[Finrod and his people are looking at Luthien
with rather aghast looks;
Fingolfin is carefully looking elsewhere]
You are joking, right?
[she shakes her head]
Perhaps you heard the name wrong, my Lady?
Luthien: [shaking her head again]
Not unless he doesn't know how to pronounce it himself.
[he and the rest glance in utter bemusement at the Captain]
Are you sure it wasn't a -- a jest at your expense?
Orodreth wasn't doing much joking in those days.
But -- Telumnar!?
Perhaps there has been some misunderstanding, gentles. Are you quite sure
that her Highness is speaking of the same individual?
How many arrant fools by the name of Telumnar do we know? --How many are
there, after all?
She didn't say he was being an idiot, though -- my Lady, do you recollect
well the Elf in question? He wasn't by any chance a thin-browed chap with
an annoying habit of smirking knowingly at everything you said, as if he
knew more than you but couldn't trouble himself to correct you?
I only met him once or twice at state dinners -- and I think he was at that
party of Finduilas', now that I think back on it. Pretty much everyone was
acting patronizing and knowing around me, anyway. Sorry.
Your Highness, did he tend to try to keep his profile at a five-sevenths
angle to display his best side at all times, when he was talking to you?
[several of the Ten snicker -- and Angrod works
very hard at keeping a straight
face; Luthien frowns]
Now that you mention it, he did seem to be striking poses most of the time.
I thought he was favoring an injury, at first.
[even Aegnor chuckles at that, though the mood quickly turns serious again]
Might safely to presume, then, the youngling did learn but little, else
naught, for all his long travel eke travail?
You might indeed.
All right, I've been
wanting to ask you this for over a yen, now -- and now
you have to tell me the truth, uncle. Did you foist that fellow off on me
because you were afraid you'd have a rebellion all of your own if you didn't
get him out of your own chain of command?
[everyone looks expectantly at the High King's shade. Long silence.]
[grimacing, glaring in a mock-ferocious way at his nephew]
I also had some
hope, that your company and that of your companions would
provide him with exemplar and inspiration to improve. --Though, 'tis true,
I had come to fear him incorrigible by that time--
Aegnor: [to Angrod]
Hah! Pay up; I told you so.
[their uncle turns the glare on them]
--and so I judged that your greater wisdom, young Ingold, should find the
best way to set him where he might work the least damage.
Tis deftly done, is't not?
How my lord his father doth turn aside wrath with subtle guile, for his
words they hold them brimful of praises, to make sweet wrath's bitterness
-- yet eke mockery, yet nor so venomous that shall aught but sting, as
salt water's smart, that doth cut when flattery doth 'gin to cloy.
-- For none other,
I vouchsafe, save thee. Yon thornbrake snares of Noldorin
subtlety be most unpleasing to my soul, do I win through and smite upon's
conscience else turn back in weariest disarray, for defense cometh most
naturally unto him.
[Fingolfin looks mortified at this public deconstruction
of his rhetoric; his
brother and sister-in-law appear both interested and embarrassed for him. To
the living Vanya:]
Thy lord, my cousin
yet warm --aye, and dauntless -- doth far surpass all
others in such disport.
That, I did mark well.
Ambassador: [to Elenwe]
My lady, do you not find this -- unguarded openness, of our present state
Nay; how so?
[he is nonplused by her tone and expression of
childlike seriousness, & doesn't
know what to say; she continues:]
'Tis but the way this
is, e'en as without the rains do fall betimes,
nor more sensible to feel distress upon it, than at dew's damp, or droplets'
splash -- dost such trouble one, had best make no journeying, lest find
thyself unexpected wet.
Finrod: [rueful, to the Doriathrin Lord]
My Vanyar kin have a rather -- different -- approach to life than even we
Teler -- much simpler and far more direct. And much less concerned with
appearances and public dignity than we Noldor. It can be -- disconcerting,
even in life.
Ambassador: [looking thoughtfully at him in turn]
Indeed, I think I have seen such truths as you speak before this time,
displayed in Menegroth, your Majesty.
[it is Finrod's turn to be slightly embarrassed]
Though in truth I ne'er did think to see yon solid floor of many fathoms
riven o'er wave as 'twere but crumbled bread into wine.
Daughter, daughter, have mercy -- I rue thy losses, and I obey thy
Thou dost not so ill at it thyself, good my niece.
[the Vanyar shade only shrugs]
Long dwelt I amongst thy folk in Tirion to learn't.
This Telumnar, he is a great fool, I dare to say? For I cannot place him
Much worse than that. He is one that will never admit he has erred, in
any wise. He but changes the matter of his speech, when 'tis shown to him.
Another one! I do hope my Master has judged me complete of patience before
he comes along.
[this gets him some rather askance Looks from the presently-dead]
First Guard: [to the Captain]
I still can't believe the Prince gave him your job.
[the senior officer only shakes his head, looking bemused and dismayed at the idea]
Not being in charge of your spies -- that went to Gwin, I'm pretty sure.
He and Orodreth were closeted a lot, and there were other hints--
What? Did I say something wrong?
[Finrod and his chief lords are exchanging looks of rueful humour]
I ought to ask how you knew about that, Lady Luthien -- but I'm rather
afraid of the answer. It's going to be more mystical demigod perception,
[she is shaking her head]
I heard about it from Dad--
[he looks relieved at her words]
--after Mom told him.
But I honestly don't know if she figured it out from watching all you
interact, or if she just knew. We were all just used to her knowing
everything. It came up once when Galadriel was pushing Mom a bit about
how to run a kingdom, and she told her that it depended on being someone
worthy of following, so that your followers would be worthy of your trust
-- and then told her to follow her oldest brother's example. Dad said
something about how important it was to have people you could rely on to
both hear and speak for you, to be your senses where you couldn't be,
yourself, and your voice--
[looking from him to the Steward and back again]
--and Galadriel challenged
him if he knew which of you was which, and
Mom said obviously, both, it just depended.
This was a private family
discussion, it wasn't as though everyone in
Doriath knew you were more than just military.
Why do people keep underestimating you, cousin?
Captain: [speaking as if to reassure himself]
Gwindor's a good lad -- heart in the right place, if still a little wet
behind the ears.
He isn't all that much younger than we are, you know.
I suppose he isn't, at that. The next generation just seem so much more
uncertain of themselves than we were. --Not really surprising, given the
hash we made of everything, I suppose--
Speak for yourself.
[Angrod elbows him hard]
[low prolonged growl]
[the Captain stops talking and stares straight
ahead; his former colleague
leans around and turns her fiercest glare on Finrod's brother]
My lord, I tell you, I shall most assuredly make report of your
unmannerliness to Lady Earwen, when I am alive once again, and let
her for to know of every least rude word I did hear of you!
[Aegnor looks suddenly daunted at this, though
he does not apologize or
meet her angry gaze]
Well, as a matter of fact, Maiwe, that isn't going to be possible.
Once you're rehoused, the memory of this place will fade very quickly.
I shall manage it, nonetheless, let you wait, and I vow you shall see!
Luthien: [raising her voice a little, cutting them off]
--In any case, I am certain no one here has done anything approaching the
level of stupidity of sending my father a letter announcing that his nephew
had been done away with and his daughter about to be wed to a multiple
murderer, and advising him not to object if he knew what was good for him.
Oh, yes, that--
[he sighs, shaking his head in disbelief, Finrod
leans forward and gives
him a puzzled look]
Beren told us, Sir -- oh, that's right, you weren't here then. It was--
--Let me guess. Curufin.
Writing for the both of them. It's funny, because you'd think that would
have made them even angrier at me, for having got myself into such a
situation, but instead Dad was so furious with House Feanor that he
actually started thinking a little better of Beren--
[to her compatriot]
--isn't that right?
[he checks, then goes on with some reluctance at her Look]
That was in part -- in
not all -- attributable to the fact of the
Lord of Dorthonion's mortality, and your consequent eventual freedom from
any such bad match.
[he flinches under her glare, but this looking-away
brings him into contact
I do apologize, my lady.
[she makes a dismissive gesture with her hand,
unable or unwilling to speak
Anyhow, he decided he was going to solve the problem at least partially,
by sending Celegorm West, and rescuing me, so that I wouldn't ever have
to see him again. That got another fight going between him and Mom, over
the morality of offensive warfare and the problem that killing Kinslayers
makes you one just as much yourself, but he went ahead and got an invasion
force together without her approval.
[Finrod and his followers look at each other, completely horrified]
The Greycloak invaded Nargothrond?
Don't be silly -- we'd have heard about it firsthand before now.
[but he still looks shaken too]
Luthien: [grim pleasure]
I'm glad somebody takes the possibility seriously.
They really didn't think -- what, that your father would react with
devastating decisiveness upon receiving such a missive, or that he
would be capable of carrying out such attempt?
[Luthien raises her hands helplessly]
I don't know. Both, I guess.
It worked out strangely
enough, because just as they were getting ready
to go -- Dad and Mablung and Beleg and all our warriors -- they got word
of another Enemy incursion along the frontier, and went to deal with that
instead, and then by the time that was done with, Huan and I were already
long gone from Nargothrond, and then after he found that out he decided
it was useless to try to hunt me down again, after the first time had gone
so poorly, and to try for a diplomatic appeal to Lord Maedhros against his
younger siblings, who after all are nominally under his authority and were
moving back in with him.
[she looks over at the Ambassador, rather sadly]
--Of course, I wasn't
there for any of this, and only heard about it after
the fact, so if I'm getting any of it wrong, you ought to correct me.
[he shakes his head, his expression somber.]
Your Highness, how did King Elu discover that you'd flown again?
Beleg sneaked in and listened to the gossip about it all.
[the Captain puts his head down on his knees with a groan]
Sir, this is Cuthalion we're talking about, not some random stranger.
Finrod: [same tone]
Nor would he have tripped the wardings, not being a minion of the Dark Lord.
Teler Maid: [to the Captain, concerned]
What troubles you?
[he only shakes his head, not looking up]
Aye, wherefore this ado of thine?
[looking up, grimacing]
My people let an intruder
just traipse through the Guarded Plain and
glean all the private business of the City from their conversing, and
then leave, without ever so much as noticing a blade of grass out of
place throughout. I trained them better than that -- I thought. And
with Captain Telumnar in charge of defenses, everything falls apart
in a matter of months! It doesn't sound like Lord Gwindor was getting
any better cooperation, either.
You're forgetting another factor, as you judge them -- and yourself --
Sorrow. You cannot justly expect them to be as keen and alert as otherwise,
when most assuredly the same grief, dismay, uncertainty and guilt afflicted
them as ruled in the City proper, as we have heard recounted, soon and late,
by our shadowy and sometimes guest. They had not you, and that shall have
been no light matter, with all the rest of it.
[checks, with a bitter expression]
No. I can't say that.
Though I think they chose wrong, if then they had
stayed faithful it's not unlikely they would have partook of our doom,
[he looks across where the Youngest Ranger is
dreaming by the water, and then
at his Noldor follower and the rest of the Ten, grimly]
--I couldn't have borne
more, and yet I still think their misery both just
and insufficient, and I can't sort it out in my own heart, and I'd like to
scruff them and shake them all until their eyes rattle for being idiots,
the more stupidity I hear about.
[Finrod gives him a very understanding Look,
nodding in agreement; Angrod stares
pointedly at his nearest sibling, who stares obstinately into the distance.]
But you can't do anything to affect what happens there now.
I know. --I know.
[he rests his forehead on his arms, closing his eyes]
[the Hound licks the side of his face without
getting any response. The Elf
of Alqualonde regards her friend with a concerned expression.]
Your City was your ship, your waverunner, for you.
[he nods without looking up]
Then no words--
[she gives the disguised Maia a Look]
--shall e'er truly serve
to take the hurt of the loss of your Work
[she rests her hand on his bowed head and then
on his nearer hand, oblivious
to the impressed surprise shared by the Ten and Nienna's student who have been
witness to her self-centered neediness, at this her first gesture of outreach
to another. The Captain straightens and grips her fingers before making a sweeping
gesture of dismissal which also conveys a distinct element of relinquishment.]
The fate of Nargothrond -- so far as it ever was -- is out of my hands
now. I know that. The regret -- that doesn't end.
[he leans back against the Lord of Dogs, his
expression resigned but sad,
indifferent to the varied looks of concern, understanding, or displeasure
directed his way]
I'm sure Orodreth will have figured it out by now and appointed someone
more competent and less convinced of it, and found Telumnar an appointment
with a grander-sounding title and no leverage to go with it.
Invading. My City. --Those bloody fools!
First Guard: [frowning, to his companions]
I'm surprised Beren mentioned nothing of this when he talked about
Beren -- was a little preoccupied in Menegroth, then, and I'm not sure
how much of an impression it made on him at that point, particularly
since it hadn't happened. There were other aspects of that episode which
affected him more, unfortunately--
[a touch sarcastic]
--such as the fact that
we'd missed a detachment of Enemy fighters by only
a few -- score -- leagues of rough terrain and I'd not known about it at all.
[addressing Nerdanel, who has given up even pretending to draw]
At least Celegorm was
genuinely motivated -- at least in part -- by a desire
to keep me safe in comfort and civilization, as he saw it--
--at least at that point.
For my part, that none of mine own folk e'er did aid thee, nor aught but
suffer thee to stay benighted and imprisoned meanwhiles, the while they
did indulge upon false gaiety, doth trouble my heart full measure with
all the rest of't.
Indeed, it amazes me beyond words' power to describe, that among all our
kindred there, not one had conscience nor courage to speak truth and stand
beside you in this, Highness. Even in House Feanor's entourage, there should
have been more than a few who did not lack the clarity of thought and
strength of will to hold firm against wrongdoing!
[the Feanorian shade darts a quick, nervous glance at the dead High King]
Luthien: [with a fatalistic shrug]
They weren't very happy about it ultimately either. A lot of Curufin's
picked guards took to hiding where I couldn't see them from the door when
it was their turn to guard me, after I took to haranguing them about their
guest-duty and familial obligations.
[narrowing her brows]
The bit they hated the
most, besides my songs, was the riddle Beren taught
me, that one about the cuckoo.
[Aegnor and Angrod exchange silent Looks]
What is a -- a cuckoo?
It's what we call a bell-bird, here.
[half to himself]
They wouldn't like that, would they . . .
How does it go, this mortal wit, my Princess?
[she lifts her head defiantly, though he was not being sarcastic just then]
--Myself in that day was given up for dead,
fatherless, motherless. I had no life then,
no friend nor elder to turn to. Then came another.
She guarded me well, giving me garments
and strong protection, held me and cherished
as dearly as her own. Even so in her shelter
I soon grew high-hearted among strangers,
striving ever as my spirit must, though but a guest.
Yet still she sheltered me, until I grew stronger
to set my sights wider. She suffered the loss
of her own sons and daughters for that deed.
[there are mixed reactions -- those of Aman do
not understand all the
connotations, while those hailing from Beleriand get it, but the Ten look
more vindictively pleased, while Finrod's kinsmen angry-grim, and the
Warden of Aglon insulted and resentful]
How means yon riddle a bell-bird?
In the woods back home, the cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of
unsuspecting thrushes and warblers when the parents are foraging, and
then go off, leaving their nestlings to hatch and be reared by the
Teler Maid: [outraged]
Why, that is most unfair, and cheating, indeed!
[the Feanorian lord sneers at her naivete]
Gets worse -- they're not content to skive off the parents and take some
of the other chicks' share, they go further and fling out the real young
ones, so that they can get all the food and care for themselves. Then
after they've destroyed their hosts' family, they fly off and do the same
thing themselves to some other victim.
And it does fit, in a peculiar sort of way.
[Finarfin takes his sister-in-law's hand in a
gesture intended to comfort,
if not effective]
Yes, but it didn't work.
Not the way you intended, but certainly it had some influence after,
or else our cousins would still be in power there. Probably in authority,
too, if not legitimate, since it sounds as though they had designs against
Orodreth, if Celegorm was talking about making himself King over all
southern Beleriand. Undoubtedly your exhortations were very much in
everyone's hearts when the counter-coup took place.
But is that really a good thing? What with you being dead, mightn't it
be more practical to have a strong leadership, at least, regardless of
the justice of it, simply for the common good? Because of the War?
[a distinct chill settles upon all present, except
Finrod himself, who reaches
out and takes firm hold of both her hands]
A King and his Steward who didn't know enough not to antagonize --
further -- their largest and longest-ruling neighbor, whose support
covers a broad ethnic base and whose territorial integrity alone has
not been compromised during the recent defeats? To put it bluntly --
and insulting nobody present -- Celegorm has less political awareness,
I'm afraid, than does Lord Huan, who hasn't any obligations of diplomacy
nor would any reasonably expect him, as pack leader, to have. Close
contact with those our cousins over an extended time made it increasingly
clear to me why Maedhros chose to sequester them prudently a long ways
from civilized society, where they weren't likely to antagonize any other
Elves outside their own followings.
[his siblings bridle at this, but check when
they see he is teasing them,
with a slight twinkle in his expression as he gives them a sidelong Look]
Aegnor: [very gruff]
It isn't funny.
Parts of it are, nonetheless.
[turning back to Luthien]
--Had our kinsmen remained
in charge, your father would have invaded
Nargothrond, would he not?
[Luthien nods grimly]
And that wouldn't have been a good thing.
Luthien: [almost whispering]
[the Sea-elf has been frowning to herself in
concentration, and finally
speaks out again]
Why make your bell-birds yonder such fell murder, when they need not
kill to feed themselves, where 'tis fodder free-growing for all the
birds of the wood?
It's the Marring, Sea-Mew. Everything fights itself to some extent,
in Middle-earth, needful or not. And they'd rather not work for what
they need, when others will do it for them.
Teler Maid: [wrapping her arms around her knees and leaning
her chin on them]
Like our ships.
Amarie: [very sadly]
Luthien, none of this is your fault. No more than it's Beren's -- you
happened to wander into the way of our Doom, just as he did, and you're
no more to be blamed for what followed on that than you are for falling
in love in the first place. You wouldn't blame the Sea-Mew here, any more
than your uncle my grandfather, for the fact that those vessels were
coveted and appropriated by our cousins? The uncoerced behaviour of other
persons in or out of Nargothrond is not attributable to your own.
I know that. But--
--I heard a great deal of the opposite of that, in and out of Nargothrond.
Soldier: [somewhat shyly]
[as she turns to look directly at him he loses his hesitancy]
--could you perchance
tell us of our own kin and other friends we left
behind back home?
I mean -- as best I can
-- but I'm afraid it might not be very well
at all. I -- met some of your nearest there, more than I know, probably,
but -- they didn't all identify themselves as such, and those who did--
[getting quieter and more unhappy]
--tended to blame all of you as much as they did us.
[the Apprentice straightens where he is sitting,
watching with a somewhat
detached interest, as might be expected of a friendly onlooker at a family
reunion, and his expression grows graver]
Soldier: [shaking his head]
I wouldn't expect any different, given what I left to, and the same for
nigh us all, I think--
[his friends also nod, their expressions bittersweet as his]
--but still it's home,
and hearth, and memory of better days, better
[Luthien nods in answer, reaching out her hands towards the Ten]
Luthien: [a little choked up]
Give me their names and manners, and I'll do my best to give report of them--
Apprentice: [in a worried, responsible tone]
I don't think that's really a good idea.
[she turns sharply to gaze at him]
Well -- because -- you're supposed to be leaving the conflicts of the past
behind here. It's--
Luthien: [cutting him off]
Isn't it about healing?
Apprentice: [defensive, responsible, and increasingly harried]
Yes and reopening old wounds and resentments won't assist that, now will it?
Finrod: [talking right over her]
I don't see anyone putting a stop to our asking -- or even giving stringent
warnings against it.
Finrod: [going on regardless]
In fact, I've never heard of anyone being forbidden to send their dead
relatives messages -- even if they don't often get answered -- so by
extension it doesn't seem as though there'd be any problem with us
asking after our living ones--
--there's no one else here to--
Finrod: [still talking over him]
-- as much as we want. No one told me I couldn't send an apology to my
lady, after all -- except for her, that is--
[Amarie clenches fists and teeth on a retort]
No, it's just you, you get exceptions made for you all the time--
No. I merely do things nobody else does, and then the Powers that are here
have to come up with some way to deal with them. --You should try it some time.
Luthien: [slightly manic tone and expression]
Fingolfin: [pained exasperation]
Might we please leave the rest of our family out of this?
[his nephews don't notice]
And actually that isn't true, because people who don't stop pestering
their dead relations are told off to give them peace and quiet to decide
in, and stop hounding them with pleas meanwhile.
But that's only temporary--
Fingolfin: [raising his voice loudly for the first time]
--Grinding Ice!! Will you boys leave your grandfather's memory in peace?!
Sorry, Father -- Uncle -- Aunt 'Danel.
[Aegnor bows his head in stiff apology, while their elders share Looks of mild exasperation]
You see, my brother, they're not irreverent because they are dead,
but because death of itself suffices not to diminish overconfidence,
unmindfulness, obstinacy, pride, or--
[glancing from his nephews to pass with a slow cool gaze over their followers]
--a twisted sense of what is deemed humorous.
I beg your pardon, Sire, but surely you're not referring to any of the
Aegnor: [aside, exasperated]
Is there no end to your stupid jokes?:
Fingolfin: [equally wickedly bland]
But of course not, friends.
[the Apprentice shakes his head helplessly, and
settles down again leaning
his chin on his hand as he gives up trying to exercise any control -- while
behind him the orb of the palantir flashes again, quite unnoticed.]
[Elsewhere: the Corollaire]
At the risk of sounding awful sorry for myself -- I've gotta say you
must be pretty disappointed in me. And hard up for Servants.
Why would you think so?
Beren: [staring out over the plain]
Because it didn't matter in the end. You try, and you try, and you do the
best you can -- and some bastard comes along and smashes down everything
that you built up over the years, and you fight him off and put it back
together again, and it just happens all over again, and you can't defend
it all, and each time there's less to fix, and whatever you manage to save
means that there's something else that you're not protecting, and eventually
there's nothing left because it's so much faster to burn things down than
to build them. And nothing can grow when everything's being burned and
trampled and no one's there to look after things. And finally you have to
go, and whatever you did is lost and ruined.
[he is struggling to keep from breaking down, his voice unsteady as he finishes]
Yavanna: [a bit sniffly, but proud-sounding]
Yes. Yes, that's it exactly. I knew you'd understand.
[he gives her a strange Look]
It doesn't stop hurting even after thousands of years.
I was talking about -- myself. About us.
And you. --Not just you. --Ma'am.
[she looks intensely into his eyes, until his
embarrassment and self-
consciousness fade leaving behind only the earnest effort to understand]
I never realized -- that
you saw us that way. It seems -- like we'd be,
be just too small for you -- for you to notice.
[wordlessly she closes her hand and then opens
it, like a conjurer doing a
trick, with something tiny -- a pebble perhaps, lying in the middle of her
palm. As he frowns at it, she folds her fingers shut and then opens them
again -- and something bright, like a dragonfly-sized metallic green-and-
gold bumblebee buzzes forth, remaining in a kind of orbit around her --
Beren stares, amazed, trying to figure out what it is, while the Earthqueen
smiles, and beckons it closer, until it settles on her forefinger, briefly
at rest. Recognizing the avian nature of it, he gasps in amazement, and the
hummingbird takes flight again, attracted to the flowers now rising high
over the grass where Vana left them.]
That -- is that real?
[laughs at himself, shaking his head]
What is it? I
guess it must be one of those creatures that there's only
Quenya names for because they don't exist back home. --But that one -- was
it real, or did you just make it to show me that? And the vole, only they
don't usually have ears like that -- I mean, are they just going to disappear
when you stop thinking about them? Or are they real like me, at least?
You're worried about little animals that might be imaginary. Do you still
wonder why you're my Champion?
Even hummingbirds dream, though they don't rest much.
So when a -- hummingbird -- dreams, it dreams about you.
About being a hummingbird. I simply called it over. Very few people pay
much attention to us, you know. Even here. Quite properly -- this isn't
for us, after all.
[as he still looks confused]
The Song. Arda. It's for all of you.
Oh. Okay, I see. --Are their eggs really the size of small beans?
That's hard to believe.
All right, I get that if you care about a bird
that's not much bigger than a big bug, then it's not impossible for you
to know about or care about any of us, but that just leaves me even more
And you're quite correct. There's too much of Ea for any one of us to attend
to every aspect of all parts of it. That's why it goes without requiring
interference, mostly -- why we made it that way. You don't think that I have
to come and pollinate every seed and ripen every grain and berry by hand, do
you? As if there's enough time for that! We're much better artists than that.
Things look after themselves, except when Melkor breaks them.
That seems to happen a lot, though.
That's why we specialize. If I were to allow myself to get as upset about
everything of mine that's been wrecked -- let alone everyone else's Work
-- as they deserved, I wouldn't be able to function. None of us could.
And that would be very bad for the world.
I thought you didn't do everything yourself, though.
You were never lord in your own hall, with your lady at your side -- but
your experience and wits should still suffice to tell you, what happens
when those who order the moving of others cease to attend.
[after a second he looks down]
Yeah. It can't go on very long. After -- after my aunt died, my folks did
what needed to be done but if my uncle hadn't pulled himself out of it,
he wouldn't really have been Beor any more, even if we still would've
called him that out of politeness. 'Cause somebody had to make decisions
and get stuff done.
But your parents did not do all those tasks themselves, surely?
No. They just had to -- be there, mostly, so people could know that
everything was okay enough for them to do their own work and not worry
about -- well, everything. They had to do it while my uncle was in
mourning and being with my cousins, because he couldn't focus on anything
[pause -- he looks at her very seriously, working his way through it:]
That's -- that's Her
job, isn't it? Because somebody has to. Because the
world deserves it. Because -- we deserve it.
But the day's work still
has to be done and somebody has to make sure
there's enough food in the barns and the cellars for winter. Somebody
has to greet travelers and make the little ones toys and teach them
stories even if you feel like it doesn't matter if the sun comes up
ever again. It has to keep going.
You do understand.
Is -- Is it true it would destroy Beleriand, for you all to go there and
fight Morgoth up in the far North even? I mean -- I'm not trying to say
they were lying to me, but -- are you sure they're not wrong? Maybe?
You do know that the mountains of your birthplace were made in the course
of the last war? I mean really know, not just one more strange thing that
you've heard the Eldar say that sort of skates past your self's awareness
the way a leaf might drift past you in a stream, there and then gone from
your mind the next moment?
Um . . . yeah . . .
[giving her a sidelong Look]
Unfortunately that part of the earth isn't my field, if you'll excuse the
joke -- such a curious thing, using words as toys, I still don't understand
how the Eldar came up with it -- but my husband's, and when he starts talking
about subduction and transverse faults and so on, my mind starts glazing over.
The best way I can explain it is that mountains have to come from somewhere,
and something has to go in where they used to be; you can't just have nothing,
not within the World. Look--
[she spreads out the hem of her skirt in front
of her and manifests a handful of
fine sand, sprinkling it over the fabric so that it fills up between where the
grass makes rises in the cloth]
This is water. It goes wherever the ground is lowest, you know that.
Because it's always trying to get back to its home.
[she nods. Sprinkling a handful of small flower
petals in between, covering the
rest of the cloth]
This is everything else. Now--
[she pinches up part of the hem]
--this is what happens
when you lift up a mountain in the middle of it.
[as she pulls the tented cloth higher, all the
sand and organic matter pours
together and starts running into the grass]
Aule would laugh at me
and tell you this was all wrong, and then go into
an explanation that would leave you thinking that the earth was really
made out of numbers instead, but as analogies go, it's pretty accurate
really. You have to imagine that it's happening in fits and starts and
that the fabric of the crust is more brittle in places and so it rips
and the hot melted parts that keep everything going are coming out through
[he points to a place where some of the biomass has caught in a fold]
Beren: [very quietly]
There's still a little bit left.
How is it doing?
It looks all mixed together to me.
[Beren doesn't say anything]
Something would survive.
It did the first time, and last time as well. But
the ocean will move in where the ground pushes in--
[she presses down the edge of her skirt into
the grass, which dips over the
hem as the remaining sand spills off]
--and the fires which
come up will burn what is near them, and that will
cause storms much worse than the seasonal ones--
[she blows at the flower petals, which drift away]
--and what was done to
Dorthonion in the course of trying to chivy you out
will seem like nothing by comparison.
Do you really want that
to happen to Middle-earth? Even if it does come
as the price of Melkor's defeat?
[he shakes his head, not looking up. She smoothes
his hair and rubs his back
in a consoling gesture]
--Neither do I.
Finrod: [gently chiding tone]
You should have come to visit us before the War broke out.
Luthien: [bittersweet smile]
That's what I said to Finduilas . . .
Where is that
dog? Huan, you have to come here, you're the hero of this
part -- come down where I can praise you properly.
[reluctantly the Hound gets up, still skulking
rather, and squeezes his way
through the company, who edge aside to make room for him. He hunkers down
behind Luthien on the other side, (since the space in front of the steps is
now full of map) and puts his head across her lap. She gives him a quick kiss
on the forehead and uses him quite casually as an armrest during the following
exchanges. During all this movement Aredhel and Eol reappear, silently and
somewhat tenuously, off to one side of the dais. They look about, hackles
raised, daring anyone to notice or comment. There is something slightly
different about their appearance, but hard to say what. Only now do they look
at each other, with closed expressions:]
--Don't say anything.
--It means nothing--
--It doesn't mean anything--
[they stop and glare briefly (but curiously)
at each other, then look
Some sort of Ainur trick, that's all.
[she nods shortly; they sit down on the steps,
at a distance from the rest
but on the same side, though at arm's length from each other. After a moment
the Noldor princess gives her husband a sidelong Look.]
So . . . that's what you really want--
Eol: [interrupting, through clenched teeth]
[by now it might have been noticed by viewers
that neither of the couple is
armed, and Eol though still dressed in all black, is no longer wearing his
armour beneath his cloak. The Sea-elf leans over and whispers to her former
Teler Maid: [impressed]
How knew you, that 'twould surpass the setting of false fire about her
blade for diversion and mirth, to let her gain the Lady's notice?
Just insight, lass, just plain old tercen. And deduction.
[shaking his head]
She'd not be warned by
me. And Master Smith has trouble discerning his
own best interests, no less. They were bound to fall foul of her soon enough.
So, anyway, we discussed several possible approaches to dealing with Enemy
minions, and Huan definitely didn't think my idea of trying to sneak in and
get work working as another slave in the kitchens or something would work,
but then I wasn't sure if his idea of pretending to be sick or injured out
in the woods beside the river bank away from the bridge and me going and
pretending to betray him to Sauron out of revenge for him capturing me and
giving me over to the Kinslayers would work. After all, the Terrible One
might just keep me there and send a minion out to look for him -- though
I was willing to try -- and then we came up with the idea of me luring him
out, and Huan jumping on him from behind when he came to try to capture me.
[through this narration Finrod and his relations,
most particularly Nerdanel,
are giving her extremely and increasingly strange Looks]
[he is giving her a baffled smile, which only succeeds in spreading the confusion]
? ? ?
You, and Huan . . . ?
There wasn't anyone else there -- Celebrimbor had already gone away and
didn't come back.
. . .
[the Steward leans back, looking faintly amused]
The answer, my lord, is "yes."
Finrod: [still looking confused]
But when did you learn to speak with kelvar, cousin? Or is that something
you've always been able to do, like understanding trees, and never
mentioned ere now?
I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're asking, Finrod.
You and Huan were discussing things.
Third Guard: [earnest]
The Hound does talk, Sire.
[as the High Kings, living and dead, and the
other Eldar, lawful or otherwise,
stare at him]
Beren said so.
[biting his lip, Finrod looks at Huan, then at
Luthien, still not knowing quite
what to say. The Lord Warden shakes his head with a look of annoyance and scorn]
Aglon: [intending to be heard]
Dogs aren't quendi, you fools.
What, dost claim yon gangling rebel hound be more and greater nor any whelp
other of Lord Orome's breeding?
[she and the Warden glare at each other, momentarily,
both furious at having
shared an opinion in public, and ostentatiously look away from each other; Huan
I don't know. I don't know if he's any different from the rest of Tavros'
pack. All I know is, he's the best dog I've ever had or heard of.
And a better friend I've never had, either.
[the Ambassador turns his head away, hiding a stricken expression behind his hand]
Angrod: [not quite aside either]
We always did say he understood every word we said . . .
[closes his eyes, starts over again. Carefully:]
Has anyone besides yourself heard him?
Well, -- Beren.
And my father. And Mablung.
And Beleg. And a whole lot of other people who
were there when he died.
[stroking the Hound's ears gently as she finishes]
[leaning back to look at the Captain]
You weren't making a joke about it, then, earlier.
Nerdanel: [resigned, though her brothers-in-law still look
dubious, as do others]
Nay, I do confess me much astonisht withal -- yet truly, ever did we say
him wise, clever, and cunning in wit nigh as any Elf, about the House,
in lost Day.
[happy tail thumps]
Aredhel: [very aside]
What utter rot.
Eol: [just as obviously not intended to be heard by
Obviously. I told you my royal family were mad.
Apprentice: [generally, smug]
Oh, there'll be far stranger things than a talking dog before this
Finrod: [struggling to not be incredulous]
So . . .
[he covers by reaching over to scratch Huan's nose, but is plainly rattled]
. . . ah, you came up
with a plan to draw Sauron out and trap him,
between the two of you. I mean, between the two of you, you came up
with a plan . . .
It works the other way, too.
It . . . sounds very . . . simple.
--And completely insane--!!
Well, I challenge you to come up with a better one on short notice--
Oh -- no, I -- I didn't mean to say that, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry--
[she clutches her temples, grimacing, (fortunately
at this point nothing she can
do one way or the other can make her hair any worse) while Finrod shakes his head,
trying to reassure her -- but not able to get through until Luthien experiences
again for herself the dampening consequences of being distraught around a large
friendly canid, as Huan takes advantage of proximity to snuffle in her ear and
under her chin]
Finrod: [rubbing her shoulder]
Shh -- I understand.
[Luthien pulls herself together, not entirely over her attack of remorse]
It's still insane.
[as she gives him a wary Look]
--What did Beren say about it, I wonder?
[she glares at the ceiling arches]
That's what I thought. So -- I gather you rode Huan, then, like a horse?
[the Lord of Dogs wags his tail again before
remembering that there are other
Well, there isn't--
[checks -- wryly, glancing over at the Apprentice]
--wasn't -- a
faster mount in my stables, so that part at least was
sane, in my judgment. And he'd be better than any warsteed for dealing
with any enemy patrols you might have run into.
Are you going to be all right with me telling this?
[her cousin nods, smiling just a little; she
looks around at the rest of his
relatives, and continues rather acerbically]
Just to warn all of you,
I'm not -- and I'm probably going to start crying
again at some point.
[to Finrod, anxious again]
--Are you sure?
[he nods again, not looking away from her]
It's over for us.
Teler Maid: [very abruptly]
I do not wish to hear this part again.
[she gets up and goes to the Falls, a little
way from where the Youngest Ranger
is lying down, and kneels down to watch the water too.]
Elenwe: [considering Finrod's kinfolk with a piercing Look]
Not for self alone doth the child speak, I deem.
Thou seest overmuch, good my niece. Yet tales there be, that rehearsal
doth not lighten, nor the passing time dull their most hurtsome edge
upon the heart.
Luthien: [very quietly]
I'm sorry, my lord -- but what happens after doesn't make much sense, if
I leave this out.
Nay, say on: aught that hath been shall ne'er be made naught, by ceasing
to speak thereof.
[Finrod steals a concerned glance at his father
-- it is only now beginning to
sink in for him what the other Elf is going through. He does not however notice
Amarie's frozen expression; Nerdanel holds out a hand to her, but the Vanyar
lady either does not or chooses not to notice, keeping hers firmly folded on
her knee as though posing for her portrait. The camera cuts over to the waterfall:
by the spill pool, the Sea-elf has already gotten bored of silence and tosses
something accurately at the unsuspecting Sindarin warrior. He startles, reaching
up to snag it out of the air and sitting bolt upright in one quick motion, then
looks bemusedly at the bracelet he has caught for himself.]
Rains jewelry here, eh?
[she does not sound particularly contrite, though
-- he smiles at her, and
Youngest Ranger: [straight-faced]
What are these?
Those are pearls, which come of oysters, which are akin to snails, though
they do not look it. One finds them underwater.
Are you sure? They look like polished white glass to me.
Of course I am sure! I brought them up myself, and we had them for supper.
The oysters, I mean. When I was alive of course. The ones I am dreaming of.
How do beads come from snails?
I am not quite sure.
Youngest Ranger: [still deadpan]
Are you sure you're not making fun of me?
Yes. No, I am not, I mean.
Oh, but you are making
sport of me! For you are known of Lord Cirdan, and
the havens of the Land of Morning!
Not I, I'm afraid. I lived my life inland, always -- I was never stationed
on the Coast.
[she makes an exasperated noise, tossing her head]
If not you, then all of you -- and indeed you must know something of them,
for there are pearls on the very image of your cloak-pin there!
Do you also know the way of it that pearls are fashioned, then?
[he shakes his head]
I must ask my Lady someday, that is all.
[when he goes to give her back the bracelet she
makes a "keep it" gesture, and
looks at him thoughtfully with her head on one side.]
Are you afraid of Lady Uinen?
Youngest Ranger: [at a loss]
I --'ve not had the honor -- never been introduced--
Teler Maid: [probing]
But would you, if you were to chance to meet her?
[he starts knotting the pearls into the end of his braid]
Youngest Ranger: [very busily not looking at her]
But you are are a warrior, you have fought demons and do not fear to wield
weapons! And you are clever, you even know how to call things out of rocks!
[she waves towards the Falls]
Youngest Ranger: [dismissive]
I learned that from the King. I don't understand what I'm doing enough to
teach anyone else, and I think that's part of doing anything properly. And
I grew up always knowing that there were creatures of the Enemy out there,
and that people I knew had fought them, and might have to again. I didn't
grow up knowing the gods as neighbors.
Teler Maid: [even more dismissive in turn]
Yes, but you have met them now, have you not? So why do you yet fear them?
I think when you and I look at things, we see them differently.
Of course! Or we should not be different people.
Youngest Ranger: [patient]
I mean, more differently than most differences. --When I look at the gods,
it's like standing by the smeltry and watching them cast ingots for the
forging. That level of raw energy, even if it's completely controlled,
scares me more than I can tell. I trust the smiths, but I don't like being
around so much power. I don't think it's the same for you.
You do not like the gods.
[worried and scolding]
Are the words of those
proud Noldor true, then, though they should not
mock anyone for Turning, that you do reject the Powers of our land?
That wasn't what I said.
But it was in your thought.
Youngest Ranger: [correcting patiently]
I don't like being around them. It frightens me.
Though a lot of that
was my own fears, about being sent back. Now that
I know they were right, that no one has to leave before he's ready, the
idea of the Lord and Lady doesn't make me sick with anxiousness.
Teler Maid: [with a sulky but self-directed humor]
That, you might indeed have known, did you but consider me -- even were
you not willing to trust your friends' wisdom!
But I didn't know it. Not until I was willing to ask Them and risk the answer.
Are you afraid of Nienna, too?
Youngest Ranger: [surprised tone]
Why? Or not, as it rather were.
[she gives him a Look, and he sighs and goes on]
--Because when She looks
at you, you know that nothing you've done,
nothing that was done to you, nothing you could ever do, and nothing
you didn't do, could ever make Her look at you in any other way. --Or
look away from you. How could I be frightened by Love that doesn't
demand anything of me in return, doesn't judge me, has no conditions,
and won't ever stop?
I'm not sure why House Feanor is so afraid of her, myself.
[the other shade looks away, subdued, and slumps
down to lean on the rocks
and watch the flames on the water for a while]
Teler Maid: [very quietly]
Because it makes one to wish to become worthy of that love.
[Elsewhere: the Corollaire]
You're not saying as much, but for some reason it's making more sense
when you explain these things to me.
Of course. My family means well, but sometimes they can be a bit
overwhelming. And you're mine, so naturally you understand me more
Beren: [gesturing widely at the distant eastern horizon]
The thing I still don't understand is how anything good can come out of
what Morgoth does. It would be nice to think that in spite of himself he
ends up doing some good, even if it doesn't make up for the rest, but I
don't see how that's possible, 'cause all he does is destroy stuff and
The best way I can explain is to tell you a story. --And yes, it's real.
[he grins, abashed]
Once there were creatures
in Middle-earth like pigs, but different. And
the King's greedy brother stole them from the Lady who owned them, while
they were foraging on the plains for food, because he said they were on
his property. And he turned them into monsters, and made them bigger,
and gave them round flat feet, and made their tushes as long as spears,
and sent them back to trample on her gardens and dig up the roots of them
and knock over the trees she had planted there.
How did he do that?
I'm afraid I can't tell you.
Mysteries of the gods. I understand.
No, you don't. That's the trouble. I would if I knew how, but it's so
different from anything in your life, from your perspective, that I don't
think it will make any sense.
Can you try?
Yavanna: [slight frown]
Yes, but I don't know that I'll be able to succeed. --Do the words
"transposable element-induced mutations" convey anything to you?
That's what I was afraid of.
[pause -- slowly]
You know about breeding
ungulates, right? How you can change the herd
by coupling the hardiest, or select for more milk, or heavier coats,
or smaller horns, or calmer temper?
Like cows and sheep and goats, right? Are they like -- ungulants? Because
I don't think we have them back home. Since obviously you're not talking
Yes, you do -- that's what they are, all of them. And others as well. It
means the ones with hooves, not paws.
Yavanna: [tossing her head, dismissive]
Silly word, really. I know what they are, and they know what they are,
but it means so much to the Eldar to be able to organize them with names.
Anyhow, Melkor did something like that to them, only because he's a god
he can do it far more effectively and in ways that would never occur to
most people to think of -- thankfully! -- but it takes a very long time,
even for us, to change things, and while he was so pleased with himself
for making creatures that could destroy my trees, he completely missed
something else that was happening at the same time.
[she smiles, rather scarily -- her tone is triumphant]
They became wise.
They live in tribes, of a sort, now, and they have lore
of a fashion, and they teach their young to mind the old ways, and the
oldest females are always their leaders. And they do knock down and eat
trees, but they also make it possible for many other creatures to live,
on them and around them and because of them. So -- those ones are still
mine, even though he tried to take them away from me.
You did that? You -- can do that?
Of course. But not the same way. Not as you're thinking of it, like that
game your friends are so mad for, the one with little bits of stone -- as
though Melkor moved one, and then I moved another to counter him. And it
isn't just me, either. It's all of us. Nia and dear Este and Tav', and my
kinswomen, Vana and Nessa and little Melian, and my husband, and Irmo and
your friends Tulkas and the one you've never met, but know as well as me,
Ulmo, and his people, and Vaire, Namo and Manwe and Varda, and all of us,
everywhere, the ones you know of and the ones no Elf or Man has ever
You mean the Song.
It pours out across the emptiness, and he tries to block it, and he can't
-- all he can do is hold it for a little, or change it from what it was
trying to be, but it's like trying to stop a river -- only instead of a
river, it's the whole ocean.
[he is frowning]
Have I made things hopelessly confusing?
Beren: [quick headshake]
No -- not really. What -- When you said "trees," you weren't thinking
about orchards or hawthorns or junipers, were you? Small trees?
[she shakes her head in turn]
That's . . . what I was afraid of. --What kind of trees?
I don't know what names have been given to them -- but they're probably
most like oaks, of all the ones you're familiar with, though the roots
are different. But they look somewhat like a particularly thick-boled
and gnarled oak tree.
But -- not that tall, right?
Oh yes. Easily.
With their foreheads.
How big are they?
[the Earthqueen shrugs]
[wide-eyed, he doesn't answer, except with a
quick shiver, and an appalled
smile -- she looks at him curiously]
What are you thinking?
[for some reason this embarrasses him]
Oh. I -- I was -- and this is just, um, hypothetical, even if it wasn't
anyway already, because I don't want to, you understand -- but -- I was
wondering how you'd go about taking one. Sorry.
Yavanna: [not offended in the least]
But of course. You're his also. You could hardly help but wonder about it.
Beren: [frowning still more]
--Mostly about what you'd do with it after. A whole village could hardly
eat an animal big enough to plough over an oak tree like it was a shrub!
And you couldn't make it into hams, either, not easily. I'm just croggled
thinking about the technical problems of skinning something as big as a
cottage. And what would you do with the bones? Make houses out of 'em?
[she looks pensive for a moment]
Ye--es, I believe they do.
You mean -- somebody has?
Your people are very stubborn. And ingenious.
Yavanna: [raising her hands]
Hunting is not my Art. I gather it's quite dangerous, however it's done,
and often the price is the hunter's life, so it isn't frequent -- a dire
emergency, when the certainty of famine makes the likelihood of sacrificing
a leader worthwhile. --Which is a fair bargain.
Okay, what I really want to know is, where do they live, and is it any
way near Beleriand, or could they get there? Because this is really scary,
even if it doesn't affect me directly.
[she shakes her head, amused]
They only thrive where it's hot all year round -- that's where they were
made for, since things grow there without a break. It's very far from
where you lived -- beyond several Barriers, and a long ways south besides.
And it's very unlikely that they would ever cross a Barrier -- they're not
designed for climbing, but crushing, and they haven't much interest in
traveling out of their own lands. --Another thing he failed to notice until
it was too late.
[the Earthqueen sounds very smug -- Beren gives a relieved sigh.]
That's good to hear. I guess if it were different they could've used
them to knock down the Nightshade instead of trying to burn me out.
You know, I'd still kind of like to see one. From a safe distance.
I wonder if you could
domesticate them . . . and what you'd do with them
if you did, and how you'd feed them.
[looking at her wryly]
Now I'm trying to think how big of a barn you'd need to put them in.
[the Hall. There are, as Nerdanel predicted,
fewer interruptions and farther
between; the audience is much more respectful, or at least attentive. In the
background, the Sea-elf is dumping out the Youngest Ranger's quiverful of
arrows and investigating his gear, examining its decoration and construction
while he answers her questions, the two of them silhouetted against the
illusory flames shining on the water.]
Luthien: [mildly exasperated]
Look, Finrod, I simply don't know. I didn't choose the route, he chose
it, and I couldn't correlate anything we passed to the maps in Nargothrond
along the way -- all I was doing was holding on and holding my breath that
we wouldn't meet any enemies.
[frowning hard at the map]
--Yes, I do remember,
now, we did pass a big rock shaped like a stack of
plates, with some bracken at their base.
That would be right there, then--
[he looks sharply at Huan]
Why did you go that way?
It's a bit shorter, but the footing on that scarp
is much worse than if you turn and follow the slope inland a bit here--
[the Hound only pants and grins; the Princess
of Gondolin leans back on the
dais and calls over quietly to her cousins:]
Aredhel: [malicious smile]
You do realize your brother is arguing travel plans with a dog, don't you?
Angrod: [very dry]
At least he isn't going on about the Golden Beast.
At any rate, we got there, and I realized at once that my ideas of sneaking
in undetected were hopeless given the design of the bridge and the approach
to the Tower on the other side, and that we were going to have to brazen it
out Huan's way after all.
[she strokes Huan's ears affectionately]
He was so brave. Any
of them could have been his Doom, for all we knew, but
he didn't let that make any difference to him. --I was so terrified.
[with a shaky laugh]
I didn't know one could
be scared of so many different things, in so many
different ways, all at once.
Finrod: [deceptively mild tone]
And -- let me get this straight -- you were standing in front of the main
gates, on the riverbank, using yourself as bait, projecting as loudly as
you could through Sauron's defenses while crazed Werewolves came at you
and Huan picked them off? That -- really -- was your plan?
That's what I said.
I know. I just want to make sure that wasn't one of the plans you rejected
as being too unchancy and perhaps I was mistaken, surely you'd not have
done anything that -- that--
Watch it, all right, you hear?
[the living High King turns to the Doriathrin
lord, as the latter winces
How your speech hath variance from ours all that dwell upon this shore!
. . .
Nerdanel: [nodding as she takes notes]
Aye, the sense of it, that indeed is plain, as well the significance of
every word its own, yet I confess the meaning of't all, cometh not unto
the sense, when all are judged as words.
Ambassador: [very dry]
The speech of mortals also has diverged from its original sources in our
own pure tongue.
Ah, I do comprehend me now -- this shall be among those fashionings which
Lady Luthien declared in counsel her own willful keeping, that by'r very
speech she should remind thee and ye ever of her true-love's self.
[the Ambassador nods, grimly]
Luthien: [rueful smile]
I'm sorry I broke down your castle, by the by. It -- I know it was theirs,
now, but still, you did make it--
It had outlasted its purpose. Better to remove the strategic value and
deny it to Morgoth than leave it in the foolishly-optimistic hope that
it could be made invulnerable -- not again, but as we once thought it.
Angrod: [much more respectful now]
Er -- Luthien?
[she turns towards him; he phrases his doubts very politely]
You didn't -- well, really destroy it completely, did you? The whole Tower?
Don't -- don't you just mean the main gate towers?
Those were part of it.
There were some edge
bits still piled up. Of the -- the curtain, that's
what you call a wall around a tower, right?
. . .
Finrod: [wicked humour]
Good thing I'm not a gambling Elf, hm? I told you it wasn't exaggeration.
But -- the whole Fortress?!
I had to free Beren. And . . . I was out of patience, by then.
--But . . . how?
It was just a matter of putting enough force into the words.
[to Finrod, frowning]
--What have the
Enemy done to the language? It's as if every word was
wrenched around to make it as painful-sounding as possible.
[Luthien shivers, petting the Hound for comfort]
The aura of the whole area . . .
[pulling herself together]
--I'm getting this out
of order. At that point the Tower was very solid,
gates and all. And full of Enemy minions. Which problem we were working
on, right, Huan?
Finrod: [rueful smile]
I never realized you had that kind of power, back in Doriath.
Neither did I -- until I started trying to do things I'd never attempted
-- or dreamt of. But at that moment I was only -- I hardly thought about
my danger, the only thing that mattered was our success, that we might
not be in time, even then--
[she stops again, looking bleakly at the map, and the Hound licks her hand]
But you were.
[his father turns his head away sharply, biting back comment]
Only because of you. Draugluin came--
[with a short, shaky laugh]
It was funny -- I'd even
used him in my spell, the one to make my hair
grow, but he -- I don't know if I would have dared, if I had any idea
how awful he was -- nothing like the glimpses of him we'd seen scrying
It wasn't just the much-bigger-in-person
part of him being there in
person. He hated Huan. There was more -- anger, there, than -- he could
tell. He was stronger than the others, they just came to me like moths
to my hair-ornaments, but he could tell that Huan was -- he just knew.
[shaking her head]
I'm not the right person
to tell this part. I -- it's all so muddled,
now, so -- disjointed, like things seen by lightning-flash, I--
[she raises her hands and let them fall in frustration;
in the back row,
Nienna's Apprentice looks up suddenly, out into the shadows of the Hall
(not at the once-again-dark palantir)]
Then who else, my Lady? Even were the Lord of Dogs willing, his narration
should hardly prove more coherent, considering his own role in the night's
action. It is most difficult to report on events themselves hurried and
confused, as must any violent encounter in which one is one's self engaged
inevitably prove to be. Your attempt at the least strives for unity and
clarity -- whereas, were your lord to endeavor to make the same report,
'twould either diverge into some half-dozen other narratives along the
way besides, leaving all listeners entangled in the digressions, -- or else
be some six words summation, as perchance, "We fought them. Oh -- we won."
[this has the effect of making her smile despite
her best intentions, looking
down and closing her eyes in resistance]
Yes, Beren has -- an interesting style, of recounting events. I remember
one evening when we met, and I asked him what had happened that day, and
he said, "Salamanders!" and then we made bannocks and I wondered what he
meant by that and then we ate and I wondered if it was some human expression
that I'd never heard of and then we went for a walk along the stream--
[gesturing animatedly as she speaks]
--and he started telling
me about the first time he saw them, and his
cousins told him some creepy little story about them being the ghosts of
frogs, only he figured out pretty quickly that couldn't be true, and then
he described all the different sorts of amphibians that lived in Dorthonion,
and where, and then he started asking about the types of water-weed that
grew in the Esgalduin, and then he showed me where he found a different
sort of newt that he'd never seen before, and that was what he'd meant
when he said "Salamanders!" -- that he'd discovered some. Only it needed
everything else that was in his thoughts about them, to get that latest
bit out -- it's hard for him to untangle it, usually.
Not to mention the rest of us.
Aegnor: [caustic aside]
It's perfectly all right for them to make fun of him, of course.
Luthien: [mild exasperation]
We're not-- We're his friends, talking fondly about his foibles, and
he'd join in himself if he were here, as you'd know if you were a
friend of his, cousin. There is a difference.
--I've never had a chance
to share recollections of my true-love with
anyone who knew him well, before this. I -- I'm not going to start
crying again. I was saying, that Draugluin came rushing down the bridge
like a glacier might if it were going a great deal faster -- and making
as much of a noise as one would! -- charging at Huan and Huan was baying
back at him until I thought I was going to go mad from all the echoes,
I couldn't even hear myself singing over the ruckus--
But -- you were at least a safe distance away, Highness?
Well, I -- wasn't underfoot, then.
She means there wasn't any safe place, then. I'm sure it was far worse
than we're imagining, my lord. Or could possibly imagine.
[Luthien rolls her eyes and makes a dismissive gesture]
It wasn't that bad. Huan was there to protect me. --Oh, stop growling
and put your hackles down. You were magnificent, I was perfectly safe
with you there.
[looks of astonishment are shared all around]
There's belike the greatest gulf e'er spoke within these walls, 'twixt
word and was, and uttered yet full honest.
No, it's quite true -- I survived, didn't I? So I was safe. All most logical.
Very deftly done.
[she cannot quite conceal an embarrassed smile at his compliment]
The Wolf-Commander was really impressive, like an ice-dam breaking in
spring, but -- it seemed to me--
--and I know I'm not
the one to be judging such matters, I've only seen
natural animals fighting in real life, and watching things in water with
Mom wasn't -- well, seeing things from a distance when you've not really
much idea of what it's like -- but it did seem that he wasn't fighting
all that well. He was certainly strong enough, but--
--he was careless. Reckless.
I think he was overconfident, and I think
he was too angry to think straight.
[Huan thumps his tail several times]
And Huan just ripped
him to pieces, really. He had to break off the
engagement and run for the safety of the Tower, or else Huan would have
killed him. --He did, actually, but not right there, only we found out
later. And we waited again, knowing that our plan was halfway spoilt by
that, but what could we do? And then--
Finrod: [interrupting, to Huan]
You mean you didn't pursue him?
Of course not -- that would have been madness, to dash back into Enemy
territory, with no idea how many other Wargs there were, or how badly
their Commander was hurt. Huan has more sense than that.
More sense than most, when it comes right down to it.
I'd not dare to warrant
that any two-legged warrior -- Firstborn or
Secondborn -- would have shown the same restraint.
[Huan grins and licks his hand as Finrod scratches his nose]
Too true. --Well done, sir Hound.
[the lawful Eldar give him disquieted glances]
So we waited and waited, and kept waiting, and then--
--this -- this Beast charges out of the Gates at us, and it was -- so--
[low prolonged growl]
--Huan was even too shocked to move, weren't you, boy? So was I. And he
was fast. The reek of sheer evil and blind rage coming off of him was
twelve times -- a hundred times -- worse than that of all the rest put
together. I almost passed out, I was too scared to breathe, and I don't
know if he would have killed me or just dragged me away -- not that that
would have been any better! -- I sort of jumped back -- well, fell, really,
I tripped -- but the jolt shook me out of it and woke me up enough to stun
him for a second. That was all Huan needed to recover and jump him -- Shh,
you don't need to growl, it's all over--
[gesturing with her hands]
They crashed into
each other -- when Huan and Draugluin were fighting
it was incredible, but still -- normal, like bears or stags duelling
over territory. This was like a battle between thunderheads, or
mountains, like one of those storms that uproot oaks. There was so
much pressure from the power emanating from them that it was hard to
breathe still, the way it gets in a hurricane sometimes.
I wasn't any use, either
-- not as if I could contribute anything but
Don't underestimate the usefulness of that.
Well, if it was any use, it was hardly enough, considering what I ought
to have been doing, seeing that if it wasn't for me--
Finrod: [very earnest, but a little bit patronizing]
You're blaming yourself again over something not of your causing. And
you're letting it tear you apart. --That isn't very reasonable, now,
is it? Nor much help.
You know, Beren couldn't manage to make clear to me why, exactly, it
was that you lost. I could see being overwhelmed, but not losing your
concentration on account of something not of your causing -- which would
seem to describe pretty nearly you coming undone with guilt over the
Kinslaying when Sauron tossed that out, wouldn't it?
That -- was -- different.
Captain: [not at all aside]
Oh yes, very.
[his lord clenches his jaw on comment]
Do you know what the strangest thing was, he started Changing while
Huan had hold of him, trying to escape, into all different shapes --
as if that would shake him off! --Though I suppose an ordinary hound
might have been startled enough if his Warg turned into a snake, or blue
flames, or a vampire-demon -- or one of us -- to let go. But not Huan.
[Huan grins, and gives a quick tail-wag]
It's so peculiar, that
the gods -- good and bad -- are so separate from
their bodies that they can just -- let them go or rearrange them at will,
like clothes, not just illusion to change what they look like.
[with a short, unsettling laugh]
Once when I was very
small, and Mom was telling us stories about her
-- youth, I suppose it would be -- I asked her why she didn't ever turn
into anything now, like a tree, and she said that she had Chosen to
become an Elf, to be with Dad, and Elves couldn't turn into trees or
horses or wind any more than those things could have their own little
girls . . . --I wanted to talk with her, after all of it, about being --
about so many things, but--
[she shakes her head gloomily]
Not all the Ainur can. Those who serve the Dark -- they don't seem to
be able to become other things--
If they could, we'd have had a much harder time of it!
[nods and grimaces from all those who were warriors in Beleriand]
Sauron could, though.
Morgoth's first officer, and a damnéd powerful spirit in his own right.
Luthien: [agreeing now]
And he couldn't shape himself another, then if he'd been . . . killed,
there, either; he would have had to go get a replacement from Morgoth.
That was why we were able to coerce him so easily -- he was petrified
I'd have Huan rip his throat out and make him go beg a new one. He was
more afraid of being unbodied and at his master's mercy than of anything
else. I hardly had to push him at all before he crumbled.
Now doubt the shock of being so easily stomped by you rattled him
"Stomped"--? "Rattled"--? How mean ye?
More mortal perversions of our speech, gentle lady.
They're not -- Oh, never mind.
Luthien: [rolling her eyes]
I didn't stomp him. Huan did. I just asked the questions until he gave
me the keywords. Well, I told him to give me them, really.
You stomped him.
[they share a reluctant fond smile of mutual experience]
Aredhel: [to Eol]
Well, he can't have been that impressive of an opponent, if one girl and
one dog managed to bring him down between them.
[with a sly grin at Finrod]
Though my cousin certainly thought otherwise.
[the dead High King gives his daughter a look of profound disappointment]
Once I'd have agreed -- and now I cannot even with myself-that-was
agree, or else disdain one dearer to me than myself--
Third Guard: [not-quite-aside to the Soldier]
And how many Maiar has she defeated?
Don't speak disrespectfully of my wife.
Soldier: [not really aside]
No -- nor your sword, or your horse, or your hound neither.
Aredhel: [sitting up menacingly]
How dare you imply that I'm his chattel?
[she turns a questioning glance on her cousin
and his wife -- as Aredhel
starts to argue]
Please don't say they started it, either.
[the couple subsides, though not without grumbling (which Luthien ignores)]
Fingolfin: [seriously, to Luthien and the Hound -- but also
to everyone else]
To enter into a contest, unsupported, and with little hope, and no
certainty at all -- that is a fell battle indeed, no matter what the
adversary or who the challenger. Even as my nephew's duel, yours no
less deserves respect, my noble lord and lady.
Thou dost -- thou didst ken the substance of his Doom? and dost even deem
it a matter of great renown? Thou, brother, that didst lame the Enemy him
in his person?
Renown? I daren't declare that -- for fame and glory rest on the knowledge
and sense of others, do they not? But certainly should be so, for the deed
Father, he lost.
--As did I, 'Feiniel.
You lost against the most powerful Vala ever to walk the earth.
[she tosses her head. Finrod only looks amused
at her disrespect, though
his friends are not at all, any more than his siblings]
Aye -- and my battle was but a few hours in duration, while his lasted
for days upon days -- and with no knowledge, as I had, of any other
knowing of his valour, to keep it living in friendly memory beyond their
Thy words do convey unto my heart some strange easement, nay, even
of consolation a certain smallest drop.
Fingolfin: [with a wry smile]
Oh, no, for all his maddening efforts to provoke me out of my despair,
when he grows bored of diverting me, and for all the inconceivable yet
not insignificant trouble he devises -- or, indeed, instigates -- he's
a good lad and a brave one, and well I know it, and well you should be
proud to call him kin.
[this does manage to embarrass the ex-King of
Nargothrond, as nothing else
his elders have said]
I thought -- before -- it was no more than partiality, on his Majesty's
part -- but now I doubt my former senses -- and yet, that itself is my
own partiality, that would not lessen one I love--
[he lowers his head against his clenched fists;
the Apprentice looks again
to the other side, where nothing is presently to be seen, and makes as if to
say something -- but the Captain sets a restraining hand upon his arm, shaking
his head, and he is silent.]
I do wonder that the Terrible One made so poor a showing, given all his
power -- I had scarcely thought that even so fine a Hound as our friend
Huan should have brought down the greatest of the Dark Lord's minions
with mere tooth and nail and brawn.
I don't think--
[they both stop and look at each other apologetically, waiting]
You were there -- I'm just speculating.
Yes, but you're the genius.
--Your Majesty, I don't
think he could actually use his powers, not in
any Elven sort of way, while he was being a Wolf -- he just was powerful,
if you understand me. And --
[pursing her lips]
He wasn't all that good
at it. Not the way Huan was. He seemed -- clumsy
somehow, as though his bulk was more than he was used to, or as if he had
to think about what he was doing as he was doing it. I don't know. Maybe
I'm just putting more into it than was really there.
No, that makes sense. If he were trying to make himself so much larger
than Huan, in order to guarantee a victory, he wouldn't have been
accustomed to that body, no matter how often he'd been a Warg. And Huan's
always been a dog, all the time. He wouldn't ever get rusty at it, as
the Old-world saying has it.
[Huan pants and grins, and Luthien pets his ears gently]
Moreover, my lords, the Terrible was always given to letting his own
servants fight his physical battles for him -- you recall how badly it
put him out to be shot, Sire, from what Beren said.
You're right -- that would go a long way to counter any advantages
of his nature as well.
So then he turned into a bat and flew away, leaving this revolting
mess behind. I suppose he didn't want to carry all of the bulk of his
wolf-body aloft and just left the excess behind instead of dissipating
it as energy, but -- ech.
[she shivers, this time in disgust, with a nauseated expression]
You let him go?
I made a bargain -- "if you want to live, you have to give me the password."
[shaking her head]
I couldn't have broken
my word -- well, obviously I could, but -- even
my father kept his word to me, that he wouldn't kill or imprison Beren,
after all. My family are the law in central Beleriand, from the beginning
of Time. I have a duty to live up to.
[stops, looking grim and distraught]
[he shakes his head, not meeting her eyes -- with an echo of power:]
Ambassador: [struggling against himself, still not looking
King Elu did say after -- while you two were making your farewells --
that he only let the Lord of Dorthonion go, because he was sure that
he would not come back, with or without a Silmaril -- promise or not.
--I would rather die, than speak such shame of my lord--
Too late. In all respects.
[she bites back further sarcasm, looking both angry and miserable]
I still think it had been better, my lady, did you not spare your foe.
Now, he will recover,
and harry not only your people, but my son and
Better? I'm not sure.
[looking seriously at Finrod, and then at his elder kinsman]
As my cousin said earlier,
things go wrong when you try to twist the
Music to your own ends. I don't know what would have happened, if I'd
made my pledge into a lie after, but -- I saw what happened when the
Terrible One tried to make prophecy serve him, and cheat his way into
a victory. One result of it was to deliver his citadel to me. The other
was -- Carcharoth.
[the Ambassador flinches, shuddering]
--Who was as much a menace
to his own side as to ours. Things went
wrong enough as it was -- and I can only begin to imagine how much
worse they might have gone, if we'd started using the Enemy's tactics.
Bad enough that I had to use his magic, in order to undo itself.
Those words left such a foul taste behind.
Highness, however did you manage to bring down an entire citadel of
your own power, unassisted?
Rock wants to be down. And mortar is just very small rocks, really.
Once I got it started it was relatively easy -- surprisingly so -- but
then, the very nature of masonry was on my side. I just helped the
stones go free where they wished.
[the Noldor lords exchange wry Looks]
So speaks the daughter of a demigoddess.
Unfortunately the bridge came down, too. I'm not sure if it's that
I didn't know what I was doing, or if it was all tied together and
had to follow the Tower . . . ?
[with a questioning look at the architect of the Fortress]
Ah. I'm not exactly able to say, since it wasn't ever tested before.
Nor was it quite intended to be implemented by--
--Someone who didn't know what she was doing?
Oh. Well, it made it much more difficult to cross the river. But we
made it finally, though it was rough going even for Huan with four
feet and claws, and into the ruins to find you all -- we didn't know
you were dead, then--
Angrod: [interrupting, shocked]
You went in--
? ? ?
You -- yourself -- into--
[looking at his eldest sibling, upset]
--into that Pit?
Who else should have gone? Ought I have sent another, as if I didn't
care enough to find out for myself?
[he gestures helplessly and gives up]
You're not made for such -- such places as battlefields -- and dungeons --
and torture chambers.
[she gives him a piercing Look]
And others of us -- are?
I didn't want to. I waited
until I couldn't keep hoping that anyone else
would come across. And then we went into what was left of the place,
imagining what we might find, only -- instead, we found Beren half-dead,
Finrod just dead with the hellhound where they'd killed each other, and
a lot of bone fragments.
[she looks around at the Ten with a touch of anxiousness]
I'm sorry, we weren't able to keep everyone's separate.
Why? It isn't as though we'll be needing them again, my Lady.
[none of the living are at all happy with the direction the discussion is taking]
Luthien: [still troubled]
I know, but . . .
Most people here never even got buried, what with the flames and all.
Eol: [glares at Aredhel]
I didn't -- thanks to your brother.
Aredhel: [lifting her chin]
You should be glad he didn't bury you alive, not just toss you off a cliff.
[the lawful Eldar, ghostly or not, exