies, but -- I couldn't leave you with nothing but my failure, when I might be right after all. -- I never Saw this, though.
Are you -- angry with me, for telling you no more of my vision than that "maybe" -- ?
[Beren looks at him fondly, shaking his head]
You spoke truer than you knew, then.
Thank you, my Lady!
Beren: [hesitant, but earnest]
Maybe -- maybe again, too . . . ?
Amarie: [to Finrod, with a drastic gesture, very agitated]
Nay, this madness doth far outpace thine eldest uncle's! Which shall be worse, I ken not -- to grasp even at eternity, nor rest content with all that hath been given us -- else to proclaim that such as he shall stand beside the Powers as gods verily -- else to hold thou knowest better far than even holy Manwe how this Ea is, and shall even be, withal, as thou wert Varda herself to grant such clarity unto the greatest of the cosmos? Hast thou not dread -- nay, I speak not of shame to thee! -- concerning of their affront, to hear of this thy foolish pridefulness?
Nay, dost thou truly hold the gods ken naught of thy love's certainties? Think, child!
[as Amarie gives her an affronted look in turn:]
-- Whence came yon troublesome rumours, the truth of which we have so plainly heard outspoken?
'Tis a most fair dream, to be sure, and the greater part of mine own counter to it hath fled like the molten flux before the most burning proof: that well indeed thou kennst this world its sorrow, nor recketh lightly of it, nor deemst it but foundation to the rest, as 'twere nay than the crushing of gravel fine to set beneath the footing of a lofty pergola. Yet still I may not but acknowledge it as shown, that thine hope of Arda Envinyanta is aught other than thy wish, from earliest days, that all thy kin might dwell together in peace and all their rivalries be given o'er, and now thou hast found to thyself more kinfolk even, and would of thy most generous spirit gather all these as well, about thee for ever more.
[as he starts to protest once more]
Nay, I confess I would most gladly consent with thee, saving that my doubt, that hath seen all fair beginnings fall to wrack and ruin, and every clarity made dark, and how joy turneth ever unto sorrow, findeth it still nor ever too light a resolution. -- But, youngling, thou dost self little service, to win thy theorem hearing, thus to make utterance in manner so short and prideful, as wert all ways plain and manifest, and only fools might not see it likewise.
. . .
[she does not look away, and he turns after a moment to the Steward.]
-- Edrahil -- am I being proud and impatient about it?
Aye, my lord, and so should I declare even did I hold with it.
[Finrod looks towards the Captain, who nods agreement soberly, and then back to his relatives]
Sorry. I suppose I was a bit overbearing.
Such shall be ever hazard of this our lordly duty, I fear.
[his eldest gives him a wary glance, which becomes more uncertain when he sees the living King's expression is rueful amusement, not sarcasm]
Angrod: [shaking his head]
For myself, I'd like to know what Galadriel would have said to all this. I can't imagine our sister wouldn't bring a measure of cold reality to temper the conversation.
[at Finrod's Look]
-- I'm only saying what I think --
-- Indeed, and another matter that all that's followed did drive from recollection: wherefore the meaning-insolence of my former vassals in their words concerning thy youngest sibling, that she of all of ye did swiftest and most fully take to the other Shore?
Aegnor: [over his shoulder, shrugging]
Probably they were talking about how she and her husband took off on that expedition retracing the March with a bunch of fellow lunatics. Or else just that she moved to Menegroth in the first place.
Artanis hath wed?!?
Oh, that's right --
Or when --
Hm. -- Edrahil, do you recall --
Finarfin: [keeping going]
-- Or unto whom?
[somewhat exciteably the Sea-elf points to Beren, with an "I know this!" attitude:]
To one of his cousins!
Uh, that's gonna conf --
Nerdanel: [to her nephews, in greater astonishment]
-- Thy sister also hath taken a mortal consort?
-- By marriage, gentles -- that is to say, one of li -- Lady Luthien's cousins, of royal Olwe's kindred, the Lord Celeborn.
[Finarfin looks more bewildered than relieved]
You didn't tell them?
Finrod: [staring at him innocently]
No, somehow it seems to have slipped my mind, what with being preoccupied trying to save the universe, anger the Powers and oh, by-the-by, pack in four-hundred-going-on-fiveyears' worth of adventures into what seemed like half-an-hour, not to mention all the interruptions and --
[chastened, Angrod raises his hand in appeal, in a gesture and manner very typical of his eldest sibling]
Ingold -- please.
[without any warning a banshee screech of unmitigated fury echoes throughout the entire Hall, startling everyone, though there is no visible source]
That's Tinuviel --
[before anyone can do anything beyond react in concern, Luthien herself appears, out of thin air, in a tearful rush, shoving anyone in her path aside and flinging her arms around Beren's neck]
-- Beren -- Beren -- you're still here --
[she steps back, looking at him as if she can't believe it, while Huan crowds in as though he hadn't seen her for decades and recognizes that she needs a dog welded to her side, even if she doesn't]
Oh, Beren, dear one, it's no use, there's -- you mustn't trust anyone here, you can't trust my family, it doesn't matter what side of the Sea they're on --
Not even us?
Oh, don't be stupid -- of course you.
Don't -- don't listen to anyone -- else, or let anyone talk you into anything, don't agree to anything, no matter how innocent it sounds, or reasonable, don't -- Oh!
[she shakes her head in outrage, unable to keep going -- he catches hold of her forearm, trying to get her to calm down]
-- Tinuviel. -- What -- did -- they -- say?
Luthien: [with a convulsive shiver]
He said -- he said you could be -- be put in some sort of suspended animation, unconscious, as though you were someone who'd returned from Exile illegally and that way we'd still be married but I wouldn't have to worry about you and you wouldn't technically be in Aman, you'd be on some islands somewhere, and so it would all be lawful.
[he lets go of her wrist and draws himself up, shocked]
W -- what?!?
That's what I said. I -- I -- yes.
Unconscious. For how long?
Always! I told them, it was bad enough, you were unconscious for a whole season, why would they think I would be happy with you like that forever?
[he is staring at her in disbelief, rapidly replaced by conviction to match hers that this is not a misunderstanding, while Nerdanel looks at Finarfin and her nephews incredulously and Amarie, frowning, shakes her head in disagreement.]
Honestly. I should have insisted on being present to help keep things in perspective. This is ridiculous -- and I'm going to tell Lord Namo so myself as soon --
[Beren whirls to face them]
Beren: [almost incoherent in his own distress]
No -- you don't understand. None of you! You -- I -- you can't!
Beren: [shaking his head]
There's nothing -- look, my whole life I spend fighting against the Dark, and I lose everything, and when I ask the gods for even a little help, the only choice I get is between exiled to Death now or exiled to the Grey Country forever? What -- kind of choice is that? Why can we not get even the least break? We've been patient, we've trusted the Powers to do right by us, we're not the bad guys, but --
Finrod: [trying to reassure him as before]
Beren, it isn't --
Don't! Don't lie to me now -- there isn't any hope, Tinuviel's right, nobody cares, no one can help us and you do not understand because you're here and you don't have anything to lose, there isn't any place else for you to go and even if Amarie won't listen to you now there's still hope for you, you do have forever, and no matter what -- even if you're right -- and Ages down the road we do get to find each other again, that isn't going to make the forever in between any less of a Hell for us!!
[as Finrod reaches out, upset, he flings him away and storms a short ways off, stopping abruptly to stand, his back to them, fist clenched at his side, shaking. No one quite dares to approach him -- except for Huan, who realizes that it's Beren who needs a canine shadow and additionally to have his ear snuffled and a dog nose shoved under his chin. The upshot of this is to cause the mortal to turn and hug the Hound, leaning against Huan's chest for a moment before wearily but resignedly rejoining the assembled Elven company, ghostly and otherwise (still with a divine Hound practically welded to his side.) After kissing Luthien quickly and she brushing the hair out of his eyes with an anxious caress, he faces the Nargothronders again.]
Sorry. I -- didn't mean to be ungrateful. I just -- lost it and said stuff that felt true but -- I know you can't help it, and you would if -- I don't mean any of that.
Teler Maid: [sympathetic]
I do that sometimes.
At least I did before. It -- it is harder, now, not simply here. Perhaps I am growing up.
I did not mean to call you but a child, my lord.
-- Or you, for such a Doom would put any out of temper, I think. Would you not agree?
[this last, innocently put to the newcomers, evokes expressions ranging from pensive to taut to intensely so; Beren, with Huan still "at heel," approaches Finrod & stands before him looking up at him unflinchingly -- despite the circle of witnesses, it is an extremely personal moment]
I cut you awful bad, didn't I?
[the other shakes his head, smiling sadly]
I've dealt with angry Men before. That -- wasn't the worst that any of your family has said to me.
An' . . .?
[the Elf-lord nods, and he sighs again]
-- Not so much angry -- as terrified. I haven't been afraid -- not really, not since they said that Carcharoth was dead -- not even here, even before he came --
[scratching under the Hound's jaw]
-- but now? I'm scared out of my wits. I don't know what's coming, what to do, and it just keeps looking worse. And that's not going away. Actually --
-- yes, angry, and that isn't going away either, but -- now I'm riding it and not the other way 'round.
[he looks around at the Ten earnestly]
Only there's nothing for me to fight or destroy here, and that's sort of all I know how to do. -- And wait. I'm good at waiting a situation out . . . but . . .
Steward: [shaking his head]
Oh, little one. -- Trust the people who love you.
-- Trust our King.
[Huan's tail signals agreement, and Beren nods ruefully, losing more of the frenzied edge]
I guess I shouldn't understimate you all, either, huh?
Teler Maid: [a little too loud]
But of course not!
[embarrassed, she winces, but Finrod smiles at her, and she perks up again]
Thank you for that encouraging confidence, Maiwe.
What, exactly, are they objecting to with regards to your marriage?
Luthien: [flinging up her hands]
Everything! -- Nothing. No one seems to take me seriously! They all still treat me like I'm a child -- I feel like I never left home.
[her father's counselor looks away, downcast; Nerdanel reaches out to him before recollecting, and sighs]
Why doesn't anyone pay attention to what I have to say?
Beren: [ducking his head a little]
Look, it's not your fault -- but -- earlier, you know -- you were coming across a little -- well, like my four-year-old cousin when we had to explain to her it was time to let her orphan squirrel go back to the woods.
[as she glares at him, with rather a betrayed expression, the Captain gives a sudden loud shout of laughter, instantly suppressed, and receives the full brunt of her redirected wrath:]
What are you laughing for? There's nothing funny about this!
Captain: [with a placating gesture, struggling not to lose control again]
Sorry -- I -- I'm sorry, Highness, I know, but -- I just couldn't help it, when he said -- just -- trying to not think of that picture -- it's just too wrong, my lady -- you as an angry toddler, holding on to Beren as -- as an orphaned baby squirrel, and scowling at Lady Vaire like that --
Beren: [completely serious]
No, my cousin was older than that, and so was the squirrel, that was the problem --
Captain: [shaking his head]
I know, I know, humans age differently, and -- it -- never mind, it was foolish --
No, it was quite inappropriate.
Now, if either of you had said a young wildcat, instead . . .
[Luthien matches stares with her cousin, and cannot help it -- a reluctant smile forces its way onto her face.]
All right. It is a funny picture. -- But them wanting me to -- to set Beren free -- isn't.
No. So we'll just have to make them see reason, somehow.
-- "Compel" -- ?!
Aegnor: [grim humor]
[Amarie closes her eyes, shaking her head in disbelief]
Luthien: [noticing the Princes properly for the first time]
You! There you are! I'm furious with you two.
[she strides up to them and starts building up to a fine rage, while her cousins realize that their earlier blasé attitude was misplaced and try to make their protests heard over her declamation and their father exchanges an impressed Look with the Doriathrin lord.]
-- I felt sorry for you when Dad punished you, you know -- but now I'm only sorry he ever let you come back! I'm sorry I ever helped feed you, or made you clothes, or sang for you, I'm sorry I healed you after that mistake with the boar, I'm sorry Mom didn't lock you both out of the Labyrinth, I'm sorry you --
Angrod: [raising his voice]
-- I didn't do anything --
[suddenly, the Powers appear, Namo and Vaire before their respective thrones, with Aule and his Assistant to one side, Orome and Irmo on the other; there is no flash of light nor other dramatic signal to their entrance. As the Lord and Lady take their seats, the Valinorean Eldar make polite gestures of acknowledgement; the rebels merely stand to attention, which is somewhat ambigious; the Doriathrin Ambassador, noting watching all reactions, shakes his head knowingly. Rather hesitantly the Teler Maid waves to Irmo, then retreats behind the curtain of her hair. Huan gives a quiet, experimental bark, but stops at once at the Weaver's severe Look. Before any of them speak, Luthien strides up to the dais in a no-quarter manner and begins:]
How could you say such a thing -- or listen to it! -- far less expect me to countenance it?
If you hadn't started shouting at everyone and stormed out of the room in a passion, Luthien, you would have realized that it was merely a suggestion -- just one among all those already brought up -- and not a decision at all: that, in fact, it would have been rejected in short order, being merely a shifting of location, and not in any way a new way of dealing with the problem.
Somebody else say something, because I don't trust myself enough to talk right now.
[before anyone else can, the Sindarin Ranger comes forward from where he is lurking at the back of the group of Finrod's people, looking utterly Doomed, and drops to his knees in front of Namo's Throne, forcing himself himself to look up]
Holy One -- my Lord Judge -- I beg -- beg leave, to speak --
Why are you on the floor?
? ? ?
Do you see any of your friends kneeling to us? Anyone?
[the Elf shakes his head quickly]
So . . . why are you?
Ought -- oughtn't I -- m -- my Lord?
If it makes it easier for you to speak, then yes. It doesn't look like it to me.
[doubtfully the Sindarin warrior gets to his feet and stands straight before the Throne, gripping his bow nervously]
What was it you wanted to say?
Youngest Ranger: [hopelessly resolute despite his stammering]
My Lord, if -- if I am not -- supposed to be here, then -- and yet you -- your Lady -- al -- allow me, then -- why can't you make -- another exception -- for him?
Who told you you weren't supposed to be here?
But -- Sir, I -- I'm n -- not one of Your people. I -- that is, to say, I did assume --
Are you not Eldar?
Youngest Ranger: [with a small flare of heat]
Not -- as some tell it.
[bowing his head]
-- Er -- yes, m -- my Lord. But not -- of these islands.
These Halls are meant to shelter such as you. It isn't the same as for a mortal: there's no intrinsic hardship or difficulty with you remaining here. If you're crazy enough to want to be included in the Doom of the Noldor, then obviously you do belong --
Namo: [turning to his wife, confused]
What? That's word-for-word what you yourself said.
True, but -- I didn't say it in front of him.
That makes a difference?
[this gets him a Look]
I don't see why.
[his wife gives the Youngest Ranger an apologetic, embarrassed glance]
Youngest Ranger: [uncertainly]
I -- I don't have to leave, then, H -- Holy Ones?
Not before you're ready, dear.
[speechless, he bows his head and sighs in relief; his commander pats him on the shoulder]
Told you, didn't I?
[the other nods, too overcome to look up yet, unaware of the looks of gratitude and admiration directed towards him by Beren and his companions]
-- Don't worry about that either. Trust Himself and look out for ambushes -- same as always.
[at that moment Nienna's student comes in through the doorway in a rush, hurrying up to the Thrones with the scroll clutched in one hand and something oblong and glittering, like a cuneiform tablet made from a prism, in the other, and wearing an extremely worried expression]
Nienna's Apprentice: [looking around at the assembled crowd]
I -- was on my way up to see you, my Lord, and I . . . heard voices raised. Is -- everything all right?
Erm -- sorry.
[with a skittish, worried look towards her and Beren, he turns back to the Doomsman]
Is there anything I can -- ought -- do about it?
[Namo shakes his head]
Oh. Well. Sorry.
Don't tell me you've found everything on that list already?
[the other shakes his head in turn]
I wanted to ask you, Sir, what if I find some of it -- do you want me to bring it to you right away, I mean, or wait until I've gotten it all together and then bring it to you all at once . . . ?
Namo: [sighing, in a don't-expect-much-and-get-less tone]
When you find something, yes, bring it to me right away.
I thought you were going to say that.
[with a bit of a flourish he hands over the crystal tablet, which the Lord of the Halls takes, raising an eyebrow, and glances at -- as he does so it vanishes with a flash; which part at least seems not unexpected]
What would you have done if I hadn't?
Apologized for disturbing you. -- And given it to you anyway.
Namo: [nodding approval]
[as his sister's pupil starts to leave again he gestures with his mug towards Aule's Assistant]
Why don't you take him along with you? Two minds researching it ought to be twice as fast.
[the two lesser Powers look at each other with equal enthusiasm, or lack thereof.]
But -- my lord Judge, I was contributing to the discussion of --
Namo: [cutting him off]
No, actually, you weren't. That's why we're here now.
Assistant: [appealing to the Smith]
My lord . . . ?
I'm sure you'll be able to make quick work of whatever Namo needs doing.
But of course, Sir.
[as he accompanies his disguised fellow-Maia, he can be heard complaining all the way to the door]
-- You don't really mean to walk down all those stairs, do you?
Oh no -- run. Remember? "Fast."
I'm sure we could put in some sort of camshaft-driven lift, powered by water --
[the Lady of the Halls leaps to her feet as they vanish out the door]
Vaire: [ominous (and making everyone else, Power or not, jump a bit)]
Don't worry, Vaire -- the lad's as responsible as he is creative. He won't go tearing holes in the place without asking.
[as if only waiting for all attention to turn to him, as it does now, Finrod Felagund steps forward with a pleasant, lethal smile familiar to all who were at the last Counsel in Nargothrond . . .]
Look here, my Lady, my Lords, you're demonstrating quite admirably that the art of endless debate has not fallen into neglect during the years of our absence abroad -- and trust me, I've become something of a connoisseur of counsels -- but I'm afraid that it's slipped your notice how counterproductive such ceaseless discourse and infinite recursions of every possible outcome and all the niceties of distinction are, when at the same time you complain of how much time you're being compelled to waste upon this matter.
[confiding, as between professionals]
One technique I used for keeping debate to a manageable length was setting strict time limits for each subject -- of course, everyone found ways around it, but they wouldn't be Noldor if they didn't. If you want, I can recommend some people who could help design a device for the purpose -- would in fact be delighted to do so. Or -- we could just stop ignoring the important things and wasting time on trivial side issues and resolve my friends' situation instead. -- Unless you really have nothing better to do and are merely complaining for the form of it. I've known that to happen, too.
[Namo's expression is very wry, while the Weaver narrows her brows at Finrod, who refuses to be daunted; as the Lord of Dreams turns away hastily covering a cough, the Hunter and the Smith share significant Looks:]
Can't you do something about him?
Aule: [sighs, shaking his head]
Unfortunately not. He hasn't been under my jurisdiction for the better part of the Age.
Who is answerable for him, then?
Can't you guess? Who's conspicuous by his absence these days?
Though if I didn't have direct information to the contrary, I'd be tempted to guess it was your brother-in-law.
[Orome chuckles harshly at that; Huan wags his tail happily]
Who's -- his -- brother-in-law? I can't remember . . .
Orome: [cutting over her]
-- Patron of brainless enthusiasts.
[Beren looks angry on their behalf, but Finrod only smiles.]
-- The patron of loyal friends, my Lord.
Namo: [ignoring the repartee]
So what's your solution?
First of all, I think that instead of talking about the Lord of Dorthonion, you ought to talk to him; that rather than discussing mortals, you ought to learn about them by listening to one. Then, perhaps, you'll have a slightly better understanding of what is really best for him.
He didn't have anything to say to me, earlier.
Most of us find it difficult to speak at first, until some healing has taken place, or the shock at least has worn off. Surely you don't expect the Secondborn to be any different?
[the Doomsman quirks an eyebrow at his adversary]
I . . . have had some experience dealing with mortals, yes. As I stated, he hasn't had anything he wished to tell me, beyond what was already said, before now.
Has that changed? Or is he leading you into a situation you'd rather not be in but don't know how to refuse?
No. I mean -- yes. I mean -- no, not --
[breaks off, looking at the floor]
It's -- no good. I can't do this.
Don't you believe in what you'd say?
Beren: [with an impatient shake of his head]
I can't -- I can't calm down enough to -- say it properly. I'm -- I'm -- damn' close to not being able to remember anything but the Old Speech.
Finrod: [perfectly calm]
Then say it in Taliska, and I'll figure it out again and translate for you. -- Though I expect Lord Namo will understand your thoughts no matter how you organize them.
Your confidence in me is overwhelming, Finrod.
-- Yes, of course. You don't even need to use anything as clumsy as language, but most people find it easier to do so.
[the mortal bites his lip, nods, braces his shoulders, tries again -- and shakes his head]
Whatever I say is going to sound dumb by comparison.
[Finrod starts to say something reassuring, but is cut off:]
Indeed, my lord, your diction is lamentably rustic, rivalled in its uncouthness only by the atrociousness of your accent, and with no more hope of ever being polished than a cross-grained mass of splintered branches -- but in despite of that, the substance of your words is clear, and indeed refreshingly so. Or, to restate, -- you are a foreigner, and your fashion of expressing yourself barbarous: make of that what you will.
[everyone except the Nargothrond contingent look shocked at this ruthless diagnosis, but the subject of it just raises his eyebrows]
Sorry about that, I wasn't meaning to waste your time.
Namo: [dismissive wave of his hand]
Oh, that was hardly anything, by comparison.
I bet. Anyway, I just really wanted to say one thing, and that's not just to you, Sir, but to all of you.
[he looks at the Powers, frowning at each one in turn.]
-- I just want to know, when is somebody gonna say, "Thank you" -- ?
Maybe for fighting against one of your renegades without any help or anything, and doing actually a damn' good job of it, considering, that he had more power and more people than any of us did, and not just me but all my ancestors too, as far back as we can remember? Isn't that worth, oh, maybe at least a "Good job," huh?
Correct me if I have misunderstood the information that's been given me, but was not your family tasked to guard the southern border of Melkor's territory and prevent his followers from committing crimes in that area? Was that not the price of those lands which your people were given?
[after a moment Beren nods, conceding the point]
And was not the particular mandate of the House of Beor to guard your tribe against predation? You were their lords, were you not?
[resigned, Beren nods again]
But, Sir --
[the Lord of the Halls gives Finrod a Look which daunts even him]
Do you want him to speak for himself, or not? You cannot have it both ways.
[the King bows his head, abashed. To Beren:]
But I didn't have to. I could have gone off someplace safer. Or I could have made peace with the Lord of Fetters, and ruled as his vassal instead.
If it is one's duty to protect the innocent -- a specific duty, beyond that common to all Good folk -- and it both given and accepted, then what is due to such a one who neglects that duty? Blame, or indifference?
Do you really think that refraining from blameworthy actions is enough to warrant praise?
[his jaw tightens and he raises his head a little, defiantly]
What about the Silmaril? Is getting one of them away from the Dark Lord just nothing, then? 'Cause that wasn't ever part of my family's job description.
Yes, but you didn't return it to Yavanna, so your actions scarcely can be counted as any different from Feanor's, with the exception of an additional -- but equally self-centered -- motive for them.
[Luthien starts to object, but the Lord of the Halls is ahead of her]
Namo: [shaking his head]
No, you've got to be fair: bringing it back to your wife was not an option that was open to him, so he cannot be criticized for not having done nor attempted to do so.
No, but he can be criticized for being stupid and greedy enough to try to take all three of them -- and losing the one he had in the process.
[the Hunter glares at him: Beren gives him back an incredulous, mocking grin]
You're kidding, right?
[shaking his head]
You think I shouldn't have tried to break them out of there? Seriously? 'Cause that's what it means, what you're saying, if you really blame me for trying.
Orome: [extreme sarcasm]
So you think that making it possible for Melkor to get one of his Servants -- and not just any minion, mind you -- through Melian's blockade after all this time, when nothing else could have, deserves congratulations? I don't get it.
Oh, come on, my Lord! By the Devouring Dark, that makes as much sense as blaming him for the Gloomweaver's venom -- to wit, none at all.
[Orome glowers at his former follower, who isn't daunted, while Finarfin shakes his head and Finrod gestures for quiet]
Vaire: [not amused in the least]
-- Would you kindly endeavor to control your language while in my house? If you must speak of the Void and -- that person -- at least do so without honorifics, child!
[slightly ashamed, he ducks his head at the Weaver's anger; her husband retreats behind his teacup hiding his expression -- surely not smiling . . .]
[short, but piercing, bark]
[the Captain grabs his collar and pulls him down as though he were a noisy horse, rubbing his nose]
-- Guys, it's okay.
[to the Hunter]
That was an accident. There wasn't any way to know that would happen.
[as the two warriors stand glaring at each other, Finrod looks from the mortal to the deity and back, frowning thoughtfully]
Yeah? You couldn't have figured out that hanging around any longer than necessary was a bad idea? But no, you had to try to grab all of them, you couldn't be content with what any normal human being would have considered more than enough either of treasure or of glory, and as a result you blasted it all to hell-and-gone. And now you want us to thank you as if you'd actually succeeded instead? You idiot. -- Why couldn't you just be happy with what you had?!
Don't you understand?
[he looks at them all, shaking his head a little, lifting his hand and gesturing in place of words]
[still more earnestly]
They sing. I -- couldn't leave them there. Do you know what that place is like? It's -- like being inside a cloud of smoke only instead of smoke, it's hatred. They -- they don't want to be there, in the Dark, they're not supposed to be locked up, no more than you'd do that to a wild bird. How could I not try? If -- if I'd left them prisoner there, not even tried to save them, when I could have -- how could I ever have faced my mother when my time came? How could I face my people? I had to try to free them.
[his voice breaks, but he keeps on]
-- And yeah, -- I failed.
[in the silence that follows he wipes impatiently at his eyes, but does not look away, and the Hunter continues to lock stares with him until the Lord of the Halls summons his attention]
Can you truly say, young Man, that your intentions in attempting the other two stones were entirely disinterested?
That means -- done without concern for personal ends or gain.
I know what "disinterested" means. I'm thinking how to answer.
I can't say it was totally without thought of any glory that I kept going -- to be the one who finally succeeded where all the kings of the earth hadn't been able to pull it off, -- instead of the guy who barely got one and lost it instantly afterwards, like actually happened. Any more than revenge, the promise I made to Da's spirit over his cairn. I just don't know. There wasn't any question of thinking about it at all. If you'd ever seen them, you'd understand --
Beren: [laughing at himself]
-- That's right. Sorry. -- Maybe they wouldn't have driven out everything else from your mind, since you all already seen -- saw them, before. Maybe I should have just cut our losses and run once the first one came off. Or maybe I shouldn't have hurried so bad and the knife wouldn't have slipped and got broke. Maybe it is all my fault, in spite of what my friends think, and not just the fact that Tinuviel got mixed up in --
Beren, do not start apologizing to me again. I'd rather hear my parents scolding, actually.
[he nods, and resumes without further digression]
Could you have taken one and said, "Well, that's all I need, so what if all my friends got killed because of them, so what if these are what all the fighting was about, what all my family got killed for, what the whole bloody War and the Dark and everything was about, all of that wasted lives and destruction, but hey -- I got what I came for, so let some other poor slob do the rest of it." I mean, it ain't like Tinuviel risked her life or anything to get us this far, or, oh, like knives that can cut through godforged iron aren't lying around at every blacksmith's shop, it wasn't that hard to get through noman's-land unspotted, like it took some kind of miracle to make it work, right -- ?
Amarie: [to the Captain, wry]
Thou hadst right -- 'tis not possible to mistake.
But hey, I don't know, maybe you all could --
Sarcasm doesn't help --
Orome: [cutting him off, barely-suppressed fury]
-- You little punk. Do you have any idea --
-- Yeah, I think so -- I've only been doing your job since I was tall enough to pick up a stick and not put someone's eye out with it by accident, that's what I was born to do, that's what I was trained to do, and that's what I did better than any one Man in Dorthonion except Da, so don't try to tell me that I don't know what it involves, or what failure costs, or how I think adventure's a game but it ain't all -- all banners and glory and the rest.
Orome: [through clenched teeth]
I didn't say that.
[Namo gives him a Look]
Whatever your intentions, the fact remains that the consequences -- taken as reason demand swe must, as a whole -- were nothing but disaster on every hand --
[too late he catches himself, as there is a collective flinch all around: Beren raises his wrist, smiling as he glances at it in a very vulpine way, and looks at the Powers coolly.]
Yeah, I kind of noticed that.
Young Man, a little courtesy never hurt anyone.
I'll take your word for it, Ma'am.
[before any further escalation, the Judge of the Dead raises his hand for silence]
None here disputes your deeds, nor will challenge the truth of your valour, nor the intent of your efforts.
[Beren looks at him, at first skeptically, then somewhat at a loss as he recognizes the factual sincerity of the statement.]
Besides recognition, what else do you demand from us?
And now we are right back where we started.
[he rubs his temples wearily; Finrod steps forward again on Beren's right]
Let them have what was taken from them, at least.
You want us to rehouse your friend and your kinswoman and give them both a home here in Aman.
And then what? I tried to explain this to your cousin already, but none of you listen very well. You of all people should know that, far better than she -- how swiftly Time passes on this Shore: what is a year in Tirion or on the Shining Plains? You spend twenty on the curve of a gate, or the bridge of a song -- and what is a score to the Secondborn? Three score years fly by like the days of the Sun to you Outside, and you know what they will bring to him, and then what? We cannot keep him bound here in an endless cycle of waning and rehousing. Would you make Luthien watch him fade while all else thrives, and have that passing all the bitterer to her for it, and this same parting once again, for him? Wouldn't a clean break be better than that?
At least it would be more than nothing, which is what they've had.
[Aegnor gives a long, shuddering sigh, but does not speak or leave the Hall or otherwise disrupt things.]
But would it be any better?
Giving him life here in Aman will not change the fact that she has immortality, and he does not.
Then give him mine, for I've no use for it.
[utter silence -- because Finrod's relatives and friends are too aghast and taken aback to say anything to this]
What you are is not a thing apart from you yourself. You know this. Could you give your name away to some one else -- wait, that's not the best example --
Finrod: [talking over him]
Actually, mortals do -- usually once they're done with them --
Namo: [interrupting in turn]
I said it wasn't a good example. But it's not the same in any case: there's no exchange, is there? No loss?
Your nature is not something you can give away, like . . . like a ring. Think about it: how could you cease to be yourselves? And don't say "possession," either. You are not the matter of your selves, or else we wouldn't be having this conversation, and that's one reason why it doesn't work properly, apart from the right and wrong of it. What is it that makes you Elf, and not Man?
Less than than we thought -- not that we are Quendi, for mortals speak and hear even as we; nor that they perish, for so indeed do we.
[facing the Thrones, he misses his relatives' reaction completely]
Truly? You understand then what it is to be born a stranger under the Stars, to be forever doomed to departure? You understand, as a human would, mortality?
I understand it better, at least, having been -- Exile.
As he understands better than any who is not Eldar, except perhaps Melian herself, what it is to be of the earth, to be such as you. You can recognize what is the same, in each other, because you are aware of the limits of those differences. Is that not it?
[Finrod is silent. Beren turns to face him directly.]
He's right. We simply are different. And it can't be otherwise.
Finrod: [absolute intensity]
But it doesn't matter.
I know. But even if I was somehow immortal -- forget about how if you did give it up I couldn't live with myself knowing you'd given up everything for me, or what everybody else would say about it -- I couldn't be at home here. No more than I was in Nargothrond. All my born days, I was human, if a strange one: can the pattern of my life be unwoven and made into something else? I should always be remembering Ladros, and a roof that was ancient to me, and voices I'd never hear again. And if somehow I was made to forget, so as to be happy here, like one newborn, -- what would there be of me? Would I still love her, and she that one, who didn't know her real name? It can't work.
[he looks down, shaking his head, gesturing as he struggles for words]
The place where I was born is dead now, my family destroyed, even my own language is dying or dead, because there is no people left to sing the old songs or make the old jokes we couldn't ever translate into yours.
[Finrod is weeping silently]
Don't -- don't.
[putting his hand on Finrod's shoulder]
You did your best. No Man ever had a better friend. You tried --
Finrod: [harshly, refusing consolation]
And -- ?
Are you ready to go on, then, Beren?
[he turns back and looks at the Judge in silence; Luthien raises her hand in anguished protest]
For myself -- I would say yes. For myself.
[Luthien makes a small hurt sound, but Finrod gives Beren a keen, comprehending look, and touches her arm reassuringly as he continues]
But I am not -- just -- my own self: I belong to another. And that part of me cannot leave. If it weren't so . . . perhaps this -- nothing like this would have happened, but maybe not. You say this world isn't my home, but -- it's the only home I've ever known. The taste of it, earth and air and water, all wakened under the Sun's bright fire, clear and gold as honey from the comb, or crisp and shiny as mica under the frozen Stars, and the Moon's light like a pail of milk splashed over all -- what else am I, apart from them, still though I'm no more than the echo of those days of my life?
[shaking his head]
It might have been as hard for me to leave it, as it was for me to leave Dorthonion, lingering past all reason, when a sane Man would have fled long since -- not waited until winter was on before, or till there was no way out but through a little slice of Hell, first. Even knowing better all my life, I -- might have fought to stay, among the trees and stones and streams that had welcomed me, the memory of a lost hunter in the forest, or maybe the forest's memory of a stranger, until the world and Neldoreth was no more.
[he looks at Luthien then, finally, and reaches his hand to her -- she takes it, clinging to him protectively]
But then we met. And I am hers now, and I can't change that, no more than I can stop being myself. I left my homeland, for all I was harried out, of my own free will -- but it took a demon's jaws to drive me from her side, and only the word from her lips to await her here, that I left -- or else I should have stayed no matter what, as I lived four houseless years in the heather, the ghost of the land's true lord, until my land was no more. But my lady is immortal, and I won't forsake her. I can't.
[they stand looking at the Lord and Lady of the Hall without uncertainty or defiance, only resoluteness]
A certain fine rude poetry his speech encompasseth -- and a finer lesson, that might we well have taken to heart, ere the Night fell.
[Amarie is looking steadily if somewhat tearfully at Finrod, who turns his head and returns the look defensively -- only to lower his head first under her gaze.]
Vaire: [most reasonable]
Then, if you love her, do you not want what's best for her? Do you not want her to experience bliss with her real family here?
Beren, -- remember what I said.
[he gives a quick half-smile, and doesn't answer]
Vaire: [extremely exasperated]
Luthien, hasn't any of this conversation sunk in? I find it hard to believe that you're really that dense, given your parentage -- but the alternative is that you're being willfully obstinate in refusing to admit the truth, and that would mean so much self-delusion that I would rather not credit it.
[as the Lady of the Halls is speaking (and the recipient of her lecture returns a mutinous glare) her spouse taps hopefully on the palantir, frowning at it as if sheer willpower might make it come to light with a summons]
After all, we're only telling you what your cousin's tragedy has amply demonstrated about the impossibility of Elven-human relationships -- as we have been repeatedly informed ever since his arrival.
[as Luthien, and others, turn to stare at Aegnor, she goes on rather acridly]
He -- and his sibling -- have taken up quite a disproportionate amount of my husband's time, and his sister's, complaining about it, as if there were no one else here whose problems warranted consideration.
[Aegnor looks thoroughly embarrassed, though still angry and resentful.]
All we want is for you both to have what is best and most appropriate for you.
[Luthien releases Beren's hand, lifting both of her own in furious appeal]
It isn't fair. We had no time together.
[the Lord of the Halls straightens and levels an attentive Look at her, belying former apparent distraction]
He is mortal, and receives a brief allocation here, and eternity beyond the confines of these Circles. You are Eldar, and receive a full portion -- in many more dimensions than mortals as well as in Time -- in Arda, and it balances out. Unfortunately --
Actually, I have a problem with that, too.
Do you also have something to ask? Or did you only want to express your dissatisfaction?
[Luthien is affronted, but Beren takes this in the direct spirit it was asked]
Beren: [pointing to the Youngest Ranger and the Teler Maid in turn]
What about people like him? Or her? They didn't do anything wrong, they never listened to the Dark Lord or told you off or disobeyed you.
[to the Sea-elf]
Maiwe, how old are you? When you were alive, not counting ever since, I mean.
[she frowns a little]
But you do not think of the same thing when we speak of Time as I.
[the First Guard leans over and whispers something to her, and her expression clears.]
Four twelves less -- two. -- But nearer one.
You're almost forty-seven!? I thought you were maybe fifteen and that was why you got treated like a kid. But you're not that much younger than Ma -- would be -- you could have grown children and grandkids, if you were mortal, by now --
[she looks a little dubious, as if he might be making up another preposterous story, and looks to the others for confirmation]
Orome: [with a grim smile, very sarcastic]
Perhaps a little more thought along these lines would show where the problems with your marital situation lie, what do you think?
[Beren gives him a dark Look]
Don't go changing the subject -- I'm gonna get distracted, and that's not the point of what I'm trying to say, and you know it.
Amarie: [aside, amazed]
-- Doth ever this Man conduct himself thus, respecting of no Power?
Only when people like my Dad or Sauron try to push him around.
Beren: [frowning still more]
-- Nobody calls Tinuviel young, anyway.
[she rolls her eyes sardonically while he returns to the topic]
-- They didn't get any more time than mortals, and they didn't get bliss, and not even all the Noldor deserved what happened to them, and I'm not talking about my friends, they know what I mean whether they agree or not, but what about them?
[pointing at the Princes]
-- because they weren't Kinslayers, and yeah, they broke the rules, and they knew it, but does that mean that that whatever horrible things happened to them are all right and proper, because that doesn't sound like it to me, like the time Uncle Brego had to solve a dispute between Gildor --
[aside to Finrod and his following]
-- Gildor of Ladros, obviously, not the Gildor you said he was named after who went with the Princess and her husband -- and his neighbors over a set of good iron chisels that got borrowed without asking -- actually, without permission, after asking and getting a no when his neighbor was away -- and then in retaliation the owner busted down and burnt the gate he made with 'em and the herd got loose and one of his best milkers got into a swamp and drowned, and my uncle was so furious with Gildor because he expected better from his own household than dumb stuff like that that he wanted to say it was just fair -- but if it would've been anyone else he wouldn't have, see?
I fear talk of young Inglorion did distract my thought from talk of the rivalries of strangers.
Amarie: [giving her brothers-in-law a hard Look]
For my part, amazement, that after all that's passed he doth speak favouringly of twain that hath given unto him no kindness that I did discern.
[Angrod and Aegnor try to appear as oblivious bystanders, not very successfully]
I see you understand the tension between determining levels of accountability, based on individual competence. -- I'm not sure how this relates to your situation.
Beren: [shaking his head]
I'm not just talking about us. I'm talking about everybody. I want to know how it's fair to punish all the Noldor for what some of them did, and to keep on punishing them, when some of what you're blaming them for has gotta be your fault.
[the only people present who do not express any dismay or surprise whatsoever at this bold declaration are the Lord of the Halls and the Lord of Dogs -- and Beren's wife.]
Steward: [quiet but urgent to Finrod]
My lord, -- can you not do something?
[Finrod sadly shakes his head, yet there is something of pride and approval in his expression as he looks on]
Well, yeah -- you put a Curse on them, that would make it your fault, right? I mean, I hate to admit this, but even Curufin and his brother aren't completely responsible, are they, if you made it so that the Noldor are Doomed to betray each other? And plus you let them do it -- leave, I mean -- so if you didn't want them to, why didn't you just stop them instead?
Namo: [narrowing his eyes]
So. You think that because I Foresaw and foretold the inevitable consequences of their choice, the results are my responsibility?
[Beren nods, frowning]
Really? Then let me ask you this: when your -- niece? cousin?
[he manifests the glittering tablet for a moment and glances at it before putting it away and continuing]
-- cousin, kept on climbing up that birch tree beside where you were, what, "pegging out a deerhide" -- ? and you told her not to do that, as she was going to fall and break her ankle, and you weren't going to stop what you were doing and carry her back to the hall, and that was in fact what happened, -- was that your fault?
-- That was a long time ago. That was -- that was before the Bragollach.
Did you in fact, "put a hex" on her, as she later told her parents, or in any other way cause the tree to dislodge her or her to lose her grip, or to land so as to break her ankle?
No -- birches aren't any good for climbing, mostly, and there was rocks all around, and I told her it was going to happen because I done -- I did -- the same thing myself at that age. I didn't make it happen.
Even the fact that you correctly named the specific injury doesn't change that?
Could have been her arm or her collarbone, too.
But you did not cause it, despite your foretelling.
[he shakes his head]
But you did not prevent it, either.
Beren: [shaking his head]
Like I told Bara, she wasn't listening, and she wasn't a baby any more, and I couldn't get her down safely by force, and like she kept telling me, I wasn't her Da after all -- !
There was, in fact, no way for you to stop her from willfully going into a dangerous situation, either lawfully or without causing greater harm. But your decision to keep working, instead of taking her home at once, was in your control, was it not? Why did you do so, if not from vindictiveness at her disrespect towards you?
Because if I stopped then it would've dried all wrong and been spoiled, and I'd already bargained it to somebody, and you don't let any of your take go to waste, not if you want to have any luck on the trail ever again. -- If one of the other little kids was around I would've sent one of them up the hill to get help, but the only reason she was out at the skinning rack was that she didn't want to play with Rian, so there wasn't anybody around that I could send. It wasn't like it made any difference, really: I splinted it up tight and made her sit still with her foot up . . . and after I was done I carried her back and they said I done a good job and made her sit still with her foot up.
[scowling at the recollection]
After I got yelled at for letting her get hurt, until Aunt An' stepped in and scolded the grownups for blaming another kid when it was their job to keep the little ones out of mischief, and not mine really.
You know what that brat did, banged her head against mine the whole way home, until I finally said I wouldn't ever take her fishing again if she didn't stop it, all because she was mad at me. -- Kids. -- And yeah, I get the point of what you're trying to make me see, but I don't think it works because if it was really serious, if she'd been bleeding, if the bone was sticking out or she hit her head or something, I would have had to take her home right away and take the loss of the hide and just deal with it. "Told you so" wouldn't cut it.
Namo: [gesturing with his mug]
No analogy is perfect.
This one's not even close. I mean, you were supposed to protect them, right?
[the Warrior winces visibly, as do others of Beren's companions; Nerdanel laughs a little, with a knowing expression on her face: deja vu, perhaps.]
And you didn't, and the Dark Lord took over, and we didn't rebel, and the Sindar didn't, and that didn't help us any, on account of how the Enemy was out to get us all even before we existed, so it wasn't like it was our fault for getting involved with the Noldor, either, and what else could we do? It wasn't like we even knew they -- some of 'em -- had done hamsoken --
Taliska for illegal entry and mayhem.
-- Breaking into a home and committing violence --
[the cousins exchange suspicious, rather jealously-territorial Looks]
-- The Kinslaying.
Right, so what's fair about us being caught in all of that, and nothing for all our pains except a that was what you should have been doing, fighting the Enemy, there isn't any other legitimate option" -- ?
[he gives Amarie a frown at this last]
I mean, we don't get help, we don't get gratitude, all we get is chaos that we didn't make.
Ambassador: [not quite aside]
-- Hear, hear.
[The Hunter addresses Beren in the tones of one explaining something to a very small child, or while at the cutting edge of patience]
The Teler chose to split up and some of them chose to remain Overseas. Others of the Eldar chose not to join us at all. That was their right. By exercising that right, they also chose the consequences. We can't help that. -- Or do you think I should have forced them to come along whether they wanted to or not? Not sure how I could have done that, given how stubborn and resourceful the Firstborn are -- or wait! I know -- I could have destroyed their minds and set permanent states of Command on them the way Melkor does. Then none of this would have happened!
[Vaire rolls her eyes; Huan starts a continuous snarling growl; and Aule gives the Hunter a troubled glance]
Might we please have some civility around here?
-- Can you do that, Tav'?
Beats me. Never tried it.
Oh yeah? I never heard about you coming around looking for us. I heard it was the other way around -- that we were looking for you guys, on our own, 'cause we heard about you from some of those people you don't care about because they chose not to come with you, those "Dark-elves," that Turned, and we found our own way over the mountains, and --
Don't blame your friends' snobbery on me, boy --
Just because they waste their time and energy coming up with class distinctions instead of --
Vaire: [cutting him off, gently chiding]
Tav', I know they've disappointed you, but really --
Orome: [growling at Beren]
-- Self-righteous little git, too good to hunt for yourself now --
[Huan starts to bark again, and is valiantly shushed by several of the Ten]
-- Tavros! Huan!
Hey! I'm trying to ask something!
[the Steward covers his face with his hands; Aegnor stares at the mortal with something of awe.]
-- Lord Mandos, didn't you say it was my turn to talk?
[raising his eyebrows, Namo gives him a nod over his mug]
All right, then. Anyway. We heard about you from them first -- and then from him --
[pointing to Finrod]
-- even if he was a rebel and Doomed, he still told us the truth about you. At least, I used to think it was the truth --
[raising his voice as he goes on]
-- that the gods were good, that you weren't like Morgoth, who just wanted to enslave us and kill everybody he couldn't control -- and not only that -- that you were better. That you cared. That you made the world for disinterested reasons and you tried to protect it, and us, against the Enemy and that you were responsible for all the good stuff and not for the bad, and that we owed you gratitude for that, but I'm not sure about that any more, and you know what, I'm wondering if maybe Feanor wasn't right -- not that about making the Elves all your thralls, but about not having a clue and not doing a thing to protect them and maybe leaving everyone who wouldn't follow you behind where it wasn't safe was your way of dealing with us instead, until we Men are out of the universe and out of your way. What about that?
Namo: [aside, resigned]
I hate being right all the time.
[simultaneously to Finrod]
This is your fault --
[Finrod lifts his head proudly, giving them a stern Look, not denying responsibility in any way, audible or not]
No it isn't his fault, and I'm not scared, you can do whatever you damn' well please to me, because if you can't answer me except by clobbering me that just goes to show that I'm right and you're not really any better than Morgoth --
[he scowls defiantly at them, while Vaire stares up at the ceiling and Aule shakes his head, grimacing; Orome folds his arms angrily and turns half-away; the Lord of Dreams only sighs, looking wounded]
-- and I'm not saying this just because you all wanted to fling me back into that nightmare world or out into who-knows-what, for all I know that's just as much the end permanently for us as you all think the end of the world will be for the Eldar -- mostly --
[with a quick, apologetic glance at Finrod, he goes on, increasingly indignant:]
But I'm asking because of my people, because I am their lord, and I'm the only one left to ask -- my father and mother served you, through them --
[pointing to the Finarfinions and their supporters]
-- and so did my Grandda, and my cousins, and their Da, and all my aunts and uncles and grandparents all the way back to Beor, and we lived, and died, to keep your kinsman under control, in an effort that it turns out was Doomed from the start, and my parents got split up trying to do both of our tasks at the same time, and poor Eilinel disappeared and got used to destroy her true-love even after she was dead, and Gorlim was tortured into betraying Da, and you can't tell me that either one of them deserved that because it isn't true and you can't tell me that eternity makes it okay because that's a piece of tin covered with foil and bits of glass, that's something shiny that looks nice so long as you don't look at it too close or poke at it too hard, but that doesn't make what happened to them all right!!
[he stops, shaking with emotion, daring any of the Powers to say something]
You said you had a question. What is it?
[for a moment Beren is too thrown to respond -- then he pulls himself together, his eyes blazing, and asks it:]
Beren: [gesturing fiercely]
Where is the justice in it? -- Is there any, or is the whole thing just a stupid muddle, and us stupider still for trying to do right by it? I want ANSWERS, dammit!!
[growing angrier by the word]
What's fair about it? You got an answer? -- And if you don't -- WHO DOES?
[long silence -- and the Lord of the Halls sets down his cup with a bang and slowly rises from his Throne, with a terrifying expression of anger, so that the effect of a dark thunderhead-like aura that gathers about him, dimming the glow of the sconces, is almost unnecessary]
Namo: [stifled growl of fury]
You dare ask me that? You DARE to ask that -- of me?
[Beren is speechless -- but returns a defiant nod. The Doomsman stands there equally speechless with rage, and then grinds out the words:]
-- Wait here.
[with that he vanishes, leaving confusion and consternation behind -- the Weaver gives Beren a most reproachful look]
Child, did you have to do that, really?
[abashed, the mortal bows his head, but his posture is as stubborn as before]
Oh, Beren --
[he turns to her, and she smiles, anxious -- terrified, rather -- but without disappointment or condemnation]
[before he can say anything else the Lord of the Halls has returned, still glowering, but without quite the storm of anger surrounding him as before as he stands on the dais before his high seat:]
Namo: [without preamble]
Beren Barahirion, self-called the Empty Handed: you have demanded to know the reason for suffering, for injustice, for the workings of Fate --
[he raises his hand, pointing to the floor behind them, between the grassy hill and the waterfall, and in the same way that the garden gate appeared for Finrod earlier, a portal manifests out of the dimness -- but this one is both far taller, reaching all the way to the ceiling, and far realler -- there's nothing ghostly or suggestive of illusion about this massive, though narrow, carven stone doorway.]
If you will it, then go ask your question of my Lord and Lady, and learn from them the same truths that were given to me, when I asked it, many Ages ago as you would understand it, and again, when this Age began. Go through that door, and receive your answers -- if you dare.
[Beren stares at it, wide-eyed, and then looks back at the Thrones. Behind him, the Captain seizes Finrod by the arm]
Captain: [desperately imploring]
Sir, you've got to stop him --
Finrod: [shaking his head]
[frowning, Beren gives the Powers a critical, measuring look, and lifts his chin]
You say that like it's a trap. What's going to happen, if I do?
I don't know. That's why I'm asking you this -- do you choose it?
Because once a thing is done, it is too late to undo it. Are you truly willing to endure the consequences? It is not yet too late to turn back.
[Beren looks at him steadily]
If you find knowledge of things beyond mortal ken to be too great a burden for any Man -- remember this, and that you chose to ask, before you blame the answerer, and that you did so against all advice and counsel.
Beren: [quietly, without any bravado]
Namo: [with a sigh]
You will go forward, then.
[the Doomsman bows his head in answer, and the portal swings open, revealing a black, starlit sky and a staircase of wide, shallow steps ascending from the doorway, seemingly of black stone or perhaps glass, reflecting starlight on their edges. Beren stands frozen, looking at the opening -- and then makes a small movement towards it. Luthien catches at him desperately]
[she shakes his shoulders, making him turn to her]
It is a trap. If you go -- out -- you'll never be able to come back --
It isn't the Void. There are stars there.
No! Stop -- somebody, stop him -- Huan, don't let him --
[Huan comes close and puts his head against Beren's face, like a worried horse, but does nothing else]
Beren: [stroking the Hound's muzzle]
I have to.
[he looks at Luthien, trying to reassure her]
I will come home to you. I promise.
[she doesn't say anything, staring fixedly at him]
I always have.
[he puts his hand on her cheek, very gently, and kisses her, before turning quickly and striding through the dark gateway without looking back. The postern closes, seamlessly, and dissolves into nothingness, leaving all the rest standing there in silence.]
That boldness dareth, that none other might,
to venture past known travels, seeking sight
of sights more proud and dear than word shall say,
resisting that fell arrest that none may stay,
neither for vainglory, nor increase of store,
but only for the cause of faith forsworn
and wrongful sway o'ermastering captive good,
whose tyranny, like Time's oblivious hand, would
crush all makings and their memory as well --
'gainst which should death seem rest from hell
of life's lost fortunes; were not that selfsame rest
a parting wretched, from that which holds most blest --
[as the shades of Eldar and Immortal, and the living Elves, stand in dismayed uncertainty, the Lord of the Halls looks grimly at his colleagues]
Namo: [sounding very tired and fed-up]
Let's take this debate to the proper venue.
[he vanishes at once, his preemptory departure followed in short order by the other four Powers, after somber and disappointed Looks are conferred upon the remaining individuals, who give each other worried Looks in turn -- except for Luthien, staring straight in front of her at where the apparition of the Door had been, and the Youngest Ranger, who drops down to sit on the floor with a massive sigh and a shaken expression, as though overwhelmed by reaction. Huan takes a moment from shadowing Luthien to give him a comforting huff along the back of his neck, since everyone knows that there is nothing more reassuring than having a giant carnivore looming over one with half-bared fangs -- at least, that's the impression conveyed by the Doriathrin Ambassador's dubious glance.]
And so it begins again.
[shaking her head]
It never stops. It's just like before.
[she moves in a sleepwalking manner towards the steps at the foot of the Thrones and sits down on them, looking lost]
He's gone away and left me again, and here I am waiting, trying to keep from flying apart, like smoke on a windy day, and it's dark, and I can't breathe, and no one else can feel it but me. -- How many times can I go through this, before there's nothing left of me -- ?
[the other Elves move to encircle her]
What wilt thou do presently?
[she wraps her arms about her knees and rests her head against them. Huan flops down in front of her and puts his head on her feet.]
Wait. -- If I must wait till the end of the world, I'll wait for him.
[Aegnor's expression fills with pain; Angrod puts his hand on his brother's back, and for once Aegnor does not fling offered sympathy away.]
Teler Maid: [anxious]
What will happen? Next, I mean to say.
Luthien: [almost in tears]
How can I tell? Who can say what he's going to do next? If I'd thought he was going to take Horse and go by himself to hell, I'd never have gone to sleep. I don't think I have, since then. If I -- I'd known he would -- would insist on going out to let Carcharoth finish the job, I'd -- I'd -- I don't know, what could I have done, except cage him and I couldn't do that --
[she starts crying, bitterly, as Finrod sits down next to her and puts his arm around her shoulders, letting her lean on him]
Finrod: [sounding as tired and helpless as after the defeat in Nargothrond]
I'm sorry, Luthien. -- I know that doesn't help.
What will happen to him, Lord Ingold?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
I don't know either. I'm sorry. I can't See anything concerning Beren. -- I wonder if even Lord Manwe can.
[pause -- mild sarcasm]
How strange. None of my relatives are chiding me for blasphemy. Indeed, the times are out of joint -- !
[the Steward kneels down on Finrod's other side, looking him in the eyes]
My lord, please -- alas, there is no other way for it, awkward though it shall be, being as we now are -- but I must say this plain in the thought of all. Neither your father nor any of your kin did truly know what befell us in Beleriand, not even in elemental form -- no more than yonder rival lord knew the truth of what his child suffered. Only the merest tracings of it, these past months, have reached them in Tirion and beyond; doubtless in mercy as much as mayhap in carelessness, there being naught that knowing might accomplish, save greater sorrow. And thus it was when first we all did speak, this . . . late-passed time, and thus it would have been even yet, had not her Highness spoken freely, and disclosed the specifics of our fate.
Ah. That would make sense of it, then.
I was beginning to wonder if the Powers had replaced them all with much nicer and more gentle-voiced substitutes, but I've only ever heard of the Dark Lord doing anything like that.
[Finarfin winces; Nerdanel sighs, while Amarie looks like a very elegant statue; the Ambassador looks ashamedly at his Princess, who lifts her head at the change in conversation.]
What? What did I do?
Nothing. No matter. Just my own family squabbles.
[he shakes his head, grimacing, and pats her reassuringly on the back. Beyond them the Captain kneels down beside his younger follower]
Are you all right?
[the other nods]
Youngest Ranger: [shakily conceding the point]
Captain: [gently, but definitely a command]
Go off duty for a while.
Are you sure . . . ?
[glancing anxiously at the doorway]
The King's here, and between Himself and the rest of us, that should be enough to keep me out of trouble, even without you.
[embarrassed at this recognition, the junior officer starts muttering about doing his job]
There's nothing we can do now for Beren -- except worry.
Youngest Ranger: [deadpan]
I do that really well, too, sir.
We'll just have to manage it without you for a bit. Take your rest -- you've earned it.
[he helps the Sindarin lieutenant to his feet and grips his elbow; the younger Elf manages a wan smile]
Very well done.
[the other is abashed but straightens unconsciously under the burden of praise, and goes over to the level boulders beside the Falls he made, where he stretches out on the rocks, watching the light effects on the water. Among the group of troubled onlookers, his subordinate turns to the nearer of the two Princes:]
Ranger: [stern correction]
You did, you know -- your Highness.
Angrod: [completely confused]
"Anything." You called him a disgusting parasite. And you said a lot of other stuff, too.
[Angrod looks down guiltily]
Luthien: [through her tears]
Ten years he did your work, trying to keep the Enemy out of the North, starving and cold and with all of his friends dead, and he never thought of giving up or switching sides or calling in your brother's debt. And you cursed him for being defeated. I almost hate you.
Shhh . . .
[looking up at his brothers]
Considered another way -- you got off easy. So did I. It was fast for you, and we didn't have to watch it happening, but for him, the Bragollach lasted ten bloody years.
[Finarfin clenches his teeth, but says nothing]
Aegnor: [starts to say something, stops]
. . .
[enter Fingolfin, approaching measuredly, if not with outright reluctance, this family reunion -- certainly not with enthusiasm. He is accompanied by another shade, this last a very ghostly figure, whose appearance shifts frequently between two guises, every time the camera includes her. Sometimes the High King's companion is a very elegant Elf-lady closely resembling Amarie in her attire, but sometimes her flickering manifestation is that of a heavily-swathed, booted and gloved figure whose ice-pale hair blends into the blowing fur-fringe of her hood. Something about their bearing should indicate that Fingolfin is rather being herded here. The High King stands in front of his nephew with an expression of annoyed affection.]
Fingolfin: [wry reproach]
'Twas ill-done, nephew, to set my son's lady against me.
You sicced Elenwe on him?
How did you convince her to come out of seclusion?
Not me: I was just the messenger.
Aegnor: [glancing in wary surprise at his cousin-by-marriage]
But . . .
[he can't think of anything that wouldn't be more embarrassing to say, and shuts up]
Amarie: [very acerbic to Elenwe]
Well, my kinswoman -- thou didst make much of thine own will, nor shouldst be swayed by any words of wisdom else duty, nor let thy faithful family claim thy just loyalty, but must forsake thy heritage and home for rebel waywardness -- and lo! thus art thou rewarded, that hast neither consort nor kin, nor any house whatsoever, for thy folly's meed, that didst reproach me for choosing other.
Nay, 'tis true -- but I stand closer to my beloved than thou to thine, for all of that.
[the living Vanyar woman exchanges a quick, unwilling Look with her dead husband, and does not make further retort.]
You've commanded my attention, lad -- what specific task would you have me undertake now?
It doesn't matter now. Go back to your table, uncle, and finish your game in peace -- I could have used your help earlier, but you weren't willing, and now it's moot.
Don't you give up now too --
[she wipes her eyes on a corner of her skirt and tries to pull herself together, but occasional sobs keep breaking through; quietly and unobtrusively the Steward withdraws from the group and goes quickly to the Falls, where he kneels down briefly at the water's edge, exchanging some word with the Youngest Ranger meanwhile.]
I haven't. But what happens now to Beren is out of our hands.
[she gives a short, unsettling laugh, shaking her head, and sniffles again.]
Ambassador: [stern and rather suspicious, to the Valinorean Eldar]
For what should the Doomsman warn against truths, that should harm him more than swords or wolves ever did -- what secrets are held in the West from us beyond, for I who have known the Lady Melian for all my life, can think of none.
[The Steward returns, bearing a goblet set with gems and kneels down in front of Luthien, saying to Huan as he does so:]
Mind your ears, my lord.
[to Luthien, as the Hound prudently moves his head a little bit over]
If it please you, my lady -- that which some have termed, "the echo of Ulmo's theme," but even so, more refreshing than merest longing.
[with a forced smile she accepts the cup and takes careful sips, still hiccoughing and blinking; he remains before them on on knee, waiting patiently for her to finish.]
In truth, I fear I ken not what might prove harsher to the spirit, than what already hath been revealéd -- nor endured.
Finrod: [dark irony]
You can't? I wish I had so little imagination. -- I can come up with several, without even trying.
[to his uncle]
You really needn't stay behind on our account -- this time either.
[his father's lips tighten, and the two sons of Finwe exchange an awkward, half-wary, half-apologetic look.]
Nay, lad, will you not make introduction between the noble Luthien and we more distant kindred, before any preemptory dismissal?
A little late, isn't it? You could have taken a little time off from staring at the Gates and paid a courtesy call on her family, you know. I know it would been a terrible waste of your time, but at least you could have provided moral support when we had to explain how it was we weren't really Kinslayers. Trying to repair the damage from that took decades, and you know the fact that you were too busy to give any official statements did absolutely nothing to build confidence. I mean, at least Fingon did ap --
[his family and friends are increasingly discomfited through this exchange of acrimony, regardless of who particularly is coming under fire at any given moment]
-- Ingold, that's all old history, it doesn't matter now that we're dead -- isn't that what you're always saying?
And you're always saying I'm crazy and too soft for my own good. Shall I take a page out of your book then?
-- All I asked for was a small gesture of support today, just for you to lend your presence and weigh in on the side of the Edain -- I wasn't asking for any complex arguments, after all, just the loan of a little bit of that awe and respect your Deed commands even from the Powers, to assist me. -- What is wrong with our family that we have to make an issue over ever single little thing?
[the High King of the Noldor (in Beleriand) gives the High King of the Noldor (in Aman) a pained Look before answering his nephew:]
Fingolfin: [heavy patience]
You asked me, Finrod, to come before my wiser kinfolk in this ruined state, and challenge the gods once more by thus abetting you. Please, let us make no mistake of what it was you demanded of me, ere you mock me for making much of it.
So asking the Weaver to please consider the deeds of the Edain in closer detail -- is more difficult than hand-to-hand combat with the Lord of Fetters?
[Fingolfin looks away with a still-more pained expression, and Finarfin's glance towards his elder brother is a little softer and more sympathetic; Nerdanel shakes her head a little, not approvingly.]
Kinsmen, can ye not contain such outbreak of strife yet a little at the least? What of poor Luthien here, that doth mourn amongst us e'en now?
Luthien: [with a careless wave of the cup in her hand]
Oh, go ahead and fight, it doesn't bother me one way or the other.
Elenwe: [slight smile, distantly amused]
'Tis most like to old times, is't not?
And naught learnt since!
Fourth Guard: [aside]
I hate politics.
[he sits down leaning against Huan's flank and begins scratching the Hound's ribs as the latter thumps his tail twice in sympathy; several of his friends also settle down gloomily on the steps or floor nearby]
Elenwe: [cool disbelief]
Amarie, wherefore, deemst thou, thy House would fain have had thee set sights elsewhere than Indis' flowering, fair indeed though they be? Did not our example lesson thee enough, of the perilous vaunting of the House of Fin' -- ? Or judged thee thy lord might by mere will alone step free of all contention, as mine own did will it, most like his brother -- nay, more so --
[giving Angrod and Aegnor a keen Look]
-- in mood and temper than these younglings of his nearest blood, but still and yet they too are Noldor, and the flame of rule doth burn in them no less than in these others.
Lesson me not, that art rebel and unhoused.
Finarfin: [with a touch of sternness]
Daughter, and thou pleasest --
No doubt but we're home again.
Amarie: [extreme frustration]
Nay, stands there none that dost not but presume to harry me, howsobeit here, else under Ezellohar's shade, else to Everwhite's pinnacle?! For what, I perforce wonder, did I bide here loyal, that meet with naught but rebuke, while law-scoff wayward thankless fools do warrant such tenderest concern?
Finrod: [raising an eyebrow]
That was what you stayed for, to be praised, then? And here I thought it was something nobler than that all along.
[her expression suggests that it's a good thing her self-control is so strong -- or else he might swiftly find out what damages, if any, a living Elf's will might possibly inflict on a shade . . .]
Elenwe: [to nobody in particular]
Is any yet that still 'mazeth, that I should mine prefer mine own companioning to such kindred as do share these Halls with me perforce?
All right, brother, you've made your point, everyone here understands what you're trying to convey. -- Several times over, in fact.
Aye, 'tis ill thou dost thus to trifle with thy loved one's hearts and fearing.
[Finrod looks up at them, bewildered]
What are you talking about? What point?
That -- volunteer statement of yours.
[the Ten brace themselves, or try to look absent as possible without actually leaving]
Warrior: [replying in undertone]
No, that we could deal with.
I wasn't making any statement.
You -- you weren't just trying to make them listen? Just raising your voice at council, so to speak? You --
[he gives a worried glance towards Luthien, who is apparently oblivious to the discussion, absorbed in contemplating the decoration on the remembered Noldor vessel (which should look like a cross between a Grecian kalyx and the Armagh Chalice.)]
-- really meant what you were saying to Lord Namo, you weren't just trying to make them pay attention?
[Finrod gives his nearest relations a long, narrow Look -- there is some reflexive flinching in response]
You doubt me, then?
You don't know me well at all, do you?
[he is looking at Aegnor now]
You don't think that I consider the Followers fully as precious as we, or do you still think that I fear the unknown?
I seem to recall, Finrod, that you particularly admonished me against my rashness during our traverse of the Helcaraxe, and advised me to take better heed to my following, while you and your sister took charge of that passage. Have you given up caution, altogether, then?
I told you lots of things, uncle -- most of which you ignored -- over the past four-and-a-half-centuries. There's a difference between rushing in heedlessly and without preparation in the certainty that willpower and innate superiority shall, together with the justness of one's cause, carry one through despite lack of provisions, equipment, or proper information -- and taking a calculated risk, even when the odds are against one. But that's a somewhat-sophisticated distinction, I grant.
[the onlookers wince]
Fingolfin: [not getting angry, simply incredulous]
You would really venture beyond this Circle, trusting to nothing more than these glimpses of insight which you think a true Vision, then?
Luthien: [with a hiccoughing laugh, not raising her head]
Of course he would. Just as of course Beren would refuse.
Didn't I warn you -- Your Majesty -- that I had seen your Doom awaiting you if things continued as they presently were, and specifically that I'd seen you dead at Morgoth's feet, and didn't you wave me away with the assertion that nobody really knew anything certain from the Sight, that the world was fully of glimpsed possibilities, and that it was more likely to follow if you did take our recommendations than if you didn't attack? You'd think people would perhaps give me a little bit of credit these days, wouldn't you?
[his uncle tolerates the retort with a melancholy expression.]
But surely thou dost not in truth believe that thy mother and father would not have thee to house, and gladly! What meanst thou, to say that naught awaiteth thee without these walls?
Aye, my children, I pledge that ne'er reproach, else blame, else mocking word, shall e'er escape my lips to shadow ye, and dare aver that nor thy mother as well should ever bespeak ye in anger, once we shall have bespoken her firstly.
[silence -- Angrod and Aegnor won't look at him, or answer]
Finrod: [frowning with displeasure]
You're being irrational, you know, Father -- avoiding conflict with me simply because you've found out that my fate was a little more unpleasant than you'd imagined. It wasn't all that much worse than the Ice, you know. -- Certainly a lot shorter.
Thou art passing cold, lacking in all sensibility it seemeth.
Finrod: [still looking only at his father]
No, I'm merely realistic. Sentimentality changes nothing of the facts. What difference do the particulars of Doom make to your judgement of the justice of it? Or the fact that I am your son -- except to indicate a partiality unfitting in a King?
[Finarfin does not answer -- or look away, (though he is blinking rather hard). Fingolfin makes an an abortive gesture of consolation and support towards his little brother, breaking off the attempt with a wry headshake at his own insubstantial status.]
Amarie: [to her spouse]
Out on thee!
I do comprehend full well wherefore the gods importune us so -- but why dost thou so wish the company of yon Shadow-souled mocker, Sire?
[she turns her back on Finrod et al, folding her arms tightly, standing straight as a column. The Sea-Elf and Nerdanel both glance at her, and catch each other's attention inadvertently, exchanging understanding Looks. Elenwe shakes her head, smiling in a tolerant, knowing way which would seriously annoy her fellow Vanya if the latter were aware of it.]
Third Guard: [to his colleague, fervently]
-- I share your views on politics.
Finarfin: [weary plea]
Amarie, Amarie -- set thy wrath 'gainst me, and thou must fix upon some target nigh to hand, if for naught else that I do thus presume to counsel thee by this request.
Angrod: [to Aegnor, but loudly]
I can't understand why he's going on like that -- she's only saying the same kinds of things he said to us at Araman.
[their father closes his eyes, starting to say something and stops]
Children! You have no understanding of what sorrow and strain it is, to be a parent --
No, and we won't, will we? We have our own troubles, uncle, which your generation seems incapable of grasping. It's much bigger now than just you and Father and Feanor fighting for Grandfather's affection and looking for affirmation from your kids when you couldn't get it from your parents --
Teler Maid: [aside to the Captain, as it starts escalating]
Can you not do something?
Elenwe: [wryly, to Finrod]
Nay, for none save thee, Ingold, in all these halls, had I come --
Fingolfin: [daunting, to his nephews]
Then being so much wiser, you should be as much more merciful upon your elders, should you not?
Teler Maid: [urgent]
Well, then -- ?!
I expect I could make it worse. Family fights -- you know how they go --
Angrod: [with a kind of grim satisfaction, to Aegnor]
And the emotional blackmail starts, right on schedule.
[the torc passes between them again.]
Captain: [still aside to the Teler girl]
I say something, they go for me, then he defends me, and -- Probably better not.
[the Sea-elf doesn't answer, but keeps knotting up her braids worriedly, very unhappy at the strife.]
Finarfin: [with a kind of helpless, open appeal to his eldest]
Finrod, my wiseling, dost thou not ken, in thy heart's inmost flame, wherefore I unchilded do grieve most bitterly for my parting words against ye all, that are here eke that yet do remain beyond -- but bitterest of all for that I spake unto thee?
Was I an utterly self-righteous and merciless little twerp at Araman, or was I not?
In truth, even as was I, and no less, saving something the elder.
[Finrod gives his father a doubtful Look, trying to find the hidden edge in the words.]
-- Art so proud, mine eldest, that thou shouldst ne'er consent to rest 'neath others' roof, else rule, but deem't prison, howsoever freely given?
Well, Mandos strictly speaking should not be called a prison, since the purpose of a prison is not the good of --
[the Elf-King only stares at his son, waiting for the answer -- he sighs and bows his head a little]
No. I am not quite so proud. It might -- would be -- hard, indeed, but I'd manage it, somehow, if it were not for -- other considerations. But there's nothing for me outside these walls anymore.
Aegnor: [narrow-eyed, voice dripping with sibling irony]
-- Aren't you confusing yourself with me?
Finrod: [very serious]
I have nothing of my own to return to. Father's wish to have everyone happily home aside, my presence in Aman is both irrelevant and superfluous.
What are you talking about?
I have nothing to contribute, no useful skills, and none who needs my help Outside.
Luthien: [looking up, tearstained]
What are you talking about? Finrod, you -- you're -- that's one of the daftest things I've ever heard, which is saying a lot.
[checks -- grumpily]
-- Of all the things to bring away from Nargothrond, Celegorm's slang wasn't what I'd have picked -- regardless, it's still as silly as everyone here thinks.
Indeed, all Beleriand would contradict you, Majesty. Your skills are undeniable --
-- And worthless. Here.
But your mastery of governance and diplomacy --
Debatable. -- And hazardous.
[locking stares with his father -- with deliberate emphasis]
I do not rule in Valinor. I will never contend for power with my kindred again.
[the significance this has for all the present members of House Finwe is somewhat missing for the Belerianders]
-- and strategy, and warfare --
Finrod: [fighting a smile]
Oh yes. That's going to make me no end popular in the Cities, won't it?
Luthien: [knowingly, to her compatriot]
Trust me, they're weird about it. They're not like us, not even the Noldor, no matter how enthusiastic they are for it -- perhaps all the more for that. It's as if they regarded all wine as suspect because someone once drank too much and lost control.
[this bothers the Valinoreans and to a degree the returned Noldor as well, but only one responds with other than visible discomfort]
Amarie: [looking over her shoulder]
Fie, such benighted thoughtlessness that recketh naught of the deep abhorrent wrong of bloodshed proveth ye e'en as I have said, O Princess of Shadows!
[Huan makes an unhappy grumbling noise without moving, to which the Steward sighing nods agreement]
The Night was first . . . and it was ours first. If you've forgotten your birthright, I'm not ashamed to claim it still.
[this time around, for whatever reason, Amarie decides not to continue the insult contest further]
You're going to get a crick in your neck, Amarie, talking like that.
Luthien: [looking at him earnestly]
But anyway, you've got all kinds of talents that don't have anything to do with running kingdoms or sieges. You can translate any language, you --
In an essentially monolingual society --
[his comrades look resigned -- to them this is not a new lament]
You're a musician -- an artist -- a scientist --
-- A dilettante, where the world has had four centuries and more to study uninterrupted whatsoever should be desired. Why do you think there are jokes about it? I could never steal the time away from my real work enough to master any skill, so indulged them all, and never finished one. Here -- in whatever art you name, I shall be but an unskilled dabbler, a trifler, with no greatness compared to those who remained. There is no need for anything I could bring to Aman.
Luthien: [frowning, slowly]
I think you're wrong.
[he blinks at her blunt dismissal, rather taken aback by the brevity and to-the-point nature. Someone makes a sound of suppressed laughter from the ranks behind him, but it's lost in the sound of a canine sneeze.]
Nerdanel: [giving her nephew an unimpressed Look]
Hast not considered what measure these thy maundering dismal certitudes shall impress on thy fellow Dead, to so at one sweep lay waste unto all dreams and thoughts of homecoming, with yon depiction of no place where place doth 'wait them to be found in heart?
[she gestures dramatically to the nearest shade, who happens to be Fingolfin's daughter-in-law]
Nay, I have no concern that doth remain or thus or so, only I do bide the coming-hither of my love.
[the living Eldar shudder a bit at that, if discreetly, and even some of her fellow shades find her complacency a bit unnerving.]
What of your friends and followers, then? Have you no concern for their hopes, lad, to set such strictures on them as well?
Finrod: [taut -- this has touched a nerve]
In this I do not command them. Nor do I speak for them.
[from where he is kneeling in attendance, the Steward half-turns to address the sons of Finwe, quick and dead]
For myself -- I had rather be serving a houseless Elf than to be King of all the living. -- And I do speak for us all.
Angrod: [terse, his arms folded]
One would think that a true friend would rather try to dissuade another from such self-destructive behaviour.
First Guard: [aside, unhappy]
We would have. -- Tried.
Finrod: [low, but stern]
Angrod -- enough.
[troubled but now more-or-less docile, Angrod subsides. Generally, but looking at Amarie's set back]
-- All that emptiness I foresee awaiting me, would yet be balanced -- more than balanced, as when an ingot of gold is laid in the pan counter-weighted by an ingot of tin, and crashes in its turn -- by one welcome.
[Amarie turns quickly to face him, white-hot with fury]
Amarie: [with a cutting gesture]
Let thou not blame me -- nor let any others likewise -- for thy will, that thou wilt abide here! 'Tis thy pleasure -- as ever -- that thou dost fulfill!
My pleasure? Hardly.
[he looks at his father and uncle before continuing with savage emphasis, equally to all of them]
Those were our people that hour in chaos and ill-led. You didn't need me. They did.
[to Amarie, sweetly]
And you still don't need me, it's clear -- so what does it matter what I make of my death from here on?
[to them all again]
I won't subject myself to humiliation simply to ease the consciences of my kinfolk -- nor play the smiling fool Outside to ease your minds. As I have returned, I am -- and you don't like it much. Well -- that's just too bad, I'm afraid.
[Luthien gives her father's servant a piercing Look; there is a moment of pained equilibrium amid all those present of the House of Finwe, the prelude to the hurling of more recriminations, or self-recrimination, or both -- which are prevented by the actions of one on the periphery of the conflict, stepping in to restrain things (or actually, turning where he waits at the feet of the Princess and setting one hand on his sovereign's knee in a gesture not simply demanding of attentiveness but also evocative of fealty-giving]
Steward: [level and forceful]
My lord, your words are most ungracious, whatever the justification.
! ? !
[Finrod looks at him with some affront, but his friend is undaunted, and the King's glare softens, some of the defiance and hauteur going out of his shoulders, though he does not look away from his chief counselor]
I should set a better example than I am given. And you --
Things are not well with you at all, are they?
[the other cannot help but look up at his ex, who is watching him somberly (despite absently standing like a heron again)]
I fear it is as you say.
[the Teler girl lets her hair fall forward over her face -- but doesn't vanish]
Finrod: [shaking his head]
And I am consumed by my own troubles, forgetful of yours -- Edrahil, please take thought for yourself, and trust that I'll take heed for my obligations hereunto.
In death no less than was my habit living, I find my peace best in the mastery of my duties.
[his King looks away for a moment, then back with a rueful smile]
Then let this be the task I give to you: that you stay by me for the present, for my spirit's comfort. No errands for now -- let me lean upon you a little while longer, at least.
[meaningfully, though only the Ten understand what he's talking about]
I promise it will not be as dead weight, this time.
Steward: [with a faint smile]
Even that, until the Lord of Beor comes.
Finrod: [looking at him with great intensity]
You trust he will return, then?
I have no doubt of the Beoring's intransigence.
Then I'll share that hope too, whether you name it so or not. Sit here at my side for a while, and we'll wait together, if it please you, my friend.
[he grips the other's wrist in a lingering clasp, before turning to his Sindarin kinswoman with an expression of focus and resolve; the Steward settles down on the next level, his own expression the politely-distant look of someone trying to stay attentive and not get lost in private regrets, leaning back against Finrod's knees with an Age-old familiarity devoid of presumption. From time to time his King reaches forward to set a hand on his shoulder in a gesture of reassurance -- but for which of them? Huan, convinced that someone that close has a duty to scratch his nose, starts nudging his arm until the desired attention is gained.]
Finrod: [to Luthien]
You know, you promised you'd tell me the whole story when we had a moment, and it rather seems as though an opportune moment has presented itself. I'd like to hear it straight out finally, in order, with all the gaps filled in, and not by rumours.
Luthien: [with a watery smile]
You're just trying to cheer me up and take my mind off worrying for Beren.
[he smiles back sadly, squeezing her hand]
That as well.
Luthien: [dry laughter]
As long as it isn't just that. I've had enough of that to last me for ever!
[those of the Ten who have not settled down on the steps of the dais do so now along with the Sea-elf, with all indications of interest. Finrod's relatives all look at each other awkwardly -- Nerdanel breaks the silence]
Nephew, what would ye have us about, while the twain of ye rehearse her tale, or wilt thou but say it mattereth not a whit to thee yet again?
[he looks slightly embarrassed]
I'm sorry, Aunt 'Danel. I'm not entirely sure what is going on, and it is certainly not within my authority nor power to dismiss you, or command the staff to send you home. If you want to listen, by all means feel free to stay.
Nerdanel: [raising one eyebrow]
At least thou hast recalled thy manners to thee; 'tis better than --
[looking narrowly at his siblings]
I -- yes, it does come to the same thing. But I am at a loss, and it's very odd for me to have people going from railing at me to asking me what they ought to be doing.
[his brothers visibly bite back comment]
Finarfin: [bland innocence]
So many these late-passing years a King, and art not yet used . . . ?
[his eldest just gives him an expressionless Look, which could hide anything from cold contempt to anger to an extreme effort not to share in the joke . . .]
Finrod: [matter-of-fact, gesturing around them]
We could make chairs, but it might not be prudent, and you'd probably get all twitchy. So I'm afraid all that I can offer you are these steps and the floor.
'Tis level, and passing clean.
[she kneels down gracefully on the stone and waits, perfectly at home now, dividing her attention watching Luthien and friends and her own kindred, as the latter with much more social awkwardness, if not physical, find places not too close to any of each other, but still close enough to attend the tale-telling.]
Luthien: [wiping her eyes once more]
Where do you want me to start?
[with a tiny laugh]
At least I won't have to keep defending my sanity to you -- !
[the crowded tableau looks rather like a shallow version of the Spanish Steps, minus the sunlight, the baroque scrollwork, and the cheerful atmosphere (though Nerdanel's sketch-pad and stylus would fit right in on a Roman plaza), as Luthien starts to recount how all this got started for a more-sympathetic cousin this time . . .]
[Elsewhere: the Shadowy Stair. Beren (looking very ghostly and indefinite here) slowly ascends the shallow steps with an earnest, determined look, looking always forward, not up or around. The stars reflect in the polished material of the staircase perfectly still, not moving as with vibration the way reflections in water on even a stone step would tremble, although they flicker as in the night sky. There is a richness and intensity to the darkness, so that it does not look flat-black, but rather as if it were composed of an infinite number of layers of blue.]
[It is with a dawning surprise that the traveller realizes that he has come to the topmost stair, and stands on a flat terrace of indefinite dimension, like a still lake in a midsummer midnight. He looks around, slowly, frowning at the vertical lines that angle up from the periphery, faint glistening threads with rainbow gleams as the camera moves, like the embodiment of abstract geometrical concepts. Then he looks up, and his jaw drops as we follow to see the Constellations, writ huge and throbbing overhead, the Swordsman with his jewelled scabbard, the Butterfly, the Western Eagle, and in the center of them all, -- the Sickle, while the oldest stars pulse more faintly all around them, as if it were a desert sky with no moon.]
Beren: [gasping, completely without irony]
-- Ah . . . Lady!
[there is a momentary shift, as if the universe somehow were shaken -- but it is not Ea which changes, only the focus of the beholder (camera), so that the far-off stars are suddenly revealed to be very near at hand, burning ornaments on a vault of blue-black enamel -- or else of transparent crystal, so flawless that the Road of Stars shines through without reflection; there is no way for the eye to be sure. The incomprehensible edges are facets of the prism-pillars which uphold the dome, the flat top of the ascent the floor of the Hall, the darkness all around not simply emptiness, but Space, defined and contained in ways almost beyond perception, so that one would have to walk carefully touching the edges to be sure what was support and what was between. Everywhere that there is light there is a faint rainbow effect, so that the sense is of white light that holds all colors within it, not white-and-black devoid of color, against the midnight-blue of the outer atmosphere.]
I . . .
[his voice fades into silence as he struggles to make sense of it -- it should be both a far simpler, more primitive vision of Infinity than anything in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and also more beautiful, and mind-boggling. The Hope Diamond, stared into for long silent minutes, is the feeling that the production artists should capture -- not glass, but darkness and light made liquid and cast into solid form, clear and cold and perfectly blue in the shadows, iridescent in the highlights.]
[There is a sudden flash of white like a magnesium flare overhead, mirrored in the floor -- a comet? meteor? or soundless lightning? -- and he turns to follow its path across the dome, and freezes. The bolt of light rushes towards the farther side of the plateau, and comes to a stop in mid-air -- caught there, so it seems, until we realize that there are two figures there as well, seated on prismatic thrones, like an Egyptian statue of the God-King and Living Goddess carved not from basalt or alabaster but from living crystal, but in the Art-Nouveau Egyptienne style of Mucha.
[(Note: Most of the special effects budget should be blown on the Taniquetil animation -- it has to be good, so that things are just alien enough to cause a momentary lag in comprehension, without leaving the viewer at a loss for what's happening.)]
[The white lightning, still scintillating in place, like burning metal, has come to fasten on the King's wrist -- in its angular pyrotechnic glare there should still be some discernable abstraction of sentience, of pointed intent, directed at its Lord.]
[as Beren stands there speechless, the living fireball twists and takes off again, returning as it came, and he turns involuntarily to follow its flight-path -- it passes through the dome-perimeter somehow, whether through an invisible window, or otherwise, and as it intersects the star-space it unfolds what are definitely widening wing-shapes, still made at this point of white light and glittering sparks before vanishing below the horizon-level of the hall. The Mortal shade turns back, still mute with awe at witnessing an Eagle in its native environment, to see that the Starqueen and her Consort have risen in greeting. (Though CGI, voices and original acting should be provided for the sovereign Valar by two of the great classic performers of the silver screen, Madeleine Carroll (Princess Flavia, The Prisoner of Zenda) and Frederic March (Jean Valjean, Les Miserables).]
Welcome, -- brother.
[the Hall. Luthien is turning the now-empty cup over and around and spinning it in her fingers while she talks, distractedly, until the Steward discreetly reaches up and takes it back, dismissing it without her even noticing]
It seems so long ago -- an Age -- that we first touched in the dark . . .
[Finrod starts slightly at her words as she goes on sadly]
It's so far away and small now, that time of moonlight and roses, like a pearl -- you can only look at it from the outside now, and never get back into that radiance again.
[pulling herself together]
But wasn't that silly? Saying that he must have had some Dark sorcery to use on me -- me!
[she shakes her head in scorn; her father's advisor bites his lip, but says nothing]
Well . . .
Please don't joke. I'm not up to it now.
[she looks at him in wide-eyed dismay and paranoia]
No. No. -- Don't you turn against him now, too --
Finrod: [gripping both her hands and giving them a little reassuring shake]
Shh. I don't think so in the sense that your parents and people meant it. It's just that there's -- something -- about him -- it isn't just him, his whole family is the same -- was --
[but goes on almost immediately]
-- but there's some sort of invisible aura about the Beorings which makes it hard not to do what they want, no matter how impossible-seeming it is.
[Aegnor puts his head down on his knees, as glances are directed his way; Luthien continues to look at Finrod flatly and in silence]
One just gets carried away in spite of all one's better sense, thing which cold logic declare insanity start sounding plausible, and -- Luthien, I'm not saying I wouldn't have gone with him, or that you wouldn't, I'm just trying to understand it myself because it's hard to think clearly when someone that certain of things is defining the parameters of the debate.
You noticed he was doing it with the Powers as well. Not just arguing with them, but carrying it on his own terms.
[his father and Amarie shake their heads in residual dismay; Luthien does not say anything still.]
-- Yes, I'm surprised you weren't as upset about that as you were about Bereg doing the same thing.
Finrod: [very definitely]
Bereg didn't do that. He never said anything to me, or to any of us, about his doubts or whom he'd been speaking with of them. He just pretended everything was perfectly fine, said what he thought I wanted to hear, and kept all his discontents for private. I don't know if I could have reassured him -- if anyone could have -- or if things would have turned out the same regardless. -- But there most certainly was no hope of any other outcome with him not being willing to question me. The only resemblance between them is that ability to convince others to go along in whatever he came up with, even when it meant going all the way back over the mountains they'd just come over this way, into whatever it was they'd thought worse than mountains to begin with -- or at least which Balan had thought worse than mountains and convinced them all the same.
And Marach -- don't forget, a good number of his people went with Bereg as well.
But more of them didn't. Malach Aradan ruled by popular acclaim -- but he was responsible for getting the tribe's consent in the first place and keeping it. It wasn't ever a settled thing, for him or for the rest of the family --
[with an earnest look from his brothers to his uncle]
-- and think how much worse the Battle would have gone, and afterwards, if Bregor and Hador hadn't instilled their convictions not just in their own children but the rest of their folk as well. Not that it's much consolation, but it could have been an utter rout instead of a partial rout ending in a standoff.
[to his cousin, who is still regarding him in rather a chilly manner:]
I'm not saying it's a bad thing, Luthien -- only that this mortal obduracy is a formidable force to be reckoned with, whether it's on our side or not. Beren isn't any more stubborn than the others of his Houses, on both sides.
Or -- what was her name, that young mortal woman who caused so much fuss not too long ago?
[the other Belerianders stare at him]
Everyone from Middle-earth, native or returned:
[there is an embarrassed moment as everyone sort of recollects themselves]
You must grant, I never met the lady.
Aegnor: [sarcastic aside]
There's a surprise --
Neither did I -- but we still heard about her enough to remember her name, uncle! It wasn't as though there weren't relatives of hers straggling through the realm for the better part of a decade.
Aegnor: [faint amusement]
It was almost like the first years here, where you never knew when you were going to walk into a settlement of strangers giving you funny looks and speaking a language nearly but not quite comprehensible. It was rather hard not to cross Nargothrond and hear the name "Haleth" in the process --
-- But he didn't, don't you recall?
[the Princes shake their heads in too-obvious pity, to their uncle's chagrin]
Yes, annexing part of the kingdom and then telling Mablung off for trespassing --
[to the Valinorean Eldar, living and otherwise]
-- well, you don't know our Captains, so that doesn't mean much to you, but people listen to them, most of the time -- when he came to try to evict them, does sort of stick in people's memory.
Not to mention dragging half-a-thousand unwilling kinsmen through a vale full of giant spiders and other assorted monstrosities, and her with no natural abilities whatsoever to help her defend them, and most of them increasingly convinced she was insane for not staying in a land already cultivated and partially settled, because there was too much "open" to the northward. Or commanding a successful defense against the Enemy's minions, when everyone else was on the verge of giving up and dying before rescue arrived -- which was partly the reason they didn't kick her out as chief after the business with the Old Road and the mutant beasts. "The spiders were a mistake," she told me, "I thought they were bogles out of tales to frighten bad children -- or Men who might think of going too close to the Shadowking's woods otherwise."
[shaking his head]
The way they talked about her, you couldn't tell if they thought she was brilliant, mad, or both -- and that they weren't sure either. But not being around her wasn't an option, any more than for moths about a lit candle.
Aye, my lord, and wherefore didst thou not espouse her, for all thy fellowship of the Secondborn? I am astonish't.
Finrod: [giving her a very askance Look]
I'm already married to you.
But -- thou didst declare't null, and didst e'en chide me for that I ne'er did take another consort, or hast forgot so swift thine own words so late-uttered?
Finrod: [getting a little bit flustered]
I -- meant for you, that you shouldn't have considered yourself bound when we never completed the ceremony --
Amarie: [tossing her head]
Now there's a fine thing, fine sir! Wouldst have me as thy grandsire, then, seeking one lord here whilst another bideth there, West or east it mattereth not -- for how might it be, that one should be bound, the other not? 'Tis not of reason, that thou shouldst hold it feasible to bide yet spouse to me, yet I not in equal measure thine to thee!
Finrod: [changing the subject without any finesse, lightly]
It would never have worked, in any case -- she wouldn't have had me regardless, even if she hadn't said that five hundred-odd children were enough for any Man.
'Tis far from the fitting hour for japery, youngling.
Oh, I'm not.
[pause -- the Valinorean relatives look at him strangely]
She and her people expressed rather a dim view of us, I'm afraid. Something about the lunacy of those who thought of fighting as fun and spent so much time over weapons.
-- Which, you must concede, is most curious when 'tis considered how their lives and livelihoods were thereafter safeguarded in their new homeland by those very weapons and warriors of ours.
And here I thought it was us. Won't Beleg be surprised --
[the Ambassador also starts to say something, but Finrod makes a pre-emptive quieting gesture]
Finrod: [to Fingolfin]
Well . . . in a very general way. For a while. And after you died they did a better job of defending the Crossings than what was left of your people -- or mine.
One thing which troubled them a lot, though, was the little bits and pieces they'd heard over the years about Elves fighting Elves and siblings pulling blades on each other.
[Fingolfin rests his forehead on his hand; his living relatives look rather told-you-so at this]
-- But mostly the idea of just going looking for trouble in the first place, instead of away from it.
"I'm betting that's not much use for firewood, and it's mighty unhandy for a dinner knife" -- her opinion of swords.
Teler Maid: [curious]
Did she really say it like that?
Captain: [shaking his head]
No. I can't manage a Brethil accent properly at all.
Finrod: [very dry]
She also had definite things to say on the matter of living in caves, and people who were mad enough to do so. "Underground's for when you're dead, and I'm not yet."
[his relatives think about this, and the several implications of it, with the expressions of people who know they ought not to be amused at the amusing aspect because of the grim]
On the brighter side -- Nargothrond not overrun with swine and kine.
Teler Maid: [aside, with a dubious Look]
Ought I wish to know what these your words meant?
-- Long story.
Luthien: [curiously to Finrod]
Just how much did you leave out of that message to my father?
I very much prefer it when your father isn't angry with me. While I can in no way foresee any of this getting back to him, I'd rather not take that slight, unforeseeable chance.
Luthien: [faint smile]
Hmph. That bad.
It was mostly a matter of style -- and the last time I saw her, following the resettlement project -- which Elu discreetly ignored without overt comment, at least to me --
Luthien: [raising her eyebrows]
You didn't notice him asking you how much faster than we, did mortals grow up?
I said "overt," remember? That was just him letting all know that no one was pulling a fast one on him, even if he wasn't going to haggle over every returning formerly-disaffected tribesman -- anyway, she conceded that he was a pretty good king, all told, as kings went, minding his own business and leaving peaceable folk in peace --
[the Doriathrin lord covers a smile at his words]
-- and they really couldn't ask for better neighbors after all.
[biting his lip]
I just, ah, polished off a few edges: a herald is worthless who can't be trusted to deliver a message as given.
One of several side benefits of serving as your voice, my lord, and not --
[he catches himself, with a quick glance at Nerdanel]
-- anyone else's.
Oh, there were some pretty sharp comments I sent upriver from time to time, I seem to recall.
Aye, as do I.
But not of themselves scathing, saving as the truth hurts.
Finrod: [grim smile]
-- Like that damnéd dam project I heard about fortuitously, before Fingon actually got started on his brilliant notion to turn my river into a moat around Barad Eithel. Downstream rights, what? The only worse thing you lot could have come up with was damming up at Ivrin.
Fingolfin: [patiently, as to a child]
It wouldn't have left Minas Tirith "high and dry" or even reduced the levels of Sirion by more than one part in the twelve --
Finrod: [cutting him off]
Well, that was your guess. You really don't know what it would have done. And it would have severely affected the marshes and silting along the main watercourse, regardless. I'm not going to get into this now, it's pointless, but I was right.
You didn't have to threaten to have it brought to your sister's attention -- with a careful breakdown of exactly how long at the longest it should take for your messengers to arrive in Menegroth and she in Eithel.
[Finrod looks down and sideways at his erstwhile Herald with a quizzical expression]
Steward: [looking back innocently]
Thus I . . . polished your injunction to get up there as fast as I might and tell your idiot relatives that if they dared dream of "blundering about with the water volume -- "
[Finarfin raises his brows, glancing at his elder brother, but doesn't interrupt; the Sea-elf stifles a giggle by main force]
-- unless you -- or preferably engineers from Nogrod -- were supervising the plans, they'd find out that there were people with less patience and more power than even yourself. Since you had me ahorse and off before I knew whether I had my cloak on right-side-to or not, I was not entirely certain of whom in specific you were thinking, and since I dared not invoke Elu Thingol's power without consultation, nor Lady Melian, (nor dared detour so far as to make such query, nor without your permission) -- still less our great Lord without sign thereto, when for all I knew as yet this rumoured doing was even at his bidding --
Oh, right, as if they'd even thought of asking him about it --
[at his uncle's Look]
[to his right-hand Elf:]
-- Did I really send you off in that much of a rush? That was an awfully long time ago.
I was obliged to purchase my dinners from fishing parties along the banks, at the cost of new songs, before I attained the Tower and so reprovisioning -- or provisioning, rather, so great was the urgency which you successfully conveyed to me, that I did not turn home to pack before setting out.
And here you were complaining earlier that I'd done your packing for you -- !
Steward: [ignoring him]
-- Where I also, as per your instructions, Majesty, picked up a sufficiently-impressive escort force from your brother (and a change of clothes) and 'twas there, over breakfast, that Prince Orodreth counseled me to invoke the Lady Galadriel when I reached the High King's castle, for such insult as was rumoured planned to your great-uncle's dear friend through his tributary would surely arouse the indignation of Elu's wife and her own friends, and as your loyal -- if independent -- agent abroad, your sister's duty might be bespoken without prior consulting. -- Though I should surely face some pointed ironies, did necessity come to it and oblige me to convey the request to Doriath. But neither your brother nor I thought it a likely outcome, and I judged the advice sound.
You just threatened to sic Artanis on him, with no qualms whatsoever? On your own recognizance? That's a bit much, didn't you think?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
I don't know why everyone is so intimidated by 'Tari -- there are other people in our family with far less control over their tempers and less discretion!
Well, honestly, I think that's part of it, Sire -- that, and the fact that unlike some of her siblings, she does little-to-nothing to temper her power and try not to intimidate people around her.
Angrod: [piqued aside]
-- I'm sure there was an insult in that -- or three.
Galadriel doesn't try to intimidate people!
Exactly, my lady.
Neither do the lords of the Edain, by and large. It's the combination of absolute certainty that this is simply how things ought be done, convincing everyone else of it -- and managing to carry it off five times out of six so they stay convinced.
[Luthien frowns, troubled, but not having anything to say to this -- someone else does, however]
Indeed, Majesty, one might deem them nearly equals of the Noldor, in that respect.
[long, long pause]
. . .
[the expectant pause continues, while people either look at Finrod or each other or the ceiling -- even Huan takes a break from demanding nose-scratching and raises his head with pricked ears to look at the youngest of the Kings present]
My lord, I -- concede your point.
[as everyone keeps looking at him]
There's nothing else to say -- except -- guilty as charged.
[this encourages another to make a sally at him]
Fingolfin: [very dry]
Did you not remark, my young nephew, that by his own admission your liegeman has averred him to hold your younger sister a greater than you, his liege? For your words were "those with more power than yourself" -- and Galadriel his answer.
[Finrod leans over again and gives his friend an inquiring Look, full of low-key amusement]
Indeed, 'tis true -- considering "more power" in the most narrow of senses, or else to say, who might by virtue of nature and ability and circumstance have been the ablest at accomplishing your set task -- even as the warrior on watch and wakeful has more power than one inattentive, notwithstanding though one be little more than a child and the other of many Great Year's practice. Power -- is a present and transient thing, resting with whomsoever wills to wield it -- I do not speak of potentiality, which some authorities term latent power, but which itself is subject to divisions of kind as in degree, even as set forth long ago by Rumil in Of Modes and --
[Fingolfin raises his hands for silence, equal parts plea, command, and capitulation]
Too fast to stake a wager.
Uncle, you should know better by now than to start a duel of words with him. That's as useless as challenging Beleg to an archery contest -- oh, that's right, you never called on Menegroth, sorry --
[the brother and sister-in-law of the High King of Beleriand exchange deploring- but-amused glances]
Luthien: [unexpectedly taking Fingolfin's side]
Oh, give him a break -- at least your uncle was polite when he happened to think of us, unlike some of your family I could name but won't out of respect for the present company since everyone keeps snapping at me to stop being rude --
[she startles and looks down at the Hound, who is being a loyal canine friend and showing his emotional support in a traditional way by licking her foot]
Oh! Huan, stop that, it's disgusting even if you mean it kindly.
[she scratches his ears]
Teler Maid: [insistent curiosity]
Who? Who wasn't polite?
Mine own offspring.
Anyway, getting back to my story --
-- and not conceding anything to anyone about anything --
-- in retrospect, the part about that time that was truly strange was what didn't happen -- that neither my mother nor Daeron said anything at all for so long. -- Did she know? It seems as though she must have, though she won't answer me about that. Daeron thought she did, he said so.
And he acted all perfectly normal to me and everyone, only being preoccupied, while it came out in this pall of silence that gradually filled up all around Menegroth and made everyone wonder what kind of weird supernatural phenomena was going on that summer. Except it was just his internalized gloom and guilt and angst smothering everything subconsciously.
[with an exasperated wave of her hand]
It's -- all so -- so sneakingly dishonest. Looking back on it all, after everything else that's happened -- I'd far rather have to deal with someone who simply wants to hurt me for uncomplicated selfish purposes, instead of justifying it as being for my own good, or insisting that I have to forgive them because they're miserable too, poor things, as if it wasn't their own faults.
I should have set my own conditions, called down Fate on my side, before going back home -- made them do some impossible task before I'd give in -- maybe then they wouldn't talk so lightly about how much they were suffering --
[the Ambassador bows his head in apology]
Finrod: [deadly earnest]
Don't even joke about such things.
Nay, thus have they learned, most bitter and full, or Time hath sundered more than speech betwixt us!
[there is an awkward moment, with neither Luthien nor the Finarfinions quite knowing what to say, far less anyone else.]
Elenwe: [looking at Nerdanel thoughtfully]
-- Thus the course of nature, that love should e'er will self's cessation, ere that of them belovéd -- but dark rumour, that hath entwined even through the 'stices of my dreams, though of's truth I ken nor more nor less than ye, hath muttered of a burning shame; whose occasion, for all that 'twas set upon that Shore that ne'er I saw, save as a shadow undersetting distant flame, was yet kindled on this side -- nor hath regretted it.
[the moment that follows this observation is even more awkward. Abruptly Huan lifts his head, with a few restrained tail thumps]
[Nienna's Apprentice comes in, alone this time again, his shoulders rather slumped and no spring in his step as he comes towards the dais.]
I think they're all at the Mahanaxar now.
I know they are. He took all the information over there because it made more sense than walking and wasting all that time -- and coincidentally, all the credit as well. I guess it isn't really important who gets it, but it still stings.
Then what are you here for?
[with a grimace and snort of restrained anger]
Couldn't you have mentioned what you were up to before, so that we weren't completely blindsided by it?
I -- what -- ?
Finrod: [flinging up his hands]
That you were gathering a dossier on Beren, what else?
Oh. I --
[he looks at the Captain with worry]
Was that the sort of thing you wanted to know?
[the Ranger shakes his head in disbelief, while his commander sighs.]
Yes. But --
[he looks at Finrod]
It didn't actually make any difference, one way or another, Sire. Not on the outcome of the debate. It just added details.
[to the disguised Maia]
Something concrete to be used against our efforts, or against our covert aim, that was very much the sort of thing you should have been bringing to our attention as a double agent. Unless it was utterly against your conscience to do so. But I think you were just naive.
Used against . . . ?
[he looks baffled and upset]
I thought -- that knowing all the facts about your friend in such detail would be a good thing, since everyone would be able to see the things I saw in our conversation, not just being a useless, incompetent oaf with an insolent mouth.
-- Not my words. Curumo's.
Finrod: [to the Captain]
You're right. As usual. -- Naive.
So what are you doing here?
I wanted to offer my sympathies to her Highness, it -- seemed appropriate, since my Master isn't present to to do so herself -- on the loss of your husband.
[he bows his head to Luthien]
He's staying with me. I know it --
[putting her hand to her chest]
-- here. He'll come back.
. . .
All right, you've done that, so why don't you go now?
[Huan lifts his head and gives the youngest Elf-King a reproachful look]
Actually, I was going to stay here and keep an eye on the stone again. There's nothing else for me to do now.
[he sits down cross-legged on the upper tier of the dais, close to the Thrones, and rests his chin on his hand, watching the still-quiescent palantir, quite oblivious to (or ignoring) Finrod's piqued, over-the-shoulder glare]
Aren't you supposed to be looking after things generally for Themselves?
After that screech -- which must have shaken windows all the way to Taniquetil -- and the shouting that followed it, everyone's showing remarkably good sense in having apparently decided to lay low for a bit, that now is not the time to be complaining to the Lord and Lady about someone looking at them sideways seventy-two years ago --
[from the hallway outside an angry voice can be heard raised and coming nearer quickly]
Isn't there anyone here with authority? I demand to speak to Lord Namo -- at once!
[Fingolfin winces. The rest of the company exchange looks alternately bewildered, amused, or resigned]
Of course, there are always exceptions.
[the High King's daughter comes striding into the chamber and over to the dais, anger crackling all around her like wet wood on fire -- Huan lifts up his head, pricking up his ears, and wags his tail, but she ignores him along with everyone except the High King her father. Amarie makes an exclamation of disgust, looking as though this is pretty nearly the final straw, and very obviously refuses to grant Aredhel her attention.]
Where are they? Why can't I find anyone? This is ridiculous!
Fingolfin: [pleading in the weary tone of one who knows it's useless]
I refuse to put up with this any longer! I want an injunction against him! You do something about it, Father --
Warrior: [aside to the Fourth Guard]
He must have gotten her again.
[his friend nods]
Daughter, I haven't authority over your husband -- I hadn't in life, and not in here either. Besides, you know --
[in the background Eol enters, the embodiment of cynicism in black armour, and comes up quietly to stand a little ways behind her, relishing the negative Looks from those who notice his presence.]
Aredhel: [cutting him off]
No, you just don't care about anything except your blasted board-games!
Niece, thou dost most discourteously disrupt thy kinswoman's tale --
I'm not talking to you.
[back to her father again]
-- You're so insensitive and selfish! It's all your fault anyway: if you hadn't insisted on dragging us with you on your revenge quest, none of this would have happened, and I'd still be alive!
Really? You mean you'd have gone back with him if he'd joined my father at Araman? Because I seem to remember you saying we three were idiots for not taking Cel up on the offer of a ride -- not that we should have turned back from the Crossing.
[she lifts her head defiantly and ignores him, going right on]
I'm going to insist that Lord Namo give me an injunction against him, and that he enforce it this time --
Against you, you mean? You'll just break it again.
[she spins around and glares at him, while he just stands there with folded arms, head cocked to one side, sneering.]
Aredhel: [giving him a dark, undershot Look]
[at a loss for insults, she clenches her fists as he chuckles]
Luthien: [to her other cousins]
Do they do this all the time?
[answering nods; Finarfin and Nerdanel exchange Looks while Aredhel's father sighs]
Second Guard: [same tone]
-- Four. -- Which?
You know you can't stay away from me.
Soldier: [still quietly]
-- Him. Love.
Don't flatter yourself, Moriquendo.
[Fingolfin stares up at the ceiling, clearly humiliated but not able to flee in front of his brother and sister-in-law, far less his nephews.]
Warrior: [aside to his companions]
I say hate.
Isn't family a wonderful thing?
[Luthien stifles an edged snicker, as their relatives, living and dead, give them wary looks]
Eol: [maddeningly patronizing]
Let's just look at your record, why don't we, dear? What'll this be, number two-hundred-eighty-seven? Soon to be a double gross, in fact.
Angrod: [getting annoyed]
I want to hear the rest of the story. -- Not this rot again.
[the quarreling spouses ignore him]
Why, if you'd only been able to control yourself, we might not be in this absurd mess you've gotten us into.
Of course. You couldn't resist the thought of seeing me again, and so you put yourself in the middle of what didn't concern you.
Didn't concern me?!
My son's punishment properly being my concern.
He's more my son than he is yours, since you never cared to do your part while he was young -- you always had more important work to do -- !
Eol: [getting really angry]
Don't start that again -- you kept parental authority to yourself with such jealous control, I hardly got to know him at all. Just another example of Noldor aggression, taking not only our land but our very children from us --
[the two lunge for each other's throats like predators battling over a contested kill --]
[ -- but though they collide simultaneously the motive is not quite the same; Aredhel cuffs her husband so hard across the side of the head that he is staggered a little, but he is in the process of grabbing her to him in a passionate Rhet/Scarlett style kiss and isn't deterred. This clinch goes on for much more than an instant, with the White Lady showing no signs of pushing the Dark Elf away, while their audience reacts in a spectrum from embarrassed resignation to awed amusement -- the gamblers are rather nonplused]
Whoa, that's never happened before. I -- don't know how to call that one.
Me neither. Sir?
[they look towards the Captain, who only raises hands and eyebrows in bemusement]
! ! !
[he flings her off of him and himself away from her, his expression contorted in self-contempt]
-- What Dark magic makes me unable to resist you, you sorceress?
You spiderling -- how dare you -- !
[she draws her sword and starts for him, her eyes blazing with fury; groans and expressions of exasperation from the Ten and their hereditary lords. Luthien stands up and scowls at her combative relations]
All right, that's enough!
[there is a slight echo of power to her words, but the two stop and stare at her at once.]
Either go away now, or sit down, be quiet and stop acting like you're thirty.
[in the shocked silence, Elenwe gives a sudden laugh. Aredhel tosses her head angrily]
You can't tell me what to do. You're not Queen here.
Luthien: [narrowing her eyes]
Funny, I seem to be doing it all the same. -- Put that sword up now. And you --
[turning her attention to Eol]
-- what is wrong with you, cousin? We always knew there was something seriously askew, but nobody dreamed you were a secret Kinslayer and slave-taker!
Don't call me "thrall," you hick!
[Huan growls, while there is a collective wince from their onlooking families]
Luthien: [ignoring her]
Why are you so -- so messed-up? Did you swear service to the Lord of Fetters? What is it that makes you so Dark-hearted? You've got a lot to answer for, Eol!
Eol: [looking her directly in the eyes]
Ah, the little princess fancies herself all grown up, does she? Finally realized that the big world out there isn't all sweetness and light? The answers aren't as simple as Mum and Dad would like them to be?
Don't change the subject. You've done appalling things and you don't seem to have the slightest idea how horrible they are.
Eol: [his voice and stare mesmerizing, edged with power]
So little Luthien is still the know-it-all darling of Doriath . . . or is she? We've been betrayed, haven't we? Seen a few things we wished we hadn't, I fancy. -- Learned that the people we trusted to have all the answers haven't the slightest clue, can't lead us out of the trap by its threads, and that there's no escape -- except being strong, and alone.
No actually, that's not the conclusion I came to at all.
Eol: [ironic & patronizing]
So you still think that everything's good, that whatever comes is "for the best," and the roaring chaos of the Sun is just as pleasant as the peaceful shade our land once knew -- and the people who brought it with them by their misdeeds?
I'm as much Eldar as you, Eol, and prefer the stars and moon to broad daylight. So does my husband, as it happens. But you never liked music. In all the years I remember you, you never once made any song. -- Was there ever any harmony in your house, cousin?
[Aredhel smiles bitterly]
I've asked you questions, Eol. Don't try to put me off with your superior manner, I'm not impressed.
[he glares more fiercely at her, and she gives it right back]
Eol: [bewildered aside]
You're a child, and no mighty "Elf of Aman" Why isn't it working?
Perhaps the fact that she's also half-Ainur has something to do with it? Or possibly just being to hell and back.
[Eol and Luthien continue to match stares -- it is Luthien who is holding her elder kinsman now, very definitely, and his expression growing more and more strained under her fixed gaze.]
[tears are starting down her face again, but there is no uncertainty or weakness in her voice]
You should have asked for help.
I neither wanted nor needed your parents' pity.
I wish I could help you.
I won't take yours either, girl.
Luthien: [same tone]
[she releases him from her stare and looks at Aredhel]
That isn't how love works. You've got it all twisted up between you, like the things that live along the Edges of the Labyrinth. You've got to untangle this poisoned chain, or you'll never be able to love, either.
As if you know anything about it!
Listen and learn, then, if you will.
[she sits down on the steps again, disregarding them; but although the couple glare warily at each other, like strange dogs circling for a fight, they do not go after each other again, but stiffly find places on the steps of the dais, far apart. Luthien is unconscious of the awed character of the silence that surrounds her on all sides as she resumes]
-- Okay, where was I?
[Beren is standing squarely in front of the Thrones, looking rather overwhelmed and shell-shocked but still with a hopeless, manic resolution to carry through to the end. Manwe and Varda are looking at him with a quicksilver-blue glistening of awareness in their eyes, making them alive and disconcertingly unstatue-like. At times meteoric lights flash past in the surrounding Night, and the Constellations of the star-dome pivot very slowly and steadily throughout the scene.]
So, that's pretty much everything.
[he snorts, looking back over his shoulder towards the Stair]
Did you make it take so long so that I'd have to cool down before I got here? 'Cause it only ended up giving me more time to think about what all I wanted to say.
Your last question makes no sense to us, I fear.
I'm just interested in the other ones, really. What about the Doom, first of all?
The Noldor spurned our help, and refused to lend theirs to the World.
I thought they came and helped save it.
Have they saved it, then?
What would have been possible, if they had been patient but a little, and lent their abilities to the effort of restoration, instead of leaving the wreckage of their anger and mad haste to mingle with the ruin of their adversary's deeds? What might have been made, and how much sooner, of Light to halt and subdue Melkor's forces, perchance to follow more swiftly than marchers afoot, and with wisdom to guide and not to learn in pain and obstinacy the lessons of war, and our power to assist in subtle effort, theirs to wield, ours to give, in one union of will and friendship and both made stronger by bitter trial, now kindled anew?
Manwe: [shaking his head]
None shall ever know. That hope and chance they robbed from us, and you, and from themselves, when the Noldor made Feanor's choice their own, and refused generosity even to their own most near. How many elses might the War, that you believe so long, have gone? -- more swiftly and perhaps to happier end -- had all, and not only some, of those who left thought better, and returned to lend their strength to the fashioning of these new Lamps, and after?
[behind the Thrones as he speaks there can be seen the orb of the Moon gliding by, not as quickly as the meteoric lights, large as when it first rises in the sky but not orange, silver-white and looking like a slightly-flawed pearl, with a faint rainbow-haloing of ice crystals as it passes under the stars on its Westward, downward trajectory out of sight beneath the window-walls of the Hall.]
I get it. You mean you couldn't do anything else. So you're not all powerful, huh?
Varda: [with a narrow Look and sounding a very little bit like Vaire]
You know that perfectly well.
[when the mortal doesn't reply]
-- Don't you? Didn't the King's son tell your people so, or did I mishear him?
[her consort reaches over and takes her hand, soothingly, and she stops, shaking her head a little]
There are always options. They are not always preferable.
Maybe you should've let us decide that for ourselves.
I'm afraid you cannot imagine what happens, when Powers contend within these Circles.
I know a lot about war. And the destruction it causes.
As I said, I fear you cannot imagine what I am trying to convey.
Varda: [still slightly edged tone]
Or perhaps he just doesn't think.
Okay, so I let you off for not fixing things after Morgoth broke loose and all, on account of you didn't have the resources to do it or you weren't sure you could do it without making things worse, I'll take your word for that. So -- what did you go and let him out for? I mean, you might not be all-powerful, but at least you're supposed to be wiser than we are. We wouldn't have trusted him again.
You believe yourself wiser than him you name Wisdom, then?
[Beren just glares at him]
You would not have forgiven a kinsman who professed repentance, and demonstrated it in his deeds as well as words, to whom your heart inclined you to welcome, and to hope, and to believe that long reflection on the harmful choices and the better ways had done its healing work, so that the long-remembered, long-cherished love that had once been between you should be renewed at last -- but so Finrod forgave his own, with less earthly warrant and witness, and with the memory of past treason to warn, when for us no such thought of betrayal, of thought uttered counter to heart's true thought, had ever yet been conceived -- or done -- amongst us. We did not know who, or how many he had suborned, until the deed of Darkness was complete.
Past sight is always clearest, but the present may not be clearly illumined by it. We trusted, and were scorned for it, by Melkor -- and by his aptest students of both kindreds.
[there is a bare tinge of anger in her voice, but enough to make Beren straighten up and step back just a little]
But couldn't you -- um -- just know he was lying? Just -- read his mind?
No. If even yours, saving as you permit it, is inviolate to perception, how might not the same be true of my elder, and mightier in his conception than even I? Only suspicion,among some, and doubt that such a long-lasting and profound will to power and destruction might not be so swiftly turned by meditation -- but suspicion is not proof, and may not justly be acted upon. Always had Melkor been the most open and unsubtle of Voices, both in the Timeless Halls and in the World, in addition to his efforts in the Song. We had no reason to guess that it was otherwise.
So why couldn't the One just tell you so that you wouldn't have to guess?
He does. It is not easy even for me to understand His thought, thus enformed as we are within our realm, through the limits placed by the different interfaces and frequencies of -- excuse me, to hear through the borders of the Circles, those messages of counsel from the Timeless Halls, and then to discern what the correct application of them should be.
So why can't you leave and check and come back?
[the Lord of the Winds leans forward, very earnest]
Beren. This is the World. It is not a game. Our mistakes are real because everything is real, because all of it matters. You want it to be a game, where a judge or parent might step in and declare this cast of the dart unfair, that ill-stepped leap not to count against the score, allow another tune be chosen when the young singer has outreached ability, warn a contestant of impending error, always undoing -- in pretense -- what has been done, for the sake of mercy even more than justice, so that all shall be pleased with the ending of the contest, win or lose. You ask that Arda be no more than a toy, a game, a hobby of Immortals, but unfortunately or not, it is real and we are bound to it forever, as truly as all else who breathe within its Circles. We cannot stop playing for a little while.
Beren: [shaking his head]
That isn't what I said.
I am afraid that it is. Be assured, I understand the wish. Often.
[he sighs heavily, leaning back in his Throne]
Well, couldn't you have figured out on your own about not bringing the Elves all the way across the world to here? Then, for one thing, your brother wouldn't have been able to tell them that you were trying to replace them with us and then they wouldn't have had any reason to rebel, or any place to rebel to, right? So there wouldn't ever have been any Kinslaying or anything.
Manwe: [to his wife, in a slightly-wry tone]
Do you remember being that young and optimistic, love?
[she sighs -- then snaps out of it and says matter-of-factly to Beren]
So. When the Hunter from beyond the Sea heard the Children's song, he should not have gone among them, should not have lead them west to a new homeland?
That would follow from what I said, wouldn't it?
He and his kinfolk should not have taught them new lore and art, nor the skills that allowed them to thrive in greater health and strength than they had previously known?
That's what I said. And you're leaving out all the problems it caused the Elves.
We were not speaking of the Firstborn.
N -- no.
[shaking his head fiercely]
You're twisting it all around --
It -- for us -- it was different.
It just was.
He didn't tell us it was perfectly safe -- we knew there was a War going on, and we knew the Enemy was there and out to get us all.
Naturally -- the world had changed, and so that was then the truth in your people's day.
But the Enemy sneaked through and committed murder anyway, and wrecked the land.
Yes. We are most favorably impressed.
? ? ?
Despite all that, your people remained faithful, and did not turn from your foreign lords in anger and outrage at their newly-revealed weakness, but stayed beside them through the bitter dark that has followed, as loyal as the Vanyar to us. Not even Melkor's murder of your father served to turn your heart against the Eldar.
[momentarily speechless, Beren makes a cutting gesture before finding his voice]
You're twisting things around again.
If you would be consistent, you must allow it equally error on the part of your friend and his folk to interfere with the destiny and quality of life of your people, as for us to meddle with the fortunes of his own -- folly, if well meant, and ultimately no less ruinous to those 'twas meant to aid.
Beren: [almost shouting]
Don't say that! He --
[breaks off, upset]
Do you not admit that the problem of the Eldar and the problem of the Edain are one in nature?
[silence. Across the prismatic dome overhead and around, an aurora borealis gradually appears, arcs for a while during the following exchanges, and flickers away]
Because I don't want it to be true.
Look, I know it's dumb and wrong, but I just can't. -- Besides, that's not where the problems start. Whether you blame it on the Silmarils themselves or some of the Elves staying behind or whatever, the real issue is the fact that there are monsters and demons and diseases and an evil god running around loose to cause all these troubles. If you made the world, why can't you just change it so that things like that can't happen?
Because to do so would unmake the World.
I don't see that.
Look, your explanations aren't, and I don't have answers for your answers -- but how about something I do understand damn' well? Let me give you the problem on a smaller scale, where maybe we can both agree on it: where is the justice in Tinuviel having to suffer and risk her life and lose her happiness and lose her life because of me? She wasn't Noldor, she didn't choose one way or the other to follow you or not to follow, she didn't rebel against you, and all the same she got caught by the Doom, and if it isn't that you all are mad at Thingol for marrying her mother, and made him ask for a Silmaril to punish him by having her die --
-- What a curious notion --
-- which wouldn't be fair to her, or anybody else in Doriath either, then surely you could have changed something to make it so that I didn't run into her and none of this every happened. Something. Anything. At least you could have protected her from me.
Any fate you would find a better, than for you to find the daughter of Melian, and she to follow you?
[the blue-black night sky slowly takes on an angry reddish hue, as rising flames lick up from along several points on the horizon, and thereby define edges of forest margin and steep hillsides in the dark. (Note: the effect of this and the animations which succeed it is an IMAX theatre, only not photographic, but an Impressionist painting done in stained-glass -- brilliant, jewel-like colors lit from within, but no black outlines.)]
[To one side of the Thrones, where the images run between them and Beren, misshapen shadowy figures bearing torches spill out from the darkness into a rough circle; dark tents and standards with skulls (real and painted) and images of ravens and wolves' heads are revealed by the flickering light. Typical barbarian-warlord/ evil-sorcerer's encampment. From the nearest tent emerges an ominous tall armoured, cloaked figure, (typical barbarian-warlord/ evil-sorcerer) who stands expectantly in the midst of his minions as the crowd parts to allow a new group to enter]
In this ending, you do not arrive in Doriath.
[the newcomers are a squad of enormous wolves, several with riders, one of them a pale blue-gray, and not ridden. One of the riders does not do so voluntarily, being draped over the Warg's back, bound hand and foot (and arm and knee, for good measure) until the nearest Orc pulls him off and drops him face down on the ground. Their commander walks over slowly, standing there for a moment before booting the prisoner over onto his back. Even without sound, the gloating still comes through, followed by some predictably-imprudent defiance, judging from the way the guards start hauling their mortal captive upright. The camera swings to focus on Beren and the Valar, so that we don't actually see what happens next, only the burning hillsides on the other walls, while Beren keeps watching apparently completely unfazed by it]
Beren: [utterly blasé]
Huh. Guess I did get him that time after all.
Such a fate does not daunt you?
[he turns back to face the Thrones]
It's only what I expected.
And for all your efforts to avoid it, you find it preferable to that which was?
If that had happened -- she would still be alive. And Huan. And Finrod, and the noblest lords of Nargothrond. And a whole bunch of other people in Doriath. No one I loved would have died because of me.
It is too late for that, at this stanza. Those who trusted in your ability to defy our rival and to defend them, against all reason, and left their hiding places and rekindled the flame of defiance against Melkor, and were ground into the ashes of their holdings -- are they no one, then? You survived that disastrous rising, but what of those who believed, and were taught the error of their faith by the Lord of Wolves?
That -- it -- it wasn't --
[he breaks off. In a choked tone]
You're not being fair.
What is in error? That your remnant people died? Or that they did so the sooner, because of your provocation? Or that you loved them?
Beren: [grinding out the words]
All right. I made mistakes too. That can't be the only way.
[the fiery glow changes to a calmer light -- the sun is rising over a green valley, over which in the background loom shining mountain peaks; on one of these can be seen the spires of a slightly-alien-looking but mostly traditional castle. Far off there is still a dark smudge on the horizon even as the sky rapidly becomes blue. In the foreground is a fairly-Viking-looking village, with carved painted pillars and gables on the houses, and fields all around either plowed or full of livestock. Lots of horses. A stream runs through the middle of the vale. Deer drink at it; broad-winged hawks circle overhead.]
Yet another ending, to your story, then --
[up the road to the village comes a rider on a gorgeous steed, cantering to one of the farmhouses, from which charge several tow-headed children of different heights and both sexes, but all equally enthusiastic enough to make it a good thing the picture is without sound; they are followed almost instantly by two tall women with braided hair, one gold, the other silver, who join in the mobbing of the returned horseman -- whose clothes, even in the impressionistic rendering, certainly are not a mismatched collection of rags. As the traveler, gesturing back towards the distant tower, is welcomed home by three generations of family, and his children pile onto the horse heading towards a barn, while wife and mother lead him into the house, Beren turns a stricken countenance to the Lord and Lady.]
Is this real? Is that what would have happened, if I'd gone instead of staying?
We cannot tell. It could have been.
Is this the story that would content you, the ending rightfully yours, of which your Doom has cheated you?
Beren: [softly, shaking his head]
No. -- No --
[he is distraught and nearly in tears]
Varda: [faintly curious]
You would not hesitate to change your past for an earlier and more painful death -- yet you are of divided mind regarding a change that might have granted a full and happy life according to your people's measure. Do you not think that a strange thing?
I -- I --
[he lifts his hand helplessly]
I wouldn't have known Tinuviel then. I wouldn't ever have known -- what else the world could be.
I know that doesn't make any sense. Everything else that way is the same. Nobody else gets hurt. But if I had just died fighting, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't think that was the best that it could be -- I wouldn't have missed anything. It -- it seems worse, to have lived without ever realizing what more there was.
[he bites his lip, and shakes his head again, half-laughing, half-crying]
I guess it would have been better if I was never born at all.
[he nods, his expression grim]
You know, then, better than the One, who should exist in Arda?
I didn't say that.
Did you not?
-- Only for me. Because of what happened because of me.
But there are so many other possibilities. What if you had died to guard your companions on their way to join your kin of Hador? What if you had gone at once to Nargothrond with news of your father's death, instead of remaining to wage war alone? Or if Elwe's daughter had never found you in the forest -- how many long years in peace would you have stayed? Each one a different story. Would all those truly have been so much worse than not having lived at all? What of the lives you did save, the fugitives you did guard who escaped to other lands?
[Beren scowls, but doesn't answer]
You would ordain the world according to your certainty. But have you no consideration for the way that Luthien would rather have things Be? Would her ideal Song have no mortal note of yours?
It would still be better for her if she hadn't met me.
[the Starqueen just Looks at him]
So you, too, number yourself among those who are wiser than she, and how her life should be ordered for her, will she, nil she.
Beren: [still stubborn, but quieter]
It would have been better if things hadn't happened the way they did. -- Unless you think it's a good thing she's dead.
Many things would be better, if matters had fallen out other than they did.
Have you thought at all what other deeds done in the world might have changed things? Or do you believe that your hands alone shape the fate of Arda?
Hand. You're behind on things.
-- I don't believe I'm doing this. I'm mouthing off to the High King and Queen of all the earth, like a bratty eight-year-old, and I can't help it, and any Man or Elf would have slammed me one by now or stopped talking to me, and gods forbid Ma would've heard me talking to anyone like this -- only they're not --
It's not just me. About me. Or us. It's everybody. Whatever happens, in war or not, people suffer and die. Even here. Because the world is all just wrong.
[the Powers look at each other for a silent moment before turning their shimmering gaze back on the mortal spirit]
How, then, would you have ordained the world?
As are we.
[he looks at them, exasperated, but they're a lot more patient than he is]
Beren: [sarcastic, playing along, but getting caught up in it]
Oh sure, you want me to solve all the problems in the universe. How to end suffering and warfare. Hm.
[thinking out loud]
Well, let's see . . . for starters, no Morgoth.
He cannot be destroyed. Even were we to battle him again -- which itself would ruin as much or more as he has done, and serve his purposes even as we attempted to counter them -- we cannot end him. His spirit is as eternal as ours, and may only be restrained by our strength, but never slain, though his shape may be harmed according to the laws of earth and flesh.
I mean just -- never make him, so he can't think of things to do to the world. That would eliminate them before they ever happened, right?
Melkor did not compel any of those who followed him to do so. Lied to them, yes; suggested potentialities to them that otherwise had never crossed their minds; intimidated those who wished to resist him. But if he could have forced any to join him regardless of will, would he not have done so to me, first of all?
You? Why you?
[the High King of Arda covers his face with his hands, while his Queen tilts her head and Looks at the mortal with as much amusement as a body shaped of starlight and midnight can convey]
Why Luthien the Nightingale? -- Why Arien of the Burning Heart? And many, many more, most never given names in your speech.
[as it starts to add up, Beren looks from her to her consort in growing surprise, then at the floor with an expression of chagrin.]
-- Because there are those who cannot bear the thought that beauty should be free, that joy should take cause from any source but themselves, that another will should be strong and use that strength for any other purpose but at their pleasure.
[with a touch of sharpness creeping in]
I am not a collectible either. Nor will I ever be a slave -- still less, then, a tool for another's ambitions.
If my elder had not chosen to subject all voices to his own, and silence all who would not sing his tune -- still would those who gladly made themselves his captains and spies been free to choose to do the same, though weaker their voices and smaller the discords than he causes.
Even we. Even in us the lure of domination might rise, did we not take our first and greatest joy in being, not in having.
-- Even I might have refused to allow any other light save my Work to shine upon the world, commanded that no rival stars be made from earth by cunning hands, or when the Darkness came, declared that so 'twas meant to be, and never should any other brightness defile the sky to hide my art, forbidden my fellow Voices to call forth the Two whose light obscures them, and fought them if they refused to obey me -- and given my love the choice between my will, and my love. Even I might fall, did I not ever strive against jealousy and falsehood in my heart. -- Even I.
Banishing a Voice unheard cannot prevent discord from rising in another's Song.
But can't you make them be good? Without Morgoth you're the most powerful, right? So why can't you just change it?
I don't know, I'm not a god. -- Just stop them from being able to do anything harmful.
Have you the power to do harm?
I'm dead now.
We are aware of that. Can one not choose to work to good or to ill, even in fetters, when no bodily power save the mind's ability to affirm, or deny, to forgive, speak love or hate, defy -- is all that remains?
Have you not yet such power within your mastery?
Housed or not, whence comes that power?
From me. Deciding what to say or do.
Shall we take it from you? Leave but an image of yourself, that cannot speak any thought that does not first come from mine, or work any wish that does not come from hers? What is left of Beren, when we have done so? Of any person, mortal, deathless, or divine?
Is -- is that what you're gonna do to me?
[the Powers shake their heads]
Why not? I've caused you enough trouble, I bet.
No one has that right. -- None.
Beren: [smiling sardonically]
Not even me. I get it.
Nor even, entirely, the power. To destroy is not to govern; to slay, not to rule. Do not the Enemy's own servants even rebel so far as they are able?
Okay, then . . . let's tackle this a different way. Defensive, not offensive.
How's this? I wouldn't have anything that could be hurt or destroyed. And nothing that could do harm or be used to destroy things. Nothing caused by Morgoth, or tainted by him.
[looking up at them with his head on one side, cockily]
I think that should do it.
[he shakes his head]
Manwe: [unison, sadly]
Behold the world of your Song --
[in the windows the village disappears from the valley and the castle from the mountainside. Followed, in turn, by the soaring birds and deer, and then the vegetation, leaving only bare earth, rock, and water under an empty sky]
No. That isn't what I said.
Nothing mortal is left -- nor Eldarin, for to live and to know is to be able to suffer.
But even now, there are still those things which may be harmed, and those which were caused by my elder.
[the stream vanishes, and the mountains sink down into the earth, leaving an empty plain under the sun, which fades slowly, not setting, right from the middle of the sky. As the horizon reddens and darkens:]
Nor will the moon rise to take her place, for neither Anor nor Isil would have come to be, were it not for the deaths of the Two. Is this lightless world, too dead for Death to work any further harm upon, better than the other?
The Stars weren't made by the Enemy. They can't destroy anything.
[in the deepening gloom, points of light reappear, gradually returning almost to their real splendour]
But they were made for our fellow Children, and to warn Melkor against doing harm to the world. So they, too, were partly caused by him.
Still -- not made by him, and -- they can't be hurt. They're just lights.
But even my works will not last forever, and in time they too will reach the end of their lifespan, and the Heavens will fail, and then there will be nothing left but the changeless Dark.
[in the windows the Stars slowly go out, leaving only blackness -- the only lights now are from the three spirits conversing there]
And we, too, are banished from your Song -- for we have been harmed with Ea, and we must suffer in this All-that-is of ours.
[he does not answer]
Two times already you have denied the Void. Will you now, at the last, reject the World?
[pause -- Beren looks silently at the wall of unending Night, and then at the Starmaker, for an equally long moment, and then slowly bows his head]
Beren: [almost whispering]
Varda: [with a shading of approval in her remote voice]
We hoped you would not.
Manwe: [equal approbation]
[the star-dome returns as it was, blue-white, blue-black, silver-iridescent, shimmering over them.]
Beren: [bitter smile]
[he looks at them again, at last; softly:]
What should I do?
We do not know.
[he bows his head again, shaking it]
[he turns as if in a daze, or concussed, and begins walking wearily towards the Stair.]
What will you do?
I don't know.
[at the door he looks back, speaking over his shoulder:]
The Stars -- they were very beautiful . . . Thank you for making them. -- And for the Eagles.
[He turns again and steps through the Door, and vanishes. The King and Queen look at each other sadly and clasp hands between their thrones.]
[Luthien is looking a bit hectic and brittle as she talks, just short of ranting, with the illusion of more control than actually is present. It is a very awkward situation for her audience, who cannot actually do anything to help the distress to which they are witness, and haven't anywhere else to go -- though Luthien is fairly unaware of their presence at the moment now that Finrod has gotten her started talking, and would probably not notice if they left or not.]
And everyone kept trying to make me feel that it was my fault for being miserable, as if I were just -- choosing to be unhappy, out of spite, to punish them. Not that if I'd known what they were going to do after I wouldn't have wanted to -- but I'm not Gifted that way. Not like Mom.
[shaking her head]
It's so strange, looking back on that time, and knowing now what I didn't know then, not just about what was happening to Beren and you, but about everything. How things would happen. What people would do. That they would make those decisions, and what I would do, and now it's like watching other people playing chess, and seeing the strategies they're using, and knowing how the game is going to go, and not being able to do anything about it, because they won't listen to advice. Only it's not really like that, because it's all in the past. -- But would we have listened, if we had actually known what was going to happen, or would we not?
[Finarfin tries to catch his gaze, but he won't look up]
The worst thing was how they all expected that it would pass, if I weren't being so perversely-stubborn. I can't just "get over him," I kept telling everybody --
[with a narrow Look at the Ambassador]
-- "and I'm not singing because I don't feel like singing, not because I'm trying to make you feel guilty, and I'm staying out in the woods all the day round because I can't stand to be around here, and at least there I can remember him even if it hurts -- not because there's still "a spell on me."
And Dad would say things like "He's not coming back, he's certainly not crying his eyes out over you, and he isn't worth your notice, let alone getting despondent over," and Mom would say, "You don't understand," and when I'd say -- "What? So tell me -- " she'd just shake her head and sigh and give me this pitying smile, until I'd start saying it was the same as them, and then she'd get upset.
And everyone wanted me to just be happy. -- Or to stop being unhappy so that they wouldn't have to feel uncomfortable around me, at least. That was the worst -- when I realized that it wasn't -- at least not entirely -- concern for me that made them want me to be normal and back to my old self.
Aye, that's a tune its burden I ken well.
[her lips tighten in angry recollection]
Luthien: [getting more and more precise]
I felt so -- so drained and horrible at first, after the numbness wore off, that I thought I was fading -- and I told people that, and they laughed. "Don't be silly." -- Don't be silly -- ! That was what they told me. Because you can't really be in love with a human, so you can't be fading, even if he was dead. -- Only Daeron didn't laugh. He knew it was real. He always knew.
[she wipes her eyes furiously while Finrod looks up over her head to meet Aegnor's burning Look]
I never said that. -- You said something very close to that, when you came to ask me for help. -- I didn't laugh, either.
Luthien: [oblivious to their interaction]
And I thought he was sorry because he understood now, because he believed me, that it was an accident in a way, an honest mistake of him fearing for me -- not that he was jealous and didn't care that we were truly in love. He was so understanding and sympathetic, listening to me for hours, and it never occurred to me to think that he was doing it for an ulterior motive.
[the tears start winning over her self-control again]
Elenwe: [shaking her head]
'Tis a strange and wondrous thing, such avarice for love, that sorroweth at others' joy, nay, had liefer suffer in solitary darkness than take delight in the shining world else, and seemeth much akin to that which denieth joy to others, when to share delight should cost one naught of loss, nay, moreover but little distance, to that Darkest joy that feedeth but on sorrow.
Ambassador: [hackles raised]
My lady, we of the Twilight are not of the Dark, and little would you presume to think it, did you know our Lord and Lady in their gracious selves.
Finarfin: [not angry, but stern]
Sir, we do not for ever here compare our very selves unto our sundered Kin, but most of all do speak and think of that which hath our present and former experience encompass't. -- Such, I do believe, is most commonly the way of it, among any folk of any race, else place, else Age. My kinswoman did set in balance the deeds of this thy Daeron against them of Feanor my brother, and deem both at some near remove from th'envious soul of him our common foe, the Lord of Fettersn -- no more.
I do beg your pardon, gentles. The dissensions that your rebel element's return have made within this Age throughout our lands have caused us to be somewhat over-ready in taking insult; but I should have considered first that those most near to Felagund would scarcely speak with the same arrogance as others.
[Elenwe is as indifferent to the apology as to the reason for it, but Finarfin exchanges a wry glance with his brother's shade -- the "relative of Finrod" status is a sensation which takes some getting used to]
Luthien: [unable to stop crying, embarrassed]
I'm sorry, this is so stupid --
[Eol chuckles -- Finrod turns to give him a lethal glare while Fingolfin turns away from the sight of his son-in-law's ghost, clenching his fists]
Finrod: [to Eol]
Say anything, kinsman, and I will both personally and vicariously beat you into the floor. Repeatedly, until you learn better manners or the Powers ask me to stop, whichever comes first. Understood?
[Eol doesn't deign to respond, but doesn't say anything to or about Luthien. Aredhel smirks, just a little]
Captain: [grim approval]
No shortage of volunteers, for that.
[the Noldor princess leans towards him, in a familiar aside]
You know, it's a shame your sister isn't here.
[the Captain starts, and then stares fixedly ahead at her words, with the expression of someone who does not dare to say anything just yet, or else is choking on too many things to be said all at once. Finrod's cousin goes on:]
She's so much fun -- I'd enjoy having her about, and then there'd be someone on my side finally.
"I can't just cheer up," I said, "and I'm not even going to try -- are you crazy?" And then -- people started pretending -- pretending -- that I wasn't there --
Would that I might have had such inattention 'gainst myself!
Only one person ever did feign I was not present.
[their respective partners react with obvious tenseness and chagrin. The Captain looks at Aredhel at last:]
Captain: [absolutely neutral and pleasant]
It's funny you should say that, your Highness, because my lord's sister and I were discussing the same thing on the Ice once, and what the Lady Galadriel said to me was, "Good thing Suli's smarter than either of us -- I'd hate to have drawn her into this," and I agreed absolutely with every point of it, in every possible way.
"Just forget about him" -- as if!
At least you didn't have siblings telling you that you ought to find someone else.
[Amarie gives him a sudden diamond-flash Look, but his attention is on comforting Luthien. Angrod and Aegnor share involuntary, guilt-filled glances. Aredhel narrows her eyes at the Captain]
My cousin indulges your impertinence shamefully.
No, as a matter of fact, the word you want is "abets," my lady. I manage things that it would be inappropriate for him to take official notice of. -- Unless you're referring to that one time when I broke your nose by accident. -- Which I wouldn't have done if you'd clobbered me from in front rather than behind. Did you want me to apologize for that again, your Highness?
Just a little friendly advice -- I really don't think you should express your indignation on behalf of your friends quite so -- energetically this time, when someone says anything about the sons of Feanor in the near future.
Do not tell me what to do. You're not one of my counselors.
-- I don't consider you a friend, either.
Yes, but I consider the Lord of Dogs and Beren and Princess Luthien mine, in their own ways. They don't need more trouble, even if you aren't worried.
[with a sidelong Look]
Besides, Highness, what do you care what anyone says to you? You never let it affect you one way or the other.
[Luthien pounds her clenched hand on her knee, until Huan lifts up his head with a whine and rests it on her lap]
Luthien: [raising her voice]
"He's not a tame deer,"I said, "I didn't lose a pet -- and I didn't lose a game either, it isn't just that I was humiliated in front of everybody -- I can't just brush it off and move on to the busy fun-filled rest of my life, and you trying to help me by making me participate in silliness and make-work are just making it worse by making the contrast between your lives and what's been done to us all the stronger!"
[she shakes her head, stroking Huan's muzzle absently as she goes on, getting hiccoughy again]
And they said -- you're being -- heartless. -- And irrational.
[her voice gives out and she lets Finrod pull her against his shoulder so she can just cry.]
Those twin goads of loneliness and anger do serve as spurs to action at the need, but in the quiet hours and between-whiles how such terrible weights drag upon the heart and mind and even flesh and bone, so that only action cure them, for a little while . . .
[his living relatives look at him with both sympathy and a little surprise at this display of reflection on the part of one so formerly brash, but his daughter shakes her head scornfully]
Oh, Father, when are you going to stop feeling sorry for yourself? It's embarrassing to be around you any more.
[Nienna's Apprentice has a sudden coughing fit -- he waves his hand in dismissal as people turn and stare at him]
Sorry. Something stuck in my throat.
[very quietly and looking (for him) quite uncertain and awkward, the Lord Warden of Aglon comes in, scanning the chamber and not seeming to find whomever he is looking for. As he stands there by the doorway, the Lord of Dogs lifts his head and bares teeth in his direction, snarling softly, and both the Steward and his ex tense up -- Finrod sets one hand on his counselor's shoulder and takes hold of Huan's collar with the other, addressing all of his following in an undertone:]
-- Disregard him unless and until he makes a scene.
[after hesitating there the Lord Warden begins a very circuitous journey towards the side of the dais where the Apprentice is sitting, very obviously avoiding everyone else as well as avoiding looking at them, his carriage very stiff and haughty.]
Eol: [spitting the words]
I'll not share the same floor with one of them --
[he starts to rise]
[at that he glares and sits back down, caught between two horns of the dilemma of controlling pride]
What signifieth that word?
Long story. It's the lake where we first set up a permanent camp, you see . . .
[as he gives a very quick rundown for the cousin who never set foot there, the partisan of Feanor comes to stand next to Nienna's Apprentice, wearing a bleak and very uncomfortable expression]
Warden of Aglon: [abrupt]
Where's your Master?
[the Apprentice shrugs]
I need to talk to her.
Join the crowd.
Warden of Aglon: [ice]
I am in no mood for your humour now.
Wasn't joking. I don't know where she is, and I badly want to ask her advice, so that makes two of us at least here. -- Join the crowd.
Or don't, as you please.
[the Warden of Aglon glares at him for a brief moment, looks around at the others uncertainly and realizes that he is not the center of all attention, that nobody is giving him more than passing notice, and slowly makes his way a little distance off, sits down -- but not so far that he is completely out of the conversation.]
Little other than Tirion in the time of unrest it seemeth -- to journey so far afield, and yet make all as 'twas homewards!
[she shakes her head in mild amazement at their folly]
Yes, but there it was different because we knew they'd killed, instead of just having it be this mysterious and unspoken possibility as it was in the Day of innocence. So it was pretty unpleasant for us, as you might imagine.
[the newcomer gives him a hostile Look, but does nothing. To Luthien, who has cried herself out again:]
Would you like more water?
No, thank you, I'm fine, I -- I'll be all right.
[she wipes her eyes again and goes on in a thin forced tone of normality]
Would you believe, my parents actually were put out with me because -- they said -- it was my fault they couldn't take their summer holiday that year!?
[with a grim smile of beyond-outrage exasperation]
And I said, "My heart is broken, and you're complaining because you don't feel you can go on vacation." And Dad said, "You'll get over it."
-- I didn't.
[Elsewhere: the shadowy Stair]
[Beren goes blindly down the steps, bent and defeated, his unsteadiness increasing with each pace, until he stumbles, falling to his knees as though drunk -- or wounded -- and lies sprawled on the descending staircase, his eyes closed and his face set in an expression of grim misery. For one instant he tries to push himself up, but his hand slips, his balance is gone, and he slams down hard against the stone again, and lets his head rest with a sigh. As the camera draws out from his face we see that the dark stairway has changed, into a slope of cindery grains, beyond which are yet more dark hills and dunes interrupted by the occasional sharp and broken-edged rock. There is a cold light over all, as if from a full moon that cannot yet be seen beyond the horizon, but no stars, and nothing living to be seen anywhere . . .]
[Nearly everyone is paying close attention to Luthien's account of the abrupt shattering of Doriath's serenity, although Aredhel is boredly flipping a dagger into the air and catching it in various creative ways, and as a result the Teler Maid is watching her with the disconcerting fascinated focus of a cat. Whatever temptations are simmering in her mind however apparently requiring some level of cooperation, any nefarious plans are presently held in check -- every time she looks pleadingly at one or another of the Ten, the Captain shakes his head definitely against it; for the present the White Lady is safe from juvenile mayhem.]
Luthien: [earnestly to Finrod]
I'm so sorry, you must be so bored listening to me complain about my family by now.
[she is in much better control of herself right now, but clearly still fragile. Her cousin shakes his head]
No. I'm -- rather upset by the fact that part of me was still convinced that some of it had to be -- not exaggerated, perhaps, but at least somewhat magnified and distorted by report, and -- that I was wrong. I -- did expect much better of Elu and your mother than that.
[he looks very downcast and rather agitated]
This is the first time in the past twelve years that I've regretted 'Tari going out East. If she'd been there, I'm certain things wouldn't have come apart this way.
[his father's attention sharpens, but the (living) King of the Noldor does not interrupt]
Me too. From the very start.
[with a slight smile]
She hates being called that, you know. It annoys her worse than when you roll the "d" in her name.
Of course. That's why I do it. Someone's got to make her laugh when she starts getting all "Harken, fools!" over trivial things. Going on a picnic in May is not organizing a rope-bridge traverse over a crevasse and sometimes she forgets that.
Steward: [observing quietly, apparently to Huan]
You know it's gotten out of control when I start wondering if it's really necessary to redistribute the weight in the saddlebags just one more time and if it will make any difference if we've four dozen different choices of menu or only thirty-six.
[the Doriathrin lord smiles faintly but quickly restrains his humour at the recollection; Finarfin's expression is a study in melancholy longing]
And we still forgot, what was it, the walnut-butter? No, apple jelly.
[frowning at Finrod]
Only that was because you nicked it to tease her, and then you forgot you'd put it in your wallet until we'd gotten home.
You're cheering me up again.
Finrod: [rueful smile]
Sorry. I'll try not to do it again.
[she gives him a light swat with her fingers on his elbow]
Luthien: [serious again, but in a sort of whimsical-remote tone]
No, but really, it was as if I was the only adult left in Doriath, and everyone else was acting like -- like -- I don't know, like spooked animals in a thunderstorm or something. There's Mom -- "Let's just pretend nothing's happening," -- right after she's just told me that oh, yes, Beren's being tortured in a dungeon and the only brightness in his life is remembering us -- but don't go ask your father for an army, and don't even think about trying to rescue him yourself, because you'll just be miserable afterwards anyway. There's Daeron -- "I won't help you for his sake, because I'm upset with him for making you so unhappy, even if it's not reasonable -- but I'll do it for yours."
[tossing her head scornfully]
Huh -- with this friends like this, enemies have to wait their turn. And then there's Dad, alternating between shouting at me, shouting at Beren even though he's not there, and pleading with me in tears to just stop it all and promise that I wouldn't try to follow him.
[she laughs shortly]
-- And then there's me, feeling like -- feeling like maybe this was what it felt like here, when the Darkness came and everybody went half-crazy like we heard --
[with a raised-eyebrow Look at Angrod]
-- in bits and pieces, to be sure.
[transferring the Look to the Ambassador]
And then there's everybody else, making perfectly-reasonable suggestions about what should be done to the madwoman, like keeping me locked in my rooms for a hundred years, except no, that wouldn't work, because I'd get sick and pine not being able to see starlight and trees, unless what if we put her to sleep for all that time instead, except that wouldn't work because nobody's powerful enough except maybe Mom and she wouldn't get involved, so then somebody comes up with the brilliant suggestion of sticking me up in the top of Hirilorn, which was just fiendishly brilliant, and who was it who came up with it any way, you or cousin Galadhon -- or I suppose it doesn't matter now, does it . . .
Eol: [confused and disgusted]
Why wouldn't it?
[Luthien stares at him in equal confusion]
The wrong does not cease to have been done you, because you are dead and there's no way now for you to revenge yourself against the perpetrator.
[Elenwe turns and slowly looks at him as though he were some repellent but fascinating beast]
'Twas yon will to vengeance that did animate thy foes, was't not? And burning vengeance that drove my lord his uncle, and's father, across the Sea unto their Dooms.
It must come, an end to vengeance -- else ne'er end shall come in Arda, nor only Arda its ending.
Eol: [controlled, mocking irony]
Spare me your pious mysticism, Light-elf.
Aye -- yet shall any spare thee from thyself, kinsman?
[the Warden of Aglon gives her a strange, troubled Look and then turns away, staring out into the shadows with an expression of longing]
Luthien: [ignoring Eol and continuing to Finrod]
You know, I finally felt sorry for Galadriel after it came out about the Kinslaying. It's funny -- I felt sorry for you all, getting shouted at by Dad, but I was too upset with her to pity her at all, back when it happened. I mean, I forgave her, and it was all right between us, like with her and Mom, but when it first was all still going on, after you left, and my parents made her sit down and fill in all the gaps and verify Mom's guesses --
[shaking her head]
-- I just felt betrayed. Because I felt like she was a little sister, or even better, because she was so different from everyone else I knew in Doriath and I knew her so much better than you, because she lived with us. I'd never had a friend like her before, and she was so clever and exciting and had so many stories to tell . . . and then I realized how much she'd been leaving out, and why, and it just made me sick.
[in the background, the palantir is glowing softly, but no one is paying attention, and no one notices, not even Nienna's Apprentice. Eventually it goes dark again.]
I wouldn't talk to her for I don't know how long. I stayed up in the trees because I didn't even want to look at her, or hear her try to apologize to me. When Mom and Dad were raking her over the coals and Celeborn took off to stand guard with the Rangers for a while and said he didn't know if he was going to come back, what was the point of setting up a communications system if the people it was meant to reach weren't going to talk to us -- I just felt it was justice.
[Huan starts making increasingly-loud Please-Don't-Be-Unhappy! whines and she reaches down to shush him. With a profound sigh:]
I still do. I don't think there's any comparison between concealing the story of the Darkening and all but lying to Mom while she was taking everything Mom would teach her, and not even telling Dad his best friend had been murdered until she had to, let alone the rest of it -- and my keeping Beren's presence for myself. I knew he wasn't a threat to us, -- and he wouldn't have been, if they hadn't made him into one. But when it was my turn to be questioned and reprimanded and cross-questioned and scolded again and again, I understood why she would have tried to put it off forever, pretend that everything was all right and deny it when it wasn't, for as long as possible -- because there's nothing more horrible than having the people you love look at you as if you've changed into something awful, or been changed --
I'd forgiven her, but I hadn't ever pitied her before. But I finally knew what she must have been feeling, and how much it must have hurt inside, and I finally thought, "Poor Galadriel."
[with an uneven smile]
I only then realized how much it must have hurt for us to call her that -- Galadriel, I mean, not "poor" -- because of it being the name Celeborn gave her, until they got back together again after all that. What else were we going to call her? I don't think it even occurred to us to use her other ones. But she never gave any sign of what it must have felt like. I wasn't that brave -- though it was the other way around, I wanted them to use the name he'd given me -- but . . .
There was at least as much pride involved as unwillingness to embarrass you. -- I know what we're like. She wouldn't have admitted that it made her unhappy any more than I ever let on that being teased by my relatives for having a Dwarven aftername once bothered me.
[his uncle looks penitent, while his living relatives look interested]
The jesting -- that got old quickly. It stopped mattering when I asked myself why it did, being a true name, and given that I held the wisdom of the one who had occasioned it in far higher esteem than those kinsmen who laughed at the thought of Elves living in burrows underground.
[Luthien gives the High King of the Noldor in Beleriand a hard Look -- then on a sudden inspiration turns and catches the Princes also looking rather embarrassed]
No, well, you wouldn't have heard any teasing like that around our House, obviously.
Why do you think I used to invite myself over for long visits? It wasn't only for the free music.
I thought it was to argue over the nature of Time with Dad. That's what it seemed like.
[with a small reminiscent smile]
Galadriel and I used to have bets on how long it would take for you to start arguing about whether Time was a constant or not and who would be the first one to say the words "axle of the heavens."
We -- discussed other things, too. On several occasions.
Sorry -- I'm cheering you up again.
Luthien: [with a nostalgic smile]
It's all right.
It's kind of nice . . . to remember being happy and safe and not worried or angry. It wasn't, when I was alive -- it just made things so much worse.
Is that -- another reason -- why you all never wanted to talk about Aman the way Mom did?
[Finrod nods sadly]
Nerdanel: [shaking her head, bemused]
I confess, I do find it a great wonder and a difficulty, to conceive of young Artanis wed.
It's even funnier thinking of her living the primitive rustic life out in the woods all the time, not just going out on hunting trips but staying in a cave with no conveniences and no technology surrounded by illiterates.
[Eol snarls at this; Luthien gives the Noldor Princess a cool, thoughtful look as the latter says leadingly]
Though someone as dull and dutiful as he sounds might be pleasant . . .
[she smiles at her husband's expression; for the first time she seems to properly notice her aunt's existence.]
-- What are you doing here anyway, 'Danel? You're not dead.
I do recollect me that once thou hadst better manners, when thou didst guest within my House -- else better mastery of thy inconsideration.
[she gives Fingolfin a Look that says volumes (or centuries, rather) about past familial interaction]
'Feiniel, you know we've told you what the Thousand Caves were like, not quite a thousand times, but often enough.
[Aredhel tosses her head as she catches her dagger by the point and spins it about her fingers]
Yes, but it's amusing to watch my consort strangle over wanting to contradict me but not wanting to say anything nice about his royal cousins whatsoever.
[this doesn't impress any of her relatives -- favorably, but it does inspire the Elf from Alqualonde to beg for her friends' assistance again]
Teler Maid: [urgent whisper]
Please! Oh please, just but once!
[she clasps her hands and makes puppy-eyes at the Captain, but he shakes his head]
Be patient, Ternlet.
[she sulks a bit, and starts eyeing the Apprentice speculatively as her next target in would-be conspiracy]
Finarfin: [hesitantly to Luthien]
Gentle kinswoman, I had not willingly to interrupt thy discourse further -- yet must I perforce wish to, would I or no; and thus I'll entreat thy gracious indult that thou might say, and thou wouldst in mercy, of what temper and measure and spirit be this thy kinsman, that hast been named in hearing as one Celeborn -- and eke my son as yet unknown to me, by bond of love.
[Luthien blinks for a moment]
What's he like -- ? Well, um . . . he's my cousin . . . he likes messing around with boats, he's got a good way with trees -- he can be pretty stubborn, sometimes -- of course, that's all of us --
Finrod: [cutting in]
He's pretty reasonable most of the time, I always thought.
Yes, but you only say that because he usually agrees with you.
And your point is -- ?
[his living relatives are not sure how to take this]
You two argued for almost a month over the special boat service you wanted Menegroth to implement as part of your communications network.
Yes, but he came round to my way of seeing things in the end, so that was all right.
Nerdanel: [raising an eyebrow]
And thou dost rebuke others for fault of arrogance?
You think I believe only agreement is a sign of rationality? Not at all -- his objections were mostly well-founded, and indicated things which needed to be worked through in more detail, if they hadn't been quite overlooked. I was referring to him losing his temper and saying things he has to apologize for afterwards, or running off to the Marches instead of . . .
[he stops talking and looks quickly at and away from Amarie. Pause. Stiffly:]
Never mind about that. -- He isn't unreasonable beyond reason -- most of the time he is quite rational and objective.
Finarfin: [still concerned]
Thou art assuréd of his goodness, his wisdom, moreover that his strength sufficeth for that thy sister might not overawe his better sense, as hath betimes been known of our House in bygone Day?
Finrod: [slightly mocking tone]
Father, are you asking me for my judgment on matters of virtue and prudence?
Yes. He loves her enough to contradict her when he must. There aren't that many of any of our Kindreds brave enough to do that. And she loves him enough to listen when he does. She knows that she can trust Celeborn to stand firm upon matters of principle, even if he'd rather give in to her for the sake of peace -- but that in matters of personal pride and no more, he's strong enough to bend, and to apologize, and to change his mind when he sees himself in the wrong.
Finarfin: [with the slightly-edged tone his son used a moment ago]
And thou dost not deem him weak, else irresolute, for all of that?
[Elsewhere: the Dark Land]
[Beren is still lying motionless on the burnt hillside, with all as in the previous scene, the only movement or sound being a small whisper of wind over the dunes blowing little drifts of ash about. A tall figure approaches across the field of defeat, completely robed and muffled in long, flowing draperies that conceal all individuality and prevent any glimpse of features beneath the overshadowing hood. There should be a striking resemblence between Luthien in Act II and She Who Mourns, as she now appears, coming to stand beside him, still veiled.]
For what do you sorrow, Child?
[there is a long pause, before he answers, through clenched teeth, not raising his head nor even opening his eyes:]
-- Then for what do you not weep?
What difference does it make?
You might be surprised.
What of the griefs that are yours? What of your pains, and the losses of home, of comrade and kin, of joy and hope and song?
What are mine, in the balance of Ea?
If you will not grant your own sorrow the right of honour, what of others' -- ?
What then of she who loves you, who has known so many weary days on your behalf, each filled with grief beyond measure, and each heavier than the last? Is her sorrow of no worth, for being the sorrow of one only?
[silence -- but alive with tension]
-- What, too, of the lady of the Northlands, who left behind her heart and her hope, even as she bore away others' in the strength of her staff and her sword, repaying the trust of her people at the cost of heart's breaking?
[the ash blows in a sudden gust like smoke]
What of her lord, who dying hoped, but never knew, that the son of their love yet escaped theDoom that love betrayed had brought him?
[he makes a choked sound, not quite a sob, but does not move]
What of those lovers, rent for no wrongdoing of theirs, but only the misfortune of place, and time, and the Marring? Or what of the lost, with their lord and the land they defended, whose reward for such service was ever-more privation, and not even victory to set in mind as the hope or the fee of it? What of that land, of the wounded earth and the tortured trees, and the anguish of all under the burden of hate?
[Beren gives a convulsive shiver]
What of the people who loved as well and truly as they hated, hiding their young lord and holding his secret in their own despite? Or of those others, not bound by blood, nor fealty, nor any tie save friendship, whose faith held firmer than any wall or weapon ever shall? What of the King who suffered shame upon shame without reproach, and clasped pain still greater most freely in hope of sparing friend the same?
[his hand clenches up the burnt sand where it rests]
What of the faithful Hound, who might not save his master, for all his strength, and all his suffering, even at the cost of his own life -- exchange made but folly, in that Man's dying?
Are they not worthy of your tears?
[silence -- he does not answer, but she does not leave, waiting. After long moments Beren draws his arm closer against his face, hiding his expression -- and very quietly begins to cry.]
[Luthien has recovered some of her usual animation and is telling about her past experiences in a tone made more vigorous by indignation, though there is a very tenuous quality to it, like a gap between clouds on a midsummer day. (Huan has finagled the Steward into allowing him to rest his head on the Elf-lord's lap, and now is lying on the dais like a docile, napping Kodiak bear, enjoying non-stop if absent-minded ear scratching.)]
I was so completely in shock. I didn't honestly know what I was feeling at the moment -- it was as though I were watching myself and wondering what it was this person was going to do now, as if I were hearing a tale about someone that this was all happening to. And convinced that it wasn't actually going to happen -- that I was having a nightmare, just like a mortal, not that it was real, but that somehow I was going to break out of it and find it was only a dream gone bad. Or if it was real, surely it wouldn't really play through to the end of the verse -- that Dad wasn't really serious, that Mom wasn't going to pretend she didn't know what was happening right outside our front door, which was a pretty impressive bit of self-deception given all the work it was to set up rigging and build a full-fledged house, not just a talan, all the way up in Hirilorn.
[looking rather anxiously at Finrod]
Was I wrong? Was I stupid to refuse to give in, and just lie about it and pretend to agree to give up Beren, and then leave? Instead of telling the truth, that I couldn't make that promise in conscience, or honor it if I gave it?
Finrod: [quiet but earnest]
No. Trying to do evil so that good will come of it is hopeless. It would have made everything worse eventually.
[she frowns with a bitter expression, not at him but abstractedly]
I still don't understand it. -- Especially Mom. Even after we came home I couldn't get any straight answers out of her. -- Any answers, really. If she knew Beren was there, why didn't she tell Dad right off? If she knew I was seeing him, why did she say nothing to any of us, not even me? I know they fought about her silence after he found out that I'd gone to her for advice and she didn't say anything to him about what I said, but -- and then she didn't stop me, but she didn't help me either, but then she sort of did by not preventing me by interfering. So I just don't get it.
Belike her tenderness towards thee did differ in small wise from thine own most fearful love and striving to hold safe withal thy Beren from his fate?
Yes, but then why did she not not get involved as much as she did get involved?
There's naught of sense in that.
Actually, it isn't really any different from us wondering why the gods back home didn't stop things before they got out of hand.
-- Here. We are home, brother.
Aye, and here's the end forewarnéd of such rebel thinking!
[Finrod looks away in distress; Luthien clasps his hand in sympathy]
Indeed, here we are -- and do you know, I've heard more harping on that one note in the last hour, than I have in the past ten years since we were killed, from the Powers that rule here?
More like twelve -- no, thirteen, by now.
[Amarie's expression is set as stone]
Well, Nessa was very definite that they don't and didn't know everything that's going on in the world, only lots of it. I didn't get any sense that she was lying, or even shading the truth, to me.
Nerdanel: [with a touch of trouble-making]
Nay, 'ware thee, cousin, else my niece-by-love be troubled to heart's veriest heart by thy most impertinent impieties.
[the living Vanyar lady reacts with an angry glare]
Angrod: [frowning, with both resentment and confusion in his tone]
Though that still leaves the question of how they managed not to realize what we were up to, right next door to us as it were.
Fingolfin: [tolerant, but sad]
Nay, lad, have you forgotten so swiftly, that we did all in our power to conceal our activities, and dissembled with smiling faces and lying silence, at the first, and then with the guise of our heraldry and devices, making it seem but one more new thing we had devised, no more than letters, or the symbolism of colors and other such languages, hiding our swords' forging beneath this covering most open to the eye, as we covered our resentments beneath words of flattery and studiousness that did but steal all that teaching so freely given -- and why should they mistrust us from the first, that had given us no cause to hate them? If you would be judged fairly, you must be as just in your own turn.
[his nephew bridles a bit at being so rebuked, but nevertheless is thoughtful and silent at his words; his living kin regard him with bemusement, but only his daughter-in-law actually says anything:]
Elenwe: [surprised tone]
Verily, is't thou, Fingolfin?!
[in the awkward interval of Valinorean surprise at the fact that Feanor's eldest brother is talking about prudence and dispassionate perspective:]
I'd regret the fact that this son of Finwe has learned mercy and wisdom -- even a little -- too late; but I know my Master and her brother would sigh and look at me oddly until I figured out why -- so I suppose I've got to figure it out before I say it to them.
[as the family chagrin is set aside in a spontaneous return to the subject, simultaneously:]
About Melian -- I've been thinking --
Haply else 'twere thy mother's --
[they both stop at once at the realization that the other is also speaking, and look at each other warily, waiting/indicating for the other to go on. Finarfin shakes his head a little, and after a second Finrod continues, a little more self-consciously]
If in fact Beren's Doom was to --
[he is cut off by the Princess of Doriath]
Luthien: [intense exasperation]
-- Did he say that to you, too? Mablung told me that, what his last words were -- but it isn't true, it can't be, and if you think so then --
[Finrod makes hasty shushing gestures and she stops mid-rant with an apologetic Look]
Let's just assume, for the sake of argument, that Beren is right -- at least in part; that he was meant to recover the Light of the Trees from the Lord of Fetters, even if nothing went as it ideally should have. -- Please note, cousin, I didn't say, "even if he bungled it." I don't think that any single one of us -- not even Elu Thingol -- is responsible for the scale of this fiasco, any more than any one of us --
[glancing round at his brothers, companions, and uncle]
-- is responsible for the failure of the Leaguer. Considering the level of Power you were up against, it's more than amazing you three succeeded in so far as you did. Beginning from that premise, ask yourself what Melian was supposed to do.
You mean in a Fate sense of "supposed," not "what was I supposed to do?" the way people usually mean when they say that.
Er . . .
[she shakes her head impatiently]
Finrod, I'm too tired for guessing games.
Well, if you were meant to help him -- because it's not in question that he couldn't have done it alone any more than, as it turned out, I could have -- then it would be Melian's duty as one of the loyal Powers to assist in the project to steal back the Silmarils. Right?
Nerdanel: [passionately, shaking her head]
Yet how should any parent -- any that's deserving of the name -- consent and moreover gladly thereto, that her child most beloved and so long reared and sheltered, now doth go afield and into most grievesome dangers, into fell perils and woes both certain and uncertain, nor e'er but restrain as she is able?
Ambassador: [to Luthien]
The lady has put it quaintly, yet as well as any might, my Princess.
Luthien: [to Finrod]
Now I'm going to sound very contrary -- but I'm going to agree. I don't like the thought of Mom having -- an ulterior duty of some sort, beyond to us -- we're her family after all! -- but that --
[shaking her head]
-- just sounds too -- too creepy. And if it is true --
[breaks off, biting her lip]
Eol: [macabre glee]
-- It's pretty funny, if it is -- great Melian, daunted by nothing in the whole wide World, singlehandedly holding back the power of the Dark Lord, handing out bread and wisdom all these years for the grateful masses and her adoring husband -- and coming quite to pieces because with all her legendary foresight she wasn't prepared for her daughter taking after her -- and up with a travelling stranger. Who'd have thought it, Fate catching up with the runaway goddess at last, her thinking she'd done her divine duties by looking after the poor benighted savages and it not being what she'd thought at all. It's easy to do what you please, and fancy yourself virtuous, isn't it? Much harder when you have to give up something that really matters -- like your child.
[Aredhel growls at him under her breath, gripping the hilt of her dagger as if about to hurl it at him]
Mom's not like that at all!
Eol: [maddeningly patronizing]
Well, of course you wouldn't see it, young demigoddess.
Teler Maid: [aside, to the Guard nearest her]
Has he truly killed someone once?
Third Guard: [nodding]
[the Sea-Elf stares at Eol with spooked horror, covertly]
Lord Eol, you wrong not only our Queen and King, but our entire people with your groundless mockery.
Yes, well, you always did know what board your bread was on, didn't you?
[the Captain gestures covertly to his team, and four of the Ten get up and surround Thingol's kinsman promptly]
Captain: [to Finrod and Luthien]
How far into the floor did you want him?
Oh, just leave him alone -- his is just a warped version of what I was going to say. And it won't do him any good to beat him up, I'm afraid.
[all of the Noldor shades present look faintly disappointed, as does the Doriathrin Ambassador, though the Teler Maid has only expressed alarm at the prospect, and Elenwe more amused, if slightly disapproving, than anything else]
Soldier: [aside, wistfully]
But he deserves it . . .
Yes, but he doesn't seem to realize that, and I don't think it will help him to, either.
[turning back to Finrod as the disappointed Elf-warriors leave her alienated cousin alone, with visible regret]
Because if that's true -- not only is it creepy and disturbing, but then I'd have to feel sorry for her, too. And I know I said it felt like I was the only grown-up and sane Elf in Menegroth then, but I don't really want it to have been the case -- that I was more mature and responsible than Mom during all of this. Because that's what it would really mean, if it was right and proper for me to pity her for being in over her head and not able to cope.
I didn't say it was going to be a cheerful conclusion at all. I'm a little unsettled by the one I reached long ago and whose implications I'm still working out, that I was supposed to go to Middle-earth.
[looking at his father intensely]
In the Doomed sense of the word.
[there is a moment of uncertain silence from his family; Huan lifts his head and gives Finrod an attentive Look]
What, in the Song?
[the Steward winces, and there is a general bracing of selves among Finrod's following as their sovereign gives his consort a long, cool Look in turn, before there is an intervention]
Most assuredly, such is th'import of thy lord his words.
Oh, but there's an easy answer -- return to all reproach, that most pridefully declareth -- 'Twas Foredoomed so, wherefore I may bear no guilt in this -- !
Aredhel: [piqued aside]
Didn't we hear all this when we left? Do we need more sanctimonious lecturing, really?
[she goes back to knife-juggling with a bored expression, while the Apprentice listens with intent curiosity -- but no surprise or disapproval, apparently unaware that his non-reaction is noted with interest by various of the Ten]
Far from, for still 'tis no answer to that which each must ask unto heart its inmost heart -- did I but follow "ought" unto Doom, else did I but Doom mine own self for aught of pride, else folly? -- Still less what purpose should be served, by such a cross-grained mandate, nor whether it be fulfilled by deed, by undoing, else by failure. And there's but the least and eke the simplest portion of't. For if it be so, then must be asked thereafter -- what signifieth this, that the One should ordain such strife amongst his Children, nay, set those who strive to remain in tune at discords, each unto each the other?
I didn't realize you'd thought this through as well --
Some do spend these measureless hours in anger, some in despite, some in despair -- some had rather go busily to and fro making many diverse sorts of affairs and contentions, whilst some others rather do occupy the passing Ages in deep seekings after wisdom, the better to comprehend their Doom.
Finrod: [mock affront]
I'll have you know, I don't spend all my time dashing about starting trouble!
There's a great change, assuredly.
[Amarie breaks impatiently into their affectionate teasing]
Yet thou dost hold it within potentiality, no less, that deeds done against the will of Manwe, nay, in willful disrespect of, as well as all that's done by cause of such thereafter -- might yet be holy, and sanctioned by a higher Power oversetting yet?
Out on thee, cousin!
[the Vanyar ghost looks up at the vaulted ceiling, her expression ironic]
Not yet, I.
[the living Elf-King leans forward, earnest rather than perturbed by this cosmic speculation]
Nay, canst make plain unto me, what cause thou holdest warrant for thy certainty, beyond all those with which ye did reproach me heretofore?
If all else had gone the same, except only that I had not gone forward over the Grinding Ice, and all else had fallen out the same but for what had been changed by that --
[checking, frowning abstractedly]
-- which actually would have been fairly significant in the western part of the country, and very uncertain -- though I think that whatever the nominal state of things, Galadriel would have ended up running the House overseas, but that isn't what I'm talking about -- in any case --
[back to his serious tone as before distraction]
-- if I had not been there, who then should have met and dealt with Beor when they came into the eastern territories?
Whom, then, meanst thou?
Feanor's children. If anyone.
[longer, speculative silence]
Angrod: [quiet, but upset]
No. No, and no.
I don't mean that's the only.
-- But you think it's the most important.
[his eldest brother does not deny it]
Admit it -- you do.
Well -- yes.
[their relatives regard this display of cryptic sibling communication with worry and confusion]
What are you three rattling on about there?
I would have phrased it differently, but -- precisely.
Warden of Aglon: [startling those who have forgotten he's present]
He means that the most important Deed he accomplished in the course of the Age, was not to do with the War, nor in spreading the glories of our civilization throughout the disordered wilderness we found there, but simply this -- thathe should be the one to discover the Followers, and not my lords' brothers.
[fiercely, to Finrod]
-- Is that so?
Essentially, though I'd also phrase it somewhat otherwise.
Warden of Aglon: [shaking his head, his eyes fixed on the Elf-King's]
No. I meant -- do you still believe it, now, after -- after what was done to you? -- In perfect honesty?
Oh, yes. More so than ever, that it was my Work to find the Secondborn, and lead them, to the knowledge of the West, at least.
[to his lawful relatives]
Something set me in the Eastern Marches in the proper season, in that year of all years, where I had no reason to be then rather than a year before, or ten years after; something called me to follow the sunlight on the distant mountainsides, to yearn more to see the way the fading day should change the lands before me than for the cheerful company of my own kind -- though it seemed no more than the truth of the old saying, that every bit of countryside should be viewed between the ears of a horse, until I heard the singing. -- Everything else which I did, or helped in doing, someone else of us could have done, or did.
[to Luthien, quietly]
Only I failed there, too -- and far worse, having so much more by way of resources at my command, than Beren ever could be considered to have done.
[very deliberately she takes his hands in her own, and one after the other raises them to her lips while he blinks away tears]
I keep forgetting, that you've lost Men you loved too -- that it isn't just me.
[she turns to look now at Aegnor, who flinches under her gaze]
Aegnor: [involuntary honesty]
Don't -- please, don't -- I'd rather you hate me than pity me, cousin.
Luthien: [shaking her head]
I'm sorry, I can't help it. Even if I wanted to.
[Elsewhere: the Dark Land]
[the mortal shade is in the same pose as before, but still now, and relaxed, not taut with agonized helplessness -- he lies blinking on the sands, utterly exhausted, while She Who Mourns still kneels behind him. Now she lifts him up to a half-sitting position, and holds to his lips a shallow bowl made of a crystal so pure that it, and the water it contains, give a prismatic reflection (sfx) even in this small amount of light, supporting him while he drinks with desperate urgency. At last he raises his head to see his rescuer --]
Thank you --
[ -- but no one is there. As he slowly looks around, still half-dazed, he sees only swirling mists in a gradually-brightening but still very dim light, in which no shapes nor structures can be discerned. The ground is also pale now, the almost-colorless, winter-bleached grass revealed after the snows have gone . . .]
It is sort of funny that they did it to keep me safe, when you think about what the consequences were. I mean --
[fighting a grim smile]
-- it isn't as if I was particularly safe, walking myself down the trunk, or as if given a choice between sending someone out quite alone and going with at least a company of warriors, you'd think that alone was preferable.
Well, I -- don't think they expected you were going to do something like that, really.
Why ever not? I'd been saying I was going to run away and find Beren -- that's why they locked me up, after all, wasn't it? So what would give them the slightest impression that punishing me that way would make me give up?
Finrod: [biting his lip]
I'm pretty sure that Elu didn't think you could, or else he wouldn't have been so careless.
Well, it was lucky for me that he underestimated me, but --
I'm not defending him --
Luthien: [not stopping]
-- I really don't see why Dad thought I would be more inclined to agree with him if he insulted me --
Nay, an erring slight be else than insult, in truth.
What about calling me insane? And deluded? We consider those insults back home where I come from.
Nerdanel: [undaunted by sarcasm]
It hingeth upon purpose and intent alike, th'import of description, so it be merest declaration of percievéd truth, otherwise of scathe.
He called me stupid -- he called me a brainless baby who didn't know what I was talking about, didn't know what lay outside the borders of the country and that wasn't courage, that was just my ignorance talking when I said I was willing to face the Outside -- he said I took for granted everything I'd been given and I was a selfish, vindictive brat who didn't appreciate what they were doing for me -- he said I didn't deserve to be treated like an adult since I wasn't acting like one --
[she stops, too impassioned to go on in an orderly fashion]
Finrod: [raising his eyebrows]
-- As Beren would say, -- Hoo boy.
[he shakes his head regretfully; Nerdanel grimaces, inclining her head in acquiescence]
-- Scathing, aye, verily.
Then there was the bit when I said, "what if you were a prisoner of the Enemy, what if you'd got caught and were strung up on his Gates or in his dungeons, wouldn't you expect Mom would come after you to rescue you then?" and he said, "I'm sure your mother would have the good sense to put her duty to all of you over personal considerations and not risk either herself or the kingdom on a mad and hopeless venture," and I said but Fingon and he raised his voice to me -- !
[loud enough to make people jump]
-- And what's more, we both knew perfectly well it wasn't true!!
L -- Highness, he only wished to protect you, for your own sake --
Well, he went about it in the worst way possible, didn't he, then?
[her compatriot cannot answer her, but another attempts to]
Aye. That, in truth, none might e'er deny. -- Yet lettest thou nor cease to bear in mind, that elders be but Eldar, e'en as their offspring, and subject no less than more unto equal passions, to the world's storms and the heart's disquiet, and to wrath, and inconstancy, even as to the over-mastering pride, that durst not yield concession of any, lest smallest surrender be presage to the all; and willfulness doth ever raise the cry of -- Willful! -- as 'twere a mirrored shield to turn back just rebuke.
[with a sweeping gesture, looking at his sons even as he addresses her]
-- For hard indeed, and surpasseth measure, to be held unto reckoning by one subject, for fealty, and if 'tis so, how much more so when him that challengeth is child and student, younger in years, in knowing, and in deed, and holding all those -- or so it seemeth -- but from one's self, as a gem's light inwrought by the artisan; for so easily and swift do we forget, that neither earth, nor holy fire, are of our own sole making, nor aught but gift to us that we might help to shape it, nor for our own solitary pleasure, but that all the world derive the blesséd good of it.
[Luthien looks down, pensive and troubled at his words; but they are taken differently by another]
Finrod: [lightly, in a tone of false patience]
Yes, I'm arrogant, I took the gifts you gave me and squandered them and encouraged my siblings in pernicious rebellion -- and I really didn't need to hear it all over again, Father.
[the living Elf-King does not say anything in his own defense]
Teler Maid: [aside, uncertain]
But that is not at all what he meant . . .
Sire -- think about what Lord Finarfin has said.
[Finrod turns and glares at him]
-- Use your head, my lord, not only your heart. As if you were listening to any other speaker, at court or in the realm.
Finrod: [his voice shaking slightly]
I can't be dispassionate about it. Not after what he said there -- do you know what he said to me then --
-- Well, yes, I was standing about this far away at the time --
[he gestures about a yard and a half apart with his hands; Finrod goes on, talking right over him]
Finrod: [stifled, almost unable to speak as he goes on]
He called me ungrateful. He called me a traitor, and a liar as well. He accused me of making my way to power through the blood of my family. He asked me how long I'd wanted to seize authority from him, while pretending to be on his side in all our House debates -- !! He said he hoped I would lose everything the way he'd lost it, the loyalty of our people the way I was taking it from him, have my own flesh and blood turn on me as well, and leave me in the same desolation as I was leaving him, before the Doom of the gods fell on me.
[Finarfin buries his face in his hands, bowing his head as both Amarie and Nerdanel turn, and with the Sea-Mew, stare at him in shock]
-- Well, his wish came true.
He couldn't have cut me worse than if he'd taken your spear and run it through my heart --
Yes, but he's apologizing --
[Luthien nods, her expression earnest agreement, but Finrod is too upset to notice]
I didn't hear a "sorry" in there anywhere.
My lord -- only consider how long and complicated your own apology to the Powers was, given that there were parts of what you'd done that you didn't regret, nor feel that you ought to regret, either.
Finrod: [very brittle tone]
Even you, now?
What do you think, Sire?
[he reaches out his hand to clasp the Captain's]
-- Curse or not, it all served one good purpose, notwithstanding -- to show me which were my true friends.
[simultaneous, amused contempt]
You're such a loser, Ingold.
[Finarfin raises his tear-stained countenance in a stern glare at his niece, while his brother steels himself to rebuke his daughter and the Warden of Aglon looks at the couple with a conflicted dismay]
Warden of Aglon: [aside]
-- Is that how I appear?
You know you let your people walk all over you --
Either Angrod or Aegnor: [not quite aside]
-- But not his consort --
[the Noldor Princess turns quickly trying to catch who it was]
-- What was that?
[the Princes both look equally innocent, or guilty;
Eol, contrarily, frowns at them for slighting his wife, but before any of their respective kindred can say anything more in reproach]
Soldier: [aloud to his comrades]
We could just bore a deep hole in the floor and fling them both in.
But Lady Luthien said not to.
She didn't say anything about the White Lady.
-- That's true.
[their conversation arouses both appalled dismay and involuntary laughter from the lawful Eldar]
She only said not to pound him. That doesn't rule out pushing him, does it?
But Ar-Feiniel is the High King's scion. Are we allowed to do things to her?
We just won't ask. So what if we get in trouble after?
[pause -- glancing at the late High King of the Noldor in Beleriand]
Besides, I don't think he'll mind it that much, even if he thinks he ought to.
[Fingolfin winces and looks at the ceiling]
Aredhel: [standing up, furious]
I will not stay here and be insulted like this.
Eol: [unfazed by any of it, with a casual wave of his hand]
Don't worry, darling, I'll be here waiting for you -- before or after your ill-bred countrymen have indulged their natural inclinations for bloodshed.
[she glares at him and sits down again in sulky quiet]
Apprentice: [worried frown]
Don't you think you really ought to be encouraging your followers to solve problems without recourse to violence?
They just did. At least for the moment.
Finrod: [partly serious lament]
Why couldn't I have been born to some quiet, obscure, uncomplicated family with no ambitions and no connections and nothing to do but employ my skills as I pleased?
[Finarfin, struggling to control his tears, gives a short involuntary laugh at that]
Fingolfin: [entirely serious lament]
Why could I not have been blessed with servants possessing the intelligence and courage to call me down and restrain me, instead of the agreement and recklessness I mistook for the former virtues?
Finrod: [snapping right out of humorous self-pity]
Because you didn't choose people of that caliber to counsel you, uncle.
That's an awfully cold thing to say, Finrod.
-- Yet the truth, I fear. 'Tis always easiest to choose those that but agree, and that enthusiastically, than those discouraging sorts who point out every possible reason not to follow the desired course, and what the possible consequences of any action are, and the likelihood of the least pleasant of them to occur as a result, nor is it particularly pleasant to surround one's self with those who do not hesitate to name your faults, as soon or sooner than to sing your praises, and still less when there is no question it be done from loyalty, not jealousy.
[he bows his head to the Steward, who smiles wryly at this unsought praise]
Edrahil, is there anything else you'd add to that?
Little -- save to remind you, my lord, that it requires two to hold converse, and words which were said did not go unanswered that Night. -- As you yourself in recollected times recall, and have regretted that which you said in turn, which was little less in harshness.
Finrod: [dark sarcasm]
[his father makes a hurried gesture]
-- Nay, 'tis no matter --
What other sorts of things did you say to your father, besides calling him irresolute and weak?
[her cousin starts to answer -- stops, looks away in shame, tries again and shakes his head]
I -- can't we just say it was -- in anger, and let it go at that?
If you're willing to leave it like an open chasm between you.
You don't --
[checks again -- helplessly]
Luthien, I -- I can't. I'm -- not proud of what I said.
But too proud to repeat it.
You'll have to address it someday -- which you must have known, unless you stay here forever really.
[Angrod and Aegnor shift restlessly, avoiding each other's eyes, and everyone else's]
-- Yes. And yes. But I thought I would have a lot longer to put it off. -- Like 'Tari.
'Tis no matter, my son.
Finrod: [looking up, his gaze fierce]
But it is. She's quite right. And I'm a coward, and --
Finarfin: [amazed aside]
You, a coward?
-- I don't want to revisit that -- that Darkening, I'd much rather pretend it didn't happen, just like you -- but it remains a yawning abyss which will swallow up all attempts to bridge it over, unfilled. If -- if you chose to remind me of my words, Father, that would be one thing, but I -- cannot overcome my shame at them to utter them again, even to unsay them, not even though most people here heard them the first time.
[Luthien looks at him seriously]
But he won't. You can See that as clearly as I.
And I can't.
Then set another the task in your stead, Sir.
[Finrod turns and stares at him with uncertainty and worry]
That -- is no office for a friend.
If not a friend -- then for whom?
[after a moment Finrod nods assent, tautly, but looking somehow relieved that it's taken out of his hands, as does his father]
I'll make report of you, for you, to both of you, my lords, and do you tell me if recollection fails me.
[Finrod puts his head down on his forearms, hiding his face]
Only not all of it, for Nienna's sake --
Captain: [grim smile]
No, I don't think there's any need for all six-hundred exchanges less ten with or without repeats. The last one is enough --
[he pauses, gathers himself and goes on in a cold, clipped, ironic cadence recognizably familiar from Act II, the close of the Council, despite the archaic phrasing of this debate]
"Nay, then, sir, do thou go back in duteous release, winking at thine own cowardice, and name thyself faithful and hold thyself high as Oiolosse in thine own esteem, and thou will't -- but thou shalt ken, e'en as we, aye down all thy safe unthreatened changeless hours, that selfish and corroded center of thy spirit, which hath feigned a pious remorse at which offense nor thou nor we did e'er commit, nor might have circumvented, saving only had we forgone all prudence, and hasted e'en so rashly as our blood-reckless kin, and so there's naught of reason in yon self-blaming for Swanhaven so sad incarnadined -- no more than in thine accusatory claims upon me. Indeed, 'tis well hast ceded up thy ring withal, for certes thou hast no claim longer upon thy folk that now, saving but for we that art 'most willfully rebel 'gainst the gods,' do wander without guide or guard to their defence and ordering. Desert them, in their darkest need, my father, and name thyself virtuous thereby, in empty Tirion -- and be that thy consolation, as our duty must needs be ours."
"Deceive thyself, as thou wouldst, O Wise Elf, but do thou rest thee assuréd, thou dost not hide thy falsehood its truth from mine eyes; nor will I pardon thee, nay though the Lady of Sorrows in her own most high self should weep for thy pains, that hast rent apart nor only our House, but my heart withal, stealing from me all my children that thy mastery be complete -- "
[he stops, as distraught and shaken as the Kings he has been quoting]
-- I'm sorry.
[shaking his head]
I can't do the rest either.
There's none may wound another so bitter-keen nor killing deep, as them that long in love enwoven dwelt, and afterwhiles be riven --
[it is Luthien's turn to put her arm around Finrod's shoulders in a gesture of comfort which is severely lacking by the looks on the faces of all gathered there; even the Lord Warden and the embattled spouses appear somewhat subdued at the recollected display of familial disintegration they have just witnessed. Finrod raises his head to face his father, even as the Captain rests his forehead on his hand, looking unwell and upset -- the Steward quietly urges Huan to get up and go around behind the dais to his friend, where the Hound crouches down behind him like a sphinx, leaning his jaws on the Captain's shoulder. (The Sea-elf, who was moving to make a similar gesture, stops and frowns at the Lord of Dogs.)]
Finrod: [with effort]
I regret . . . all of my words to you at Araman . . . except those which which were true, and remain so.
[Finarfin doesn't say anything, just Looks at him]
We couldn't have prevented the Kinslaying, and --
-- it was our duty to lead, and that fact of duty . . . all my consolation hereafter.
[silence; Amarie sighs and shakes her head dispiritedly]
And I do ken full well thou wert no rebel miscreant nor rival unto me, my wiseling, and would unsay my charges of that coldest hour. Canst thou yet pardon me, of thy pity, for that cruel anger and yet this last, the which I vow indeed be last, nor only latest -- ?
I do, sir.
[Elsewhere -- the brightening mists]
[Beren looks around in the swirling grayness, wary and cautious as he rises slowly from the matted turf, but in a very hyper-alert way, not able to see what or where anything else might be. He whirls, as if hearing something, and then turns back as though glimpsing something from the corner of his eye, standing very still, taut as a bowstring -- and then someone reaches out of the fog to tap him lightly on the shoulder, with one quick finger, pulling back like a playful cat. Beren spins around, making a completely instinctive and utterly futile attempt to draw nonexistent sword with equally absent hand before flinging himself down and aside in a defensive roll, coming up in a crouch ready to fend off the person who has accosted him as best he can.]
[He is not prepared, however, for peals of laughter, or an iridescent-robed figure too overcome at his reaction to speak for several moments, or even to stand straight. It is Vana, Orome's wife, but not as we have seen her before while watching the Loom: now she is The Ever-Young, the embodiment of Springtime, and although she is not much taller than Luthien, she is incomparably more beautiful and creepy -- for her visible manifestation changes from moment to moment, flowers and petals appearing and blending to form the semblance of her gown, her jewelry, and even perhaps her hair and features, so that the Maiden of Flowers appears not so much as an illusion, but as a glimpse of something far more complex and timeless than any single image could convey.]
That wasn't funny.
Yes, it was.
[she claps her hands delightedly]
It was the most ridiculous thing I've seen all season. Come on, haven't you lain around long enough?
[she darts forward, like a bird, and grabs his hand, tugging him up and spinning him halfway around as she keeps going, then releases him to stand and look at him critically.]
-- What are you staring at me for? You've seen me often enough.
[while he is standing there open-mouthed, she darts off into the mist again and vanishes, leaving Beren shaking his head in bewilderment.]
But who --
[she reappears behind him again and startles him by tugging on a strand of his hair]
Aah -- !
[he turns and gives her an accusing look -- but she is not there, having turned with him like a ballerina and stayed out of his angle of vision -- and then taps him on the shoulder again. This time he stays still, statue-like, as though frozen, while a long moment passes. Finally she sighs in exasperation and comes around to face him.]
You're no fun. -- Why not?
Um. -- If you haven't noticed, I'm dead.
-- So? Lots of people are.
[she circles him again, in a very stylized movement, as if she were practicing dance-steps, seeming to ignore him -- then pounces again:]
So why are you so grim and dreary all the time? You didn't used to be.
How much time you got? This could take a while.
[she waves her hand dismissively]
You don't need to tell me about how your life was ruined by Morgoth several times over, everybody already knows all about that. I'm talking about now.
It still happened.
But you can't do anything about it now. -- Can you?
Beren: [getting stubborn-angry]
It's still happening. Everywhere I go -- everyone is out to get me. It's not right.
Vana: [halting in mid-pirouette]
[she gives him a very piercing Look from the corners of her eyes and waits until he looks down first.]
Not everyone. But --
So why are you worrying? Why don't you enjoy the time you have now?
[she darts around him again, he turning this time to try to keep facing her]
But you don't --
[he breaks off in open-mouthed astonishment, seeing that the turf in the little circle around them is now lush and green as far as can be seen into the haze]
You're -- Are you -- ?
[but gets no further, as she has swung around the other way and caught hold of his shoulder, spinning him back off balance]
You used to know how. But you've forgotten.
You've forgotten how to dance. How can you be fit for my sisters if you can't dance?
Come on, you don't want to stay here, do you? This is boring!
Beren: [gesturing to the fog]
But you can't see where you're going in this --
[she moves about behind him again and surprises him by covering his eyes with her hands for an instant]
What does it matter, if you think there's nowhere to go?
There isn't. Not for me at least. -- Except away.
Vana: [appearing in front of him again and folding her arms]
Do you have any idea how tiresome you're being? Do you want me to leave you here alone?
Beren: [blurting it out]
I mean -- I'm not trying to be rude --
Vana: [tossing her head]
I'd hate to see you try, then.
I'm sorry. You're right, I don't know how to live anymore -- Tinuviel gave that back to me, every time, but I've lost it again -- for good, I'm afraid.
Oh, not for good.
[she circles behind him and pulls his hair again]
Besides, you've not tried looking, yet.
[he moves away in annoyance]
What's the point, though? Really? I'm asking -- if it's just going to be yanked away from me again --
This is so boring. -- Misery, anguish, and world-sorrow. If it weren't for her, I swear -- it isn't as though I haven't things to do, you know, -- and I was already very put out with you for making Tav' so unhappy --
Beren: [completely confused]
Wh -- what?
Vana: [shaking her head impatiently]
Never mind, it's boring, and it's over. I told them I would, anyway. Come on, I'll lead the way --
[she reaches out her hand to him, but he draws back]
Don't you trust me?
[he shakes his head, half-smiling in a kind of amused dismay]
Beren: [completely honest]
Not even a little?
[she puts her hands on his shoulders and looks at him very seriously]
I promise I won't lead you into a green field of algae over a quagmire. -- I couldn't have, anyway: you saw the waterflies above the surface and heard the peepers and knew, as your pursuers did not.
Beren: [sounding confused]
No, I did that -- the patrol that morning --
You made the marsh thaw? The frogs and bugs start mating? Really.
[she gives him a narrow Look]
No, that wasn't -- I mean --
[without warning she spins him around and darts forward to end up standing in front of him again, staring at him intensely]
Have I ever led you wrong?
? ? ?
-- Or would you rather still be wandering in the wood, your voice still frozen in your heart's midwinter?
[while he is still struggling to understand, she lunges for his hand again and pulls him, urging:]
Come on -- race you!
[he resists, not actively, but anchoring her as she flits back and forth before him like a bird on a thin twig or a narcissus on a windy day, pulling him along behind her]
The top of the hill.
Beren: [looking around at the pale swirling mists around them]
Vana: [as she draws him up the beginning of a slope, increasing her pace]
But how can you not win, if you're leading me?
Figure it out, silly!
[he jerks his chin defiantly at that, and something determined and a little crazed comes into his expression, as he tries to keep pace with her. Just as they are reaching the crest of the hill he swings her around, using the slope to assist him, so that he is now leading, and as her speed carries her in an arc that helps spin them both up, he stops her, catching her with his right arm around her backwards-leaning waist before she can fall, as though they were dancing partners in a sculptured tableau.]
I win --
Vana: [also whispering]
[For a long, long instant they stare at each other, the Ever-Young with a mysterious smile, Beren with a kind of amazement at his own daring: slowly, almost as if in a trance, he lifts his hand to touch her hair, her cheek, her lips, as lightly as if he were touching a wild bird, while she smiles up from his hold. It is a very intense, very strange moment -- which is promptly broken as the precarious balance of their pose is lost and they topple onto the grass, Vana with a wild shriek of laughter, he with a cheerful shout of alarm, and she leaps up, tugging him to his feet with a little impatient bounce in her step.]
Beren: [laughing, his eyes sparkling]
-- I won.
[she nods, just as gleeful]
Now you must pay the forfeit!
[he thinks she's teasing him]
Beren: [uncertain if she's joking]
Vana: [raising her eyebrows]
What does it matter? You cannot undo what you've done. Or can you?
Well, no, but --
Then it doesn't matter. You must pay the price.
Beren: [still hoping it's a joke]
So -- what does a goddess want from me?
[shaking his head]
-- you can't ask that of me!
Of course I can.
[she pirouettes carelessly, ending up back in front of him, and he steps away in alarm]
Beren: [increasing panic]
What good will it do you, to take my -- my sight?
[she only shrugs, and darts around him, her lightheartedness seeming suddenly very sinister]
[he backs away again, and she keeps following, with an erratic, half-dancing motion, smiling the whole time]
But this isn't right --
By a trick --
And? Haven't you always?
[he takes another step backwards -- and into something dark and solid behind him, like the wall of a tower in the fog, and she steps in close, with no more room to retreat, definitely invading of personal space. Intense:]
Will you disavow your deeds, then?
[pause -- he stares back at her, not looking away]
[she reaches out and takes his face in her hands. He flinches, closing his eyes, and she kisses him hard and hungrily on the lips. The Power steps away suddenly, reeling a little as though dizzy, her eyes wide in shock]
Oh! . . . oh . . . I never guessed . . . I never guessed you saw us that way . . . -- No wonder my sisters love you so much!
[he looks at her, blinking, dazed, and she laughs]
Remember what I told you!
[sfx -- vanishes into a spread of mixed flowers rising around him]
Remember -- ? I guess that means all of it . . . -- as if I could ever forget!
[he turns to see what he fetched up against and looks up -- and up -- to the black column rising behind him into the mist, wide as a tower and just as tall. Half unbelieving, he looks across through the brightening mist to where another dark, shrouded outline can be seen.]
The Corollaire --
[he raises his hand to touch the bark of Telperion reverently, and the mist is cleared away in a sudden breeze, revealing not only the dead Trees fully but the mountains all around in the distance and right here, the sweep of land below leading out to the hill with the white city of Tirion on its crest and out through the Pass, a glimpse of coast and blue horizon far off. (Note: as the light changes from foggy pallor to the clarity of dawn, everything in the scene is awash in radiant morning color -- including Beren: no longer ghostly, his worn cast-offs and tatters richly glowing in tones of sienna and umber, granite and kingfisher blue of his Elven knight's cloak, the browns and grays no more drab than burnished wood or rain-wet leaves against the sky; this remains so throughout the entire Corollaire sequence.)]
-- Is this real?
[There is a sound behind him of wind in branches, not terribly loud, the prolonged rustle of a species whose leaves are very lightly hinged to their twigs, such as birches -- he turns again, and sees -- a beech tree, unbelievably tall, its leaves shimmering in the morning, where there was none as they raced up the hill, directly between the Two, and he falls on his knees, bowing his head in homage.]
-- My Lady --
Yavanna: [voice heard as camera focuses on Beren]
Rise, my Champion -- it's a little late for such formality, don't you think?
[Luthien is looking down at the stretch of dais between her and the more orderly part of her audience with rather a bemused expression as her cousin and his foremost counselor kneel on the stones building a large map of the sort first seen in Act II, an illusion of topography and vegetation which looks both like an ambitious architectural model made of silvery light, and a very lumpy glowing carpet. By their expressions, their living friends and relations find it at least as peculiar as she does.]
So did you come out of Doriath here, or further up, here?
Hmm . . . I'm not really sure -- it didn't look anything like that when I was there, after all. It was sort of looming over me, you see --
Finrod: [briskly interrupting]
Well, let's turn it this way instead --
Steward: [stopping him]
I don't think that is going to help, meaning no disrespect to the Lady, since --
Finrod: [cutting him off with a frown]
You set Watchtower Number Ten in the wrong place.
[pointing to a section]
Steward: [looking hard at the map]
I did not.
I should know, Edrahil, I put it there myself in the first place.
The tower, indeed, my lord -- but surely not the hill? That did predate our arrival in Beleriand, I believe.
That's what I meant. The hill is too far west.
Far from it.
You should know, none of that is anywhere near where I was.
Look. It should be a league and a half from Eleven, but that would put it right there --
So does it really matter if it's all correct?
-- which is in the middle of the Narog!
And I might point out, were I so inclined, that 'twas not I who drew the watercourses.
[Luthien shrugs and gives up, somewhat bemused; the lawful Eldar look rather dismayed. Camera shift to the back ranks of the steps, where the Elf of Alqualonde is scowling at the Lord of Dogs, who keeps giving her worried, eye-rolling glances over the Captain's back, the latter having his head down resting on his arms]
Captain: [without looking up]
Please stop glaring at Huan, Sea-Mew.
How do you know that I am, if you attend not?
You're making him whine and twitch.
[lifting up his head and looking at her]
It's not necessary, is it? He already knows you don't forgive him, and there are more appropriate targets for your anger present.
But I am afraid of that one, still, when I am not too angry to recollect it.
[she looks across them at the Lord Warden, and back down again hastily, and shudders]
But not of Huan.
[she gives him a sidelong Look but doesn't reply, while the Hound rolls his eyes in doggish worry towards her]
I will not make him bark again.
[Huan gives a hesitant tail thump; she tosses her hair]
It is much too noisy.
No, Sire, I did not make it too long -- every wretched ell of it that I ever travelled, and no more, 'twixt there and Teiglin!
[Finrod makes an impatient exclamation and gesture over the map, while Luthien watches them in tolerant amusement]
Teler Maid: [worried frown]
Why do they quarrel over such a small matter now?
Because it is a small, unimportant matter, and why did you come home and snap at my sister whenever you'd gone down to hang about on the steps of the Mindon and been snubbed by Edrahil?
What scale are we using, anyway? I don't think it's the same overall.
The scale is irrelevant, so long as it maintains internal consistency.
Because Suli' did not mind it and I was cross and joyless.
Well then, there's your answer.
Well, exactly -- and how can we tell that if we don't know what it is?
Angrod: [mostly aside]
Please, just stop it, would you?
Very well, Majesty -- choose a measure and set a distance, and we'll refigure it from there.
Luthien: [rueful, to her relations near and distant, living and dead]
-- I don't think it took me this long to cross the Talath Dirnen on foot.
You are cross and joyless as well.
Why did you do it, when you would not ere now?
Situation changed. They do that, you know.
[meanwhile the Doriathrin Lord has gotten involved in correcting the map, which is getting bigger by the moment]
-- No, your Majesty, my lord, I must declare you are both wrong, in setting the Road so nigh to Malduin there . . .
But you said you would not, and it would do more harm than good!
Captain: [with another small shrug]
It needed to be done, and no one else could in that particular given circumstance. Command responsibility, it's called.
But you did not manage it at all well.
Aegnor: [to the ceiling]
Surely no one's surprised by that -- !
[the Captain winces; as the Sea-elf contrarily turns a fierce glare on her liege lady's son, the latter's brother elbows him sharply in the ribs. Aegnor gives Angrod a glare in turn, but Angrod stares his sibling down, or at least away.]
Teler Maid. [more subdued]
I am sorry. But it is true nonetheless.
[the map has now crept along almost the entire bottom tier of the dais, up to Angband, and Fingolfin is correcting their placement of the northwestern mountain ranges, while Luthien looks on with increasing ironic humour, others of the Ten offer suggestions, Finarfin and Nerdanel at least find it fascinating, as does the Apprentice (though Elenwe does not seem much interested), Aredhel is sulking, and Eol is pretending he isn't interested in it at all. (Amarie is watching Finrod with a cold and quite expressionless countenance.)]
Nonetheless -- it was enough.
Edrahil couldn't do it -- that would have made things far worse, even if he had been there for it all and not off agonizing over whether he dared set foot on what was, when you come right down to it, just a very deep lot of water on top of an even deeper lot of water.
That should be a little more to the right --
Nephew, I do not tell you where your capital city was.
-- Because you don't know --
Nor would I, if I did.
Teler Maid: [in a tone of quiet scorn]
It is so foolish, that he does fear the Sea.
[as the Captain gives her a level Look, defensively]
You never did.
No . . . I'm afraid of things like being unable to see or move or breathe freely, or of being completely powerless to help someone else, -- or of the people I trusted unquestioningly to make the best choices for the best reasons, suddenly turning on each other and mauling each other without regard for truth or kinship.
[Aegnor makes as if to say something, then stops; Angrod stares at him, but he feigns to be absorbed in watching their eldest sibling wrangle with their uncle over the positioning of the forts of the Leaguer.]
Warden of Aglon: [aside]
You'd think those who are unfit to be named among the Noldor would at least have the sense of shame, if nothing else, to refrain from displaying that fact!
[his erstwhile adversary looks around at the number of people present, then at his solitary state]
Captain: [to Huan]
Dumb, but brave, no question.
[the Sea-elf giggles but quickly ducks out of the Feanorian's line of sight]
Warden of Aglon:
Outnumbered or not, I am warranted in despising you for your . . . servility and lack of regard for our people's higher station.
Captain: [shaking his head in disgust]
I do not understand how you can sit there and mock us for being proud to be servants of our King, when your own life hinged on being Celegorm's gatekeeper.
Warden of Aglon: [hot indignation]
Lord Feanor's House are worthy lords and it is an honor to serve them, and give whatever aid one can to their efforts.
This is why I clobber you people, because I haven't the patience to go round and round in endless circles with you, trying to get you to see how you're being inconsistent.
[the Warden gives him a sullen glare and looks away.]
The difference between us is -- well, one of them, at least -- is that I'm honest about wanting direction and guidance, if no more than the reassurance that someone with greater knowledge, understanding and dispassion is there to back me up or call me down if need be, so I don't have to constantly second-guess the whole many-sided situation and my own judgments, to wit, should I be doing this at all? Are we even supposed to be here? Does anyone in charge have the least notion of what's afoot, and if I'm really it -- we've Morgoth's mercy of a chance of getting through this --
Wouldn't you agree that I at least ought to know the disposition of the blasted marshes, now?
Steward: [very precise]
If I may remind you, my lord, you were not in full possession of your faculties at the time. The channel proper of Sirion was here, not here. If that had not been so, we would have drowned -- which I am fairly certain was not the case.
Oh, stop -- there, happy now?
Captain: [disbelief evident]
-- Don't tell me you'd rather have had ultimate responsibility for the possible death or capture of your lord, not merely your company, than being told -- "Hold the Pass and stop them from getting through after us, no matter what" -- ? I know which I would have prefered in the Sudden Flame.
[the Warden does not answer; again Finrod's brothers have a quick silent interchange, but do not end up saying anything.]
That depends, Sire -- what definition of happiness are you using?
Captain: [after a momentary hesitation, quietly]
-- I'm sorry about your brother.
I confess, I find it a matter of great wonderment to me, that ye do find it not troublesome i'the least wise, to make such Workings illusory, for lacking of all flesh.
Apprentice: [reluctant and very apologetic]
Er -- my lady, it's not really polite to mention the fact that people are -- dead, here.
No, that's all right, that's only scientific curiosity, not that the lady's disturbed by us being ghosts.
Nerdanel: [smiling sadly]
Nay, yet e'en so likewise.
Warrior: [with a respectful nod]
[this just leaves the disguised Maia more confused than ever]
On the contrary, good mine aunt, 'tis most passing light, that hath not weight of flesh thus interposéd 'twixt thought and world, that one verily might dwell most utter and complete, did so wish, within the pleasaunce of illusion.
[Note: she pronounces "illusion" archaically, with a sibilant "s" instead of the "zh" sound, which makes it sound not unlike "Elysium".]
Finrod: [offhand, still moving trees around]
And then there's the possibility which has yet to be proven one way or the other, that everything here is illusory, in a sense.
Finarfin: [jolted out of his brooding]
Finrod: [looking up from the project for the moment]
Right -- that none of this environment is extant in the same way that, say, the Big Island exists, or Arda itself, or our halls within Tirion, any more than a painting of a house is the same as the house itself, even if it were painted on screens around one so that someone walking through might not be able to tell without touching the walls that they were cloth instead of stone.
Aredhel: [rolling her eyes]
Oh, Stars, this is too absurd.
You can't prove it isn't so, all the same.
Lord Namo got very put out when you said that last time.
Finrod: [gesturing to the arches overhead]
I don't mean that the Halls themselves are necessarily unreal. Only that whatever we perceive here might well be as much a matter of Their willing and mental images of it, as our own perceptions of ourselves are our own. -- One greater Working, making it possible for us that are discorporate to feel at home.
And what, youngling, of we that bide here most presently enflesh't?
Either the same -- or else you might be but dreaming, and your bodies still Outside.
Nay, I ken well that I dream not!
Luthien: [thoughtful frown]
Hm. I'm really not sure, myself. It all looks and seems very real -- but then it would, wouldn't it?
Forasmuch as were't mine own, 'twould be other than this, in truth!
Finrod: [carefully bland]
Against the Weaver's workings, and Lord Namo's -- you'd back your own strength, then?
[she stares at him angrily, caught out; he goes on as if not aware of her dilemma]
What this place looks to be, to one of the gods -- or to the One -- I am not sure, as much as I am sure from all the evidence that it does not appear exactly the same to each of us, and that our own will changes not only our own perceptions, but may also shift those of others near us. That's all.
I must say, dearest cousin, your garden in Tirion is superb. One can almost recall color therein.
Aye, well, 'tis long enow I shall have Worked it, verily.
Finarfin: [to Fingolfin]
What makest thou of such theorem -- or indeed must I declare, theorem passing strange and troublous, my brother?
It does not seem to matter much one way or the other, ultimately -- Majesty.
[Finarfin looks at him warily, but his elder is smiling at him with a faintly-rueful expression of shared sibling humour, and precedes to manifest a chessman, raising his eyebrows as he continues:]
So that I might conjure me up the semblance of my diversions, for myself it changes nothing if the floor beneath my gaming table be as phantasmal as the board, if your son's most troublesome speculation, that there be no hall of very hollowing, but all here's solid rock, and thus the Halls to be enlarged ever without difficulty, by virtue of their merely artificial state.
Finrod: [who is frowning rather hard at a section of the lower Sirion]
Mind you, uncle, I don't think that possibility's particularly likely -- it would require, for one, that the Weaver have broken an imaginary lamp in a fit of anger, then gotten upset over that and flung it at us, which would seem to be taking a bit of playacting rather far and indicate that she herself had gotten caught up in her own illusions, which in turn just doesn't fit with what I know of the Powers at all. -- Though it would explain how it's so easy to move them around, and so hard to map them -- or how there's no consistency of distance or travel here. One explanation, at least.
[to the Steward, indicating some detail on the map]
-- What about that?
Fourth Guard: [wry]
Whatever you do, Sir, don't mention that possibility to Beren.
[checks -- to Luthien]
I'm so sorry, my Lady.
Don't be. I know that he's isn't lost.
[to the mapping team]
That looks rather different from the image I saw in the Hall of Maps.
Finrod: [looking up again from where he's kneeling, pleased]
Oh, did you see that? What did you think of it?
Mostly -- that's how much further I'm going to have to walk? And then, -- that it was incredibly beautiful.
Finrod: [with a touch of mischief]
Edrahil made that, you know.
Steward: [tolerant patience]
Aye, my lord, even as you made Nargothrond, in degree proportionate to its lesser scale.
If you're going to put in ponds of that small size, her Highness will never get a chance to resume her narrative.
Don't be absurd, it won't take that long.
And that is a saying that has never been heard before.
One does wonder if Lord Namo will be quite as indulgent as my master your uncle, Sire . . .?
Captain: [calling down to them]
Oh, I'm sure he won't mind stepping over him ever time he has to hold an audience, really. Nor her Ladyship.
Finrod: [mock indignation]
Hey there, enough -- that project only took . . . er, right. I suppose we ought to finish it up, oughtn't we?
We, my lord?
[As the Captain is scratching Huan's nose with a more cheerful expression, (and Finrod's brothers are looking rather wistful at the easy camaraderie of the preceding exchanges,) the Sea-Mew edges up closer to them and pokes him on the arm]
Well, did he or did he not? Make that other map?
It was his idea; he got permission -- coordinated the research -- planned the program of the illustrations and their sequence -- chose the colors -- assembled a group of artists to carry it out -- might perhaps have actually touched the murals twice in the course of correcting its lines. What do you think?
Teler Maid: [raising her eyebrows]
I think it most odd that they do quibble over it then.
[the Lord Warden breaks into the ensuing pause with an abruptness reminiscent of a bird-of-prey's sharp movement]
Warden of Aglon: [impatient]
Captain: [shaking his head]
This again! Well, what?
Warden of Aglon:
Aren't you going to say anything else?
Almost certainly. It's rather a habit, I'm afraid.
[the Warden gives him a very sharp Look and snorts indignantly, but does not further explain. Finrod sits back and looks down at the carpet of three- dimensional illuminated terrain appraisingly]
That should do it, I think.
It still seems a bit off.
It's probably the difference in perspective that's causing it. At least --
[with an ironic grin, to his chief counselor]
-- let's hope so!
[they get up and resume their former places on the steps, the Steward giving his lord a hand up; as the youngest of the Kings present circles the image he intersects, quite unawares, with his father's ankle, causing the latter to flinch not with fear but distress; the late High King, observing, reaches out to comfort the living, and then catches himself -- but Finarfin gives his brother a grateful and appreciative look all the same. As Finrod sits down by Luthien's side, he whistles]
That's a great deal of map, isn't it?
[to Luthien, a bit chagrined]
Luthien: [shaking her head]
It's all right, I understand.
He's put Mithrim in the wrong place.
No, he hasn't; it's the angle, that's all.
I don't think so.
Fine -- you get him going again now that he's calmed down.
Of course they would leave out Nan Elmoth.
Aredhel: [looking around at him, and in the same tone]
Stop being stupid -- the map doesn't go that far east. I don't see my home on there, either, do you?
That's a deliberate omission, though, I'm guessing, since it must be right in there somewhere --
[she points towards the topography of the Crissaegrim]
Aredhel: [sitting up straight, shocked]
How do you know where it is?
Well, I saw it -- or what I presumed it must have been, unless there are more secret Cities tucked away in Beleriand than our spies ever heard of.
You actually saw Gondolin?
I saw a stone city, not like ours, but like a big white water-lily in a cup of water --
[Elenwe seems really interested, for the first time, but doesn't interrupt]
Aredhel: [giving Luthien an incredulous Look]
-- What?! It's nothing like that!
Luthien: [speaking on as if the other woman hadn't been so rude]
-- or like, like the Fortress might have been, if it wasn't contaminated and an awful lot bigger.
Finrod: [suspiciously hoarse]
Um. You mean, how did I see it? That was when the Eagles were taking us south from Angband. But that's a long while after, and I'm getting ahead of myself. But from the air, that's how.
[he doesn't answer, and looks rather strained]
What's wrong? Finrod?
[Finrod shakes his head, lifting his hand in a waving-off gesture, but can't talk. The Steward half turns and grips his wrist reassuringly]
My lord, let not the shock of unprepared-for recollection force from your thoughts that Lord Turgon is well, and safe, and his folk likewise -- and leave aside as unfruitful all concerns for the cause and breadth of your friendship's sundering until you may see him again to question him in person.
[Finrod looks down, not speaking]
Ingold. And he hath changéd out all recognition, mine own dear love had ne'er willingly reft thy friendship, nor thee of his companioning. -- Trust me, that hath a consort's comprehension, if thou mayest not trust thy friend in his absentry.
Captain: [holding him down by his collar]
No, he wouldn't appreciate it if you trod on everyone to go cheer him up.
Fingolfin: [very knowing]
The hurt is assuaged somewhat by knowing that my son and granddaughter bide secure -- but it abides nonetheless.
[Finrod does not look up yet, but nods in answer]
Aredhel: [distinctly uncomfortable]
I don't see why you're making such a matter of it -- it isn't as if you'd likely have seen him more than once in a yen regardless.
[the Steward turns his head and gives her an arctic Look]
Highness, do not exaggerate that you may diminish your own unease for my lord your kinsman's sorrow even as your royal father's.
[she does not quite dare to tell him to shut up, so contents herself with ignoring him.]
Finrod: [straightening with a sigh]
[shaking his head]
It's a good thing the Enemy hasn't managed to construct any creatures capable of matching an Eagle for flying capability.
[Aredhel's husband shakes his head, laughing scornfully]
Is there no end to your frantic and implausible speculations, Noldo?
[taut, hostile pause as the Ten and the Princes give Eol angry glares]
Not that I've discovered, cousin.
[from Eol's expression, no epithet could be more insulting/annoying than that last; to Luthien:]
So -- do you want to tell me about your journey now? You've waited long enough, I'm afraid.
Oh, there hardly seems that much to tell, when you come down to it. I mean, it was rather frightening and rugged -- but the fear was wasted, really. It was more boring than anything else -- walk all day; find water; scavenge something to eat; hide if it sounded like something larger than a mouse might be about, find a tree or a high boulder to rest on when I got too tired to walk any longer -- and do it all again the next day.
I didn't see anything more dangerous than stags and boar -- no more sign of Orcs than of my father's scouts. I'd hoped that laying a false trail Northward would have misled them -- but I scarcely dared to hope it would work, if you know what I mean.
They probably thought you'd go the easiest way, through Brethil, right to the Crossings and strike upriver to the Fortress from there.
I'm not that foolish. I did try to do things prudently and systematically at least. I just didn't anticipate --
[she glances at Nerdanel and checks herself]
[shaking her head, ironic]
To think of all the energy I wasted worrying about those Enemy armies my father said were waiting to swoop down and hunt me like a deer, when I could have been worrying full time about you all instead.
Highness, your father only said that because it was the truth.
Then why did I never hear anything before Dad comes out with it as if he'd only just thought of the possibility and were trying to convince himself that it were more than that?
My Princess -- no one wished to trouble you with useless fears, that you might no longer pass each day in full content -- or still worse, to cause you grief and guilt over the risk and cost of life to our warriors, as though it were indeed your own fault and responsibility that our ancient foe should seek in such a way to harm great Melian and our lord your father.
You know perfectly well what it looks like, though -- don't you?
. . .
[overlapping, all as worried as if it were still a potential danger]
Please, my Lady, it was the truth --
Your father wasn't lying, Highness, I did hear about that from Beleg once --
Even if it sounds suspect and was manipulative, you can believe that part, cousin.
Luthien: [with a sweeping-away gesture of her hand]
Oh I do, I believe it -- now; Beren told me. And it does make sense, after all, really -- that He'd be trying to get me as part of all his other offensives against them, to use me as leverage to get Doriath to surrender, if he could take me hostage. Or for revenge. But --
[she is still grim and her expression bitter]
-- Nevertheless, it's a difficult thing, to discover that those you've trusted to be wiser than yourself for all your life -- and more perfect in all abilities and virtue -- have deceived you. It calls all into question, everything that they've said before, and then afterwards to justify it -- not excluding whether or not it really was done for good intentions and for your own sake.
[she nods, gloomily; he turns a challenging Look on the living Vanya present]
-- Do you not agree, my lady?
Amarie: [stifled, looking straight ahead]
I deny thee not the right of thy words.
And what of the rightness of them?
[finally she glares at him]
Amarie: [through her teeth]
I'll not allow thee right thereunto defend thy rebel soul, by holding claim of ill-doing 'gainst the gods, that one wrong be set to justification of the other.
But that isn't what he's doing. He's pointing out the fact that after one has ruined one's credibility in a great matter, the trail's been beaten for any subsequent crises to follow, so that both future credibility and moral authority are now forever going to be deservedly taken with a grain of salt. That's why we don't really trust the Noldor any more. -- Present company excepted with exceptions, of course.
[to Finrod, with a curious frown]
-- Why salt?
Er -- what?
[he is just as thrown as everyone else by both the non-sequitur and the rapid recovery from angry exhausted nervous wreck to competent member of an ages-old ruling House, both those who knew the Princess in life as much as those who have only seen her under present circumstances.]
Where does that expression come from, and what does it mean? Beren had no idea why they used it as a figure of speech.
Oh. It -- ah, it's used in chemical reactions.
[as she keeps looking at him doubtfully, head to one side]
There are also medical applications of the element, my Lady -- which must be ever tempered lest it do more harm than good, to mortal systems -- and there is a more likely route for the metaphor to have entered the mortal vernacular, I judge.
Yes, that's a much clearer way of putting it.
[clearly not quite satisfied]
He guessed it might be because you can make any old glop taste halfway edible, if you add salt to it, when you're messing out pottage.
[the Ambassador winces at her idioms]
That -- could also be right.
Dare I guess, how Elu reacted to you using North-country Sindarin about the place?
Sounds like you already have.
[Elsewhere: the Corollaire]
[As Beren lifts his head we see that the Earthqueen has taken on her form as one of the Children of Eru, but here, out of doors and above-ground, her green dress glows in the early morning light and power coruscates from her like a waterfall in sunshine. No question that this is one of the Greater Powers who stands here, whatever her visible guise. She approaches him and rests her hands on his shoulders.]
[smiling, she pulls him up to his feet and continues to stand with her hands on his shoulders, looking down at him with an expression of tearful pride]
I . . . know you. -- But I've always known you --
[she draws her hands down his arms, taking his hand and holding his amputated wrist for a moment before reaching up to brush the hair away from his forehead]
-- My bravest of servants.
[still holding him by the hand, she turns and leads him to the eastern crest of the Corollaire, where she sits down in the grass and pulls him down beside her while he is still hesitating over whether it would be disrespectful. Putting her arm around his shoulders as if he were a younger sibling:]
-- So. Is this real?
[startled, he ventures to look at her directly, and realizes that she is teasing him a little, -- and starts to smile back]
I think -- that so much of me is left -- is really here. -- Whatever here means without a body.
[with a faintly-confused expression]
But -- it seems so real to me -- I seem real to me, I don't feel like a wraith here, even though it's -- Outside --
[stretching, leaning back, lifting his head and closing his eyes, like a hound scenting the wind]
The air -- the grass -- I can smell the breeze, taste the dew on it -- it doesn't feel like just memory this time --
Yavanna: [tossing her head]
Hmph. I should hope not.
[she rubs his back gently, and he looks at her again, trying to understand]
Are -- are you making all this happen -- for me?
I guess it's like when Tinuviel Sent to me in prison -- I never did understand if that was completely in my mind, or not -- I don't think she understood what I was asking, either . . . I said, "You were there. We were home," and she said, "I know, I was trying so hard to reach you, I didn't know if you were still here," and I kept trying to figure out if it was just a dream, or if I was really seeing it, and she just kept saying, "Well, yes, of course," and I figured it didn't really matter.
Except -- when I heard her in the dungeon, I was alive, so if it was real the way I still think of real then it was her changing the world outside me so that I really sensed it, but if it was a dream -- and I do know better now than to say, just a dream, but I still sort of think that way, telepathy isn't originally a mortal word at all, although none of these are, I guess . . . and you're being incredibly patient, listening to me ramble around like this --
[Yavanna smiles without saying anything]
-- so anyway, if it was all a dream, inside my mind, not the outside world changing but her voice affecting me directly, and I do think that has to be the case, because I don't think even a trumpet you could hear that far underground, much less a voice, then I was still there, only inside myself, so to speak -- so if that's what you're doing now, only more so, because this is even realler than that was -- where am I then? See, if I'm a ghost, then I still must be somewhere, right? But I'm having a hard time figuring that out, and how it would work really -- I mean, outside myself. Because I'm not making this up for me, you are.
I don't have the words to explain this.
I can tell you've been spending far too much time around those "Wise Elves" for your own peace of mind. The words you're looking for are "immaterial extramental reality," I believe.
That sounds about right.
[gesturing down towards the tranquil, uninhabited sward just below them]
-- So, if someone was out there, and you didn't think of putting them in this -- extramental reality, I wouldn't see them, would I? And if they looked up at the Corollaire, and happened to be looking on this side, they'd see you just sitting here talking to your self? -- Apparently?
Yavanna: [raising an eyebrow]
What makes you think they'd see anyone at all?
You can be invisible if you want to? Oh. Yeah. You're a goddess, I guess you can if you want. Or . . .
[he frowns, worrying it over]
-- Are you even hereat all? On the real Corollaire? Or is this just the idea of it that's in your thoughts?
[still smiling, she nods, once, deliberately; he looks down, biting his lip]
I guess I asked for that one. Um. What I'm trying to say is, how much of this is real? except what I'm really trying to ask is, what is "real" -- ?
Beren: [half-smile, teasing her just a little --]
So if you forgot about me would I stop existing?
Did I make you?
[he blinks at this, uncomprehending -- reaching down into the grass on her other side, she picks up a large snail, which comes out of its dormant state and begins to crawl across the back of her hand, waving exploratory eyes as she offers it to Beren, who lets it transfer itself to his knuckles, regarding with a charmed smile]
-- Not even the solid shell, that once protected your moving self as this little one's does, as integral and as hardily lost, is truly of my making, for all that the elemental substance of your flesh was taken from the works of my fashioning, even as theirs takes its nourishment from my husband's. -- Though that did allow me to clothe you more appropriately while you remain my guest.
[as Beren looks at the Earthqueen, confusion becomes comprehension -- swiftly followed by utter embarrassment; blushing furiously he scrutinizes the gliding mollusk rather than meet her eyes. She regards him with gentle curiosity:]
-- Why does that shame you? Or are you ashamed of your housing itself -- that love once gave you dwelling, made for you a shelter and warmth and garb for your naked soul, like every least furry animal? Do you think it nobler then, to be self-incarnate as we, taking shape but of our own will and power from the elements -- as young Melian did, for love -- than to come into Arda involuntarily, like this little one?
[she scoops up a small rodent from the hillside, mouse or vole or similar critter, and holds it between them cupped in her palm]
-- Or Luthien Tinuviel?
[Yavanna looks at him with earnest expression, waiting patiently for an answer. After a moment he carefully lets the snail crawl down onto grass and reaches over to stroke the little mammal sitting in her hand as it grooms its whiskers:]
No. I'm not ashamed of being born.
[looking up at her meaningfully]
I'm not ashamed of being shaped of Earth.
[with a slightly-rueful smile]
-- Little bit embarrassed at the idea of you knowing me that thoroughly that you can remember all this --
[gesturing across his body]
-- so right, but I guess I can deal with that, since it never bothered me to think of it when I was living, having been born.
[in a light, bantering tone, as he recovers from his discomfiture]
-- Thank you for the outfit, by the way. I always seem to be getting given shelter and clothes -- seems like another thing hasn't changed, being dead. You know, I'm supposed to be old enough to look after myself --
[a sudden expression of alarm comes over his face]
Hey, does that mean that -- that I was in their thoughts the same way I'm in yours, earlier, when . . .
[he hides his face against his knees in mortification as Yavanna smiles amusedly, letting the mouse-creature run freely from one hand to the other as she sits peacefully in the shadow of the dead Trees . . .]
[there is a certain definite tension in the atmosphere, and a more alert aspect to all the listeners, which might be the consequence of recent events, or of those which are about to be reached in the story being told. Huan is hunkered down at the back, hard up against the footing of the Thrones, trying very hard to be as unobtrusive as possible for a horse-sized canid.]
Luthien: [in a frank, matter-of-fact tone]
The whole thing is very difficult to talk about, because it's very hard even to think about properly at this point. I can't sort out well what were my impressions then, without them taking color from the light of subsequent revelations, and I'm not the same person I was then, either --
-- No, you're just a dead one, silly girl. You're still the same person.
Luthien: [with a controlled edge]
That wasn't what I meant, cousin. By the time we returned home finally -- long before that in fact -- it was --
-- as if Luthien was another country, and Tinuviel someone who had lived there, once, but long ago and that land so far distant that it perhaps didn't exist and there could be no going back to there in any event.
So, as it happened, where we were when Huan caught me wasn't as far from the City as it seemed, but I'd no way of judging distances out there, away from Doriath where I knew the landmarks, and being carried on horseback instead of walking. I didn't know we were going so much slower than need be, until much later, and then I realized that they must have been working out their approach to dealing with Orodreth and everyone else that was part of the following of House Finarfin.
[with a very edged, lopsided smile]
They just forgot to take into account two other people.
Captain: [frowning to himself]
Now, why were they out there at all? That wasn't part of their normal preferred range -- what were they hunting up in the northern borders for, anyway?
Apparently there were a lot of Wargs up there lately. I don't know, I never saw any. But that's what people said, besides themselves -- when we got back to the City -- I mean, when they got back to the City and I got there -- everyone was asking them if there had been many this time and congratulating them on doing such a good job of defending the Realm.
[the Captain makes a disgusted sound and shakes his head]
Yes, well, the fact that I never saw a Werewolf in my travels made me wonder at first if they'd deliberately gone to intercept me, if they'd Seen me coming, but it seems there was legitimately an increased threat reported by the border patrols, and that was the reason for the hunt they were holding. But I did glean from things overheard and said carelessly, by them and by the guards from their following, that it was partly a deliberate decision to make a good showing, focus attention on how active and proactive the two of them were being -- as compared to Orodreth sequestered in his office and buried under stacks of parchment.
How was he doing, as far as you could tell?
Completely overwhelmed, from what I could see. -- Now I really don't know how things were supposed to run, because I know you do them so much more different from Menegroth, but I definitely had the impression that even though things seemed normal on the surface -- not surface, you know what I mean -- nobody was starving, the City still had light and heat and there weren't any signs of want about -- that despite that, it was total chaos underneath and Orodreth was finding it quite beyond him to manage both your jobs at once.
[to the Steward, who is brooding over her words, leaning forward and putting her hand on his shoulder]
-- My lord, don't agonize over feeling somewhat satisfied that your Work was finally recognized and appreciated, if too late -- your friends will certainly be doing it for you, and you're not pleased about it any more than about the cause of it.
[he looks somewhat surpassed at her perception and assessment and nods once in acquiescence]
I had hoped that by my according him authority in view of all, he would have had more confidence in doing what needed to be done. He's a very able administrator -- there were never any significant complaints, nothing beyond the usual grumbling on all sides that there never were enough resources or time to meet all expectations, or that expectations weren't being met to satisfaction -- in all the centuries he ran Minas Tirith for me.
Don't feel sorry for him, Ingold -- it was his duty to stand by you, not to take the easy route of non-resistance (again -- !) and he doesn't deserve any pity if it turned out to be a tougher job than he'd anticipated.
Finrod: [very gently]
It's much more complicated than that.
[he is looking at their father as he speaks; Finarfin's countenance is as expressionless, and fragile, as a glass mask. Luthien looks over her shoulder at the Princes:]
Why do you blame Beren, and not him, anyway?
Because they don't want to think about one of us standing by and doing nothing to aid or defend the other. Easier to lay all the blame on those outside the family.
Don't speak for us -- you're not me!
[their sibling nods agreement]
All right. -- What would you say different to what I said only now?
[they both look sullen, Angrod more gloomy, Aegnor more tense; but don't actually have anything to add as it turns out]
It's the same problem with facing the fact of their friends' complicity.
[it is Aredhel's turn to glare now as well, but she doesn't say anything yet]
Yet thou dost not hate thy brother?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
No. Oh, no. I understand Orodreth far better now. I admit I was very angry with him at the outset, and -- bitter, for quite some time thereafter . . . and it still twinges, now and then, the way old scars do -- but the anger died when I understood what he'd been up against, and why he couldn't face the thought of conflict again. He was right; I shouldn't have let him follow me from Aman.
[his father shakes his head in turn, very definite]
Nay. In that hour thou couldst no more have stopped him, from staying by side of thee his dearest friend, than I to hold ye back. And he did blame thee for his -- will, he did most assuredly to err.
[Finrod looks uncomfortable, but somewhat reassured]
The fact remains that he broke, and you didn't.
Finrod: [in a patient, we've-argued-this-before tone]
He fell back on a stronger position in order to save as many as he could from the Enemy, rather than stay, and die, and give to Sauron not only the Fortress but casualties we couldn't afford with it.
[before the brothers can raise any more objections]
I must aver that I hold still 'twould have been a better risk, had young Orodreth made the attempt I died in making, and hazarded his own life against that of his adversary, so that the loss of one where one's own side was losing might chance to take the head from the winners and make the field level, if not recover victory thereby.
[this gets him disturbed Looks from their living relatives]
Angrod: [contrarily defensive]
No, that would have been a completely wasted gesture, uncle, you know he isn't a warrior on a level with you or Fingon --
Aredhel: [not quite aside]
That's a very kind way of putting it --
We are interrupting our royal cousin's story once again. -- Luthien, pray continue, if you please.
Well. At first I thought they just didn't believe me, and then I thought they couldn't because of some strange Dark influence over everyone's minds -- and then I didn't want to believe for a long time that they just didn't want to believe me. Afterwards I found out that most people were very uncomfortable having me about trying to force them to think about it, but I just thought it was surreal the way everyone was still having parties and enjoying themselves and worrying about trivial things -- and then they'd ask me why I was crying and wouldn't I like to dance perhaps? -- !
Then there were some who were, as it turned out, laughing at me all along as I tried to wake the rest of the City up to the crisis.
[back along the dais, the Sea-elf whispers to the Captain, who nods affirmatively]
Nay, seek not to spare my soul from anguish, good Luthien, else thou must needs spend a wearisome longsome time thy tale a-telling, to periscribe all mentioning my sons their names.
[they exchange a look of regret and sympathetic understanding]
I wish I didn't have to.
Anyway, the whole time there is very confusing and strange. I kept getting lost, and everyone kept smiling -- in the politest way -- at the poor native girl, overwhelmed at being out of the woods for the first time. I was dazed, and sick, and felt like I was missing part of me, and I thought sometimes that Beren must already be dead and I was starting to fade, and other times it seemed like I was in some illusion gone wrong and couldn't escape from it --
[she is starting to fray a little again]
Amarie: [weary exasperation]
Nay, let not thy words to melt anew and drown thy tale its telling -- !
Luthien: [pulling herself together]
I'm not going to start crying again. I'm just saying that it's hard for me to describe my adventures in Nargothrond, because half the time I don't know where exactly I was any more than I'm sure of what was going on, and a lot of it runs together as if it was the same but I know it wasn't, but I couldn't tell what time of day it was any more than I could tell where I was in relation to where I was -- had been, I mean.
We could construct a model of the City, if that would help, my Lady.
[Finrod gives him a tiny, amused shove]
Luthien: [smiling a little]
Well, it turned out that it was because my power had been taken from me and locked away so I really was only partly there -- as soon as Huan brought me back my cape I was instantly recovered, mostly, and I wasn't disoriented at all. I think I could have found my way out by myself, then, even without Huan's guiding me, but of course it was much faster with -- where is Huan, anyway? Has he gone off again?
He's up here, hiding, behind us, my Lady.
Luthien: [looking round]
What are you hiding for, dog? Why don't you come out here where we can all see you?
[Huan wags his tail, lifting his head from his paws to give her a canine grin, but doesn't get up.]
You don't need to be embarrassed -- all of us made mistakes, after all.
[more vigorous tail-thumps]
[but he still doesn't come to her]
All right, suit yourself.
Why don't you manifest your cape with you, here, by-the-by?
It didn't seem appropriate to show up showing off, or that's how it felt like it would feel, saying "I'm the one who knocked out Morgoth and don't you forget it!" It seemed -- hm, impolite, and as though it wouldn't be particularly helpful.
Though now I'm not sure it or anything would make any difference one way or the other.
[Finrod pushes her hair back where it has fallen in her face again and squeezes her shoulder consolingly, and she manages to give him a wan smile]
Curufin wanted to try to figure out military applications for it, I heard -- but that wouldn't have worked in the end, since there's only one of me, and Celegorm's whole purpose in taking it away from me was to keep me from leaving so that I wouldn't be in danger. So there would have been a collision, ultimately, there.
[as she makes this acerbic remark, Aredhel leans around and glares at her]
Of course, when I say "danger," that only refers to danger-outside-Nargothrond, not to danger from Celegorm becoming besotted with me and abandoning all Elven standards of decent behaviour in his attempts to convince me to return his affections -- !
[Nerdanel closes her eyes briefly before returning her attention to her sketching]
What did you do to him?
No, the other you -- of course you.
I talked to him, listened to him, played chess against him -- I didn't use any of my power against him, if that's what you're getting at -- though that wasn't for want of trying! it just wasn't possible to awaken him from delusion when he wasn't deluded -- at least, not that way.
There must have been something else.
What are you talking about?
Aredhel: [scoffing laugh]
Well, obviously. Just look at you.
[shaking her head]
There's got to be some reasonable explanation for why a Noldor prince would be taken by an uncivilized, ill-groomed Dark-elven barbarian he'd never even met before.
[there are several suppressed coughing fits around the group at her words]
Sorcery's the only one that comes to mind.
I did at first wonder why the White Lady was ill-at-ease in her brother's City, but no longer.
[Luthien glances briefly at Nerdanel, who is completely preoccupied, to outward appearance, with copying the map of west Beleriand into her sketchbook and allows no flicker to cross her expression at the conversation's turns]
Luthien: [glacially slow]
You're saying it's my fault that Celegorm became obsessed with the idea of marrying me whether I wanted him or not and made that clear not only by word but by deed?
How, exactly, am I supposed to have done that? -- And why would I want to? Star and Water, I only went with them because they said they were friends of Finrod and would help me rescue Beren.
Then there must have been some sort of misunderstanding on your part.
No, I don't think so. That isn't the sort of thing one can misunderstand. It's like being shot at repeatedly from no range at all -- in some circumstances you could explain away a stray arrow as a hunting accident, but not that one.
Aredhel: [getting still more definite]
He isn't that sort of person -- he's not an Orc, a monster, he wouldn't do that! Neither of them.
He might not have been the sort of person who would do that when you knew him -- but he certainly was then. And Curufin even Darker.
Then what made him that?
Luthien: [very deliberately]
I think killing people for gain or anger, and not dire necessity, changes you. Even more than hunting, or fighting in defense, does. I think that after you've done that, and after you've spent long enough justifying it to yourself, it becomes impossible to See anything properly. You become like Morgoth, and once that impossible abomination has become possible to you, and righteous to you, then there's no reason you can't justify anything else you want to do -- any kind of taking and tyranny is open, after that theft of another's body -- why stop at a different sort? Insight is useless at that point, I'd guess, because one's vision is too distorted to allow for accurate perspective.
[the Lord Warden of Aglon is shaking his head, but with a somewhat uncertain and dismayed look]
-- That's why I stopped Beren from killing Curufin. The Enemy has enough servants as it is. I don't know that it would be impossible to recover from kinslaying, alive -- but it didn't seem advisable to find out.
[Aredhel is gathering herself to respond, but the Doriathrin lord breaks in first:]
But -- they weren't kin, then: he's mortal, and you two weren't -- wed, then.
If we were not akin, would we have fallen in love? There is as little distance between Men, and us, as between ourselves and the gods.
[Luthien just Looks at him with one eyebrow raised; he covers his face with his hands, embarrassed]
Amarie: [quiet but fiercely resentful]
Needs must ever boast thy divine descent, Daughter of Twilight?
Only when it seems relevant.
[Aredhel is about to start in on Luthien again, but her husband gets there first]
That's what you get for trusting the Noldor. Elu and I agree on that, at least.
How do you deal with the fact that you're partly Second Host yourself?
Eol: [ominously cold]
What did you say?
You know, about --
[Aredhel breaks in before he can answer]
He doesn't. He won't talk about his parents at all. I only know because I got it out of his servants eventually. -- It is funny, isn't it?
Eol: [turning his anger on her]
Who was it who told you? I swear, I'll --
-- You'll what? We're dead, in case you hadn't noticed, idiot.
Is that why you hate the Noldor so much? Are you jealous because you think you ought to have been one of them? Or is that why you're so afraid of love, because it made your father stay when your mother was helping to look for Dad? Or both of those, I suppose both could be tr --
[her kinsman sits forward, his eyes blazing, all his cool carelessness gone]
Eol: [quiet menace]
Luthien, stop talking now.
Luthien: [looking at him with disbelief]
Um -- no?
Luthien. You are a child, and you will keep silent among your elders.
Luthien: [smiling sadly]
Eol? That doesn't work. I'm not one of your dysfunctional followers who are willing to put up with your eccentricities for the sake of stable employment and security.
[he grimaces at her, helpless to overwhelm her with his hypnotic aura, and subsides, aloof and haughty, while Aredhel smirks]
Angrod: [shaking his head in disgust]
'Feiniel, why did you marry this loser?
Don't talk to my wife, Outlander.
Aredhel: [to Eol]
I'll talk to whomever I like, Master Smith! -- Especially my kin.
[to her cousin]
Don't talk about my husband that way, do you hear me?
Aegnor: [almost pleading]
But 'Feiniel, why, why on the gods' green earth would you choose to take up with some repressive, antisocial, deranged hermit who's always telling you what to do? -- And not to do?
Elenwe: [to Finrod, wry]
Dost not wish thou'dst chosen to abide most peaceably 'neath trellis by fountain's edge, in this its stead?
Aredhel: [raising her voice]
That's not how it was, you don't know what you're talking about --
Aegnor: [going on regardless]
It's almost as if you've been brainwashed except you act like yourself in every other way, only more so. It just doesn't make sense to anyone who knows you.
That much peace and quiet, I fear, would drive me crazy --
Though who'd notice -- especially in present company?
Aredhel: [turning to snap at him]
-- Ingold, stop acting superior.
[the dead High King looks at his living counterpart]
Shall we go for a walk, my brother, while our children bicker, and see all that there is not to see here, until they have sorted it out for themselves?
Aredhel: [jabbing her dagger into the step for emphasis as she speaks]
You're all judging everything from the outside, and you don't understand.
Eol: [flatly, arms crossed as he leans back on the steps]
You think you'll ever convince one of your people of anything? Trust me, it isn't going to happen.
Finarfin: [bemused, to his sibling]
Was e'en so, deemst thou, for our own parents in that former Day? Such wearisome dismay at folly?
What folly, -- parent of Finrod? For I seem to recall that you were ever busy pouring oil upon troubled fires, while we elders kindled them, you all the while blowing on coals in effort to put them out.
[his younger brother winces -- but with a grin of mutual comprehension, though some of the Ten look a bit nervous at the interchange of jibes between Finwe's sons.]
Angrod: [getting more and more exasperated]
Cousin, you never could stand to have anyone telling you what to do.
As a matter of fact we think that's part of it.
You see, since no one was ever willing to demand anything of her, nor to insist on her compliance in any regard -- or to, what's the phrase, stick with it"? when they did try -- it became uninteresting to her, and the continual pushing of boundaries began to find someone who would -- and that's what she found in Master Eol here, someone who wouldn't give in to her, wasn't impressed by her birth or skill or adventures, and who would insist on things. And that makes him very fascinating to her, as well as a challenge to overcome.
[gesturing with his hands animatedly]
So she can't just walk away from him -- it isn't only that they're soulmates, it's a kind of magnetic thing where sometimes they pull together and sometimes they push apart, you see. -- That's what my Master thinks, at least, and Lord Namo tends to agree, though of course nobody except them can be sure, and not even them probably, given how oblivious they are to everyone else's feelings but their own. Even each other's, except as one manipulates the other by them. -- Though the Weaver thinks they're just selfish brats who deserve each other, and that she's as stubborn and self-destructive as Miriel without any of Miriel's excuses . . .
[he trails off -- Aredhel is glaring at him with a very lethal expression, while the rest of her family look carefully elsewhere, except for Eol, who seems caught between wanting to laugh at his spouse and to explode with indignation; the disguised Maia glances around at the Ten, concerned.]
That wasn't a very diplomatic thing to say, was it?
[the Captain shakes his head solemnly]
-- Threnody! When will I learn to keep quiet sometimes?
[Aredhel stands up, sheathing her dagger with a snap]
Aredhel: [setting her right hand on the hilt of her sword]
If you're going to talk about me in such an insulting fashion, infant, you're going to give me satisfaction for it.
I don't think I'm supposed to get into fights with the patients while I'm supposed to be keeping the peace.
Aredhel: [tossing her head]
I'll be happy to trounce you regardless.
Warden of Aglon: [looking more cheerful at last]
This is going to be good.
Apprentice: [same bland tone]
I'm pretty sure, however, that I'm allowed to defend myself if I must.
[with a dangerously-pleasant smile]
I'm willing to chance being wrong and a reprimand.
Captain: [reluctantly to Aredhel]
Highness, I really wouldn't if I were you -- he's not half bad, and you haven't any real combat experience against armed opponents, either.
Aredhel: [whirling on him]
How dare you insult me that way!?
Captain: [raising his eyebrows]
How is a fact an insult?
Ingold! Make your people stop slandering me -- I am not a Kinslayer!
Fourth Guard: [aside to one of his comrades]
How can she say that?
She believes it.
Captain: [with a very askance Look]
I was talking about the giant spiders, Princess. I don't think they've developed tool-using skills, at least. -- Though it is interesting that you assumed I was talking about Alqualonde, when actually I was trying to spare you from being badly thrashed.
[the Lord Warden of Aglon gives him a dubious frown at that last statement]
Fourth Guard: [getting louder as he gets more agitated thinking about it]
But how? -- Denial about the fighting, or that we're all kin?
[his friend nods]
The latter, I think.
Aredhel: [turning aggrievedly to face the dead High King]
Father! Make them stop it!
Fingolfin: [edged patience]
'Feiniel child, you know I can't do that. I could request that they cease, and your cousin's folk would very likely honour that for their kindness to me, but I cannot bind any spirit here to anything. My kingship here is entirely honorary, and I have no power here whatsoever.
You're the best warrior in the Halls.
Fingolfin: [very stern, approaching angry]
You wish me to fight those who utter only the truth, and punish them for that? Daughter, I am ashamed for you.
See, my dear? Not even your own family wants you about. You should have stayed with me, I'm telling you -- again.
Shut up, Orc-spawn!
Now I never called him that, but I get in trouble with her for being rude to him.
You shut up too. -- You're nearly as much of a Dark-elf as he is, anyway.
Ambassador: [shaking his head]
It really is a good thing that your father's marchwardens refused to bring her into the Kingdom, I must say, my Princess, given such violence and recklessness of nature -- can you imagine what would happen at a banquet with her in attendance?
Luthien: [trying very hard not to laugh but failing]
That isn't very kind, but you do have a point --
Elenwe: [to Amarie, wonderingly]
I do vow, she hath full so froward a temper as Lord Osse in his ragings.
[Amarie checks, not wanting to agree with a rebel Vanya, but fighting a smile and losing]
[the Noldor princess is half frantic with anger and hurt feelings, beset on all sides and unable to fix on a target to vent her fury upon]
I hate you all!
[her husband shakes his head pityingly]
Haven't you realized yet that I'm the only person in the entire world who's willing to put up with you, my love? Though --
[with a partly-feigned bewilderment]
-- I'm really not sure why I do.
Aredhel: [voice shaking with rage]
Oh, you are truly going to regret that --
[she starts towards him, stalking through the map which curls about her ankles like mist before re-coalescing]
Many, many, many years now, my own, many years --
[as she stomps up to where he is reclining lazily reaching as if to drag him upright by the gorget of his armour, he sweeps her ankles out from under her with his own foot and jumps up as quickly as she does, recovering, and both of them draw their swords. Before anyone else can interfere, Luthien also springs to her feet, very agitated, and shouts at them:]
Stop it! Stop mauling each other and listen!
Eol: [mock sincerity]
Ah, Melian's daughter is going to bestow some of her vast wisdom and understanding upon us -- my, what have we done to be so blessed?
Luthien: [ignoring his rudeness, passionately]
You could have chosen to be awakened by her to a world so much wider and brighter than Nan Elmoth and your heart.
You could have chosen to learn stillness and contemplation of things you'd thought beneath you, from him, for your part. Both of you could have striven to heal each other's lacks, and been strong where the other was weak or wounded, and grown -- but instead you stayed where you were, giving nothing, grinding and tearing each other down like the Enemy's minions --
Aredhel: [snarling, starting towards Luthien]
How dare you -- you apologize to me, you barefoot savage, or I'll --
[Luthien raises her hand, palm outward, towards the Noldor lady]
Luthien: [her voice echoing loudly with power]
Hold -- !
[Aredhel is stopped in her tracks -- as Eol moves forward, his kinswoman lifts her other hand and makes him halt as well. As she speaks the following lines in an icy declaration, the memory of her shadowcloak appears around her, the folds stirring like finest silk in a restless draft. They cannot interrupt her, or even look away.]
-- Well-matched indeed are you, who have neither hope nor mercy in your love, but only selfishness and greed.
Lady, rest now from your discontent and have peace, for so long as you will --
-- And you, kinsman, from the memory of your grievances, in hopes that you may learn grief instead --
[before her upraised hands they vanish, both wearing near-identical expressions of disconcerted astonishment. As she seats herself again her cape disappears once more; her matter-of-fact attitude markedly in contrast to the others around her, particularly the dead, though only two give any audible sign of surprise -- most are simply too shocked to do more than stare, though a few among the ghostly following of House Finarfin look somewhat smug.]
[short surprised bark]
[wide-eyed, looking at the Captain]
Was that what you meant, when you said 'twould soon be better sport than setting a sudden blaze about her knife?
[he nods once, solemnly]
-- But how did you know that would follow . . .
[she trails off, frowning thoughtfully at the Doriathrin princess; on the other side of the steps the Princes look at each other]
How can she do that?
[his brother only shrugs, as astounded; to their eldest, rather manically:]
Ingold, you can't do that -- why can Luthien?
[Finrod only shrugs in turn; when Aegnor addresses his cousin it is warily and very respectful, now]
Luthien, how did you do that?
That's my power. That's what I do. Dreams and visions and healing, all mixed up together. It's easy, once I figured out how to focus it.
[the Princes look at each other with rather wild expressions and not a little dismay, and are very quiet]
But where did they go?
I was going to say that.
Wherever they wanted to be most. I didn't pry.
That's -- what my Master does, only -- you did it rather differently.
[she raises her hands, deprecating his praise]
That's the only way I know how. It wasn't that hard -- by comparison, at least; the part of them that was crying out for help wasn't very deeply hidden.
[there is still a distinct awe over the gathering, if not unmixed with resentment in some quarters]
Twelve feet tall -- and a battle-aura brighter than his --
[he nods towards his uncle, and Luthien elbows him lightly, trying not to smile]
Fingolfin: [softly, but very earnest, to Luthien]
-- Thank you, your Highness. -- Would you be so good as to continue in your reminiscences, if it please you?
[she nods, pausing to reflect a moment]
Nerdanel: [managing a dry, if somewhat brittle, humour despite all]
Nay, belike thou'lt have thee something less of interruptions, hereafter.
Luthien: [straight-faced innocence]
[Elsewhere -- the Corollaire]
[Beren is still sitting in silence, now with his chin on his knees, looking out towards the Pass of Light, while Yavanna frowns at him with a concerned expression as she sets the rodent down to go about its rodenty life:]
Are you being quiet because you're overwhelmed, or because you're focusing on everything around and trying to take it all in?
Can't you tell?
I can tell which of the many possibilities are most likely, but not which it is. Knowing you, either one is a reasonable guess.
Beren: [thinking about it]
Yeah. -- A little of both, I guess.
So, are you happier now?
[he gives her a puzzled frown]
Now that someone's recognized your efforts and told you "Good job" at last -- ?
Beren: [looking down]
[he appears embarrassed]
I -- Yeah. Yeah, I guess so. Mostly I'm just --
-- actually, I'm not.
[he looks at her with a bit of surprise]
I was going to say "tired," but that isn't true. -- Still confused, though. A lot.
Well, no wonder, since Everything is beyond the ability of any of us to sort out. But then you've always been the ambitious sort.
[out of nowhere she takes a shining garnet-like fruit, somewhat like an all-red nectarine, and looks at him inquiringly]
Uh -- can I?
No, I'm inviting you so that I can contrarily refuse to oblige, afterwards. -- What do you think?
That that was a dumb question.
[she twists the fruit in half and gives him one side -- as he is looking at it in fascination:]
-- Don't you dare ask me if that's real or not.
Beren: [almost managing to keep a straight face]
I wouldn't have dreamed of it, my Lady.
[she gives him a narrow Look]
Thought of it, sure -- but I wouldn't dare ask.
[she gives him a friendly swat on the arm]
It's beautiful. And tastes just as wonderful as it smells.
The jewels of my making are much more than just pretty to look at.
I'm not even going to go near that one.
[the Lady gives him a raised eyebrow]
Family fights, bad enough -- between immortals? -- Already done that.
Hmph. Most of the time you're a prudent soul.
Beren: [between mouthfuls]
So -- your sister's Spring, right?
[she nods, though her expression is a bit wry; he frowns as he wipes the juice from his fingers onto the hem of his outer tunic]
You just have the one, right?
That, too, is a bit -- dependent on your definition. Why? Did you meet her?
Well, if she's the Spring, then I did.
She is as much the beginning of all growth as I am Autumn. And our sister by love, Nessa, the high Summer of blooming roses and the swift young animals in their pride. But we are both -- all of us -- far more than any of our tasks. As are you, my Hunter.
[he shakes his head a little, distracted, half-smiling]
Is she -- just a little bit -- well, crazy?
Yavanna: [suddenly stern and daunting]
Did she harm you in any way?
No -- not at all. The opposite. She --
[he chuckles again]
She was kind of cute, really. In a completely terrifying way. I --
[looking at Yavanna with a very confused expression]
I was going to say she reminded me of Tinuviel before things fell apart, but --
[shaking his head]
-- it's the other way around, only -- I never met her before, so -- how --
[the Power sets her hand calmingly but very firmly on his shoulder]
Was there ever a year of your life when the snows did not melt and the crocus and pheasants-eye bloom? When all beasts wild or tame, however old, did not leap like fawns in the new light? When the bees did not crawl out of their hollows and the little brown bats, and the swallows return from the southlands, all to dance upon the warming airs? -- Then how should you not recognize the Ever-young, when met in the person of your own true love?
But -- Tinuviel's Tinuviel, right? She's not -- not really Vana, too, is she? I mean -- she's herself . . . ?
-- Always. As you are yourself, my Champion.
[she strokes the hair from his brow gently]
How come you call me that?
Because it is true.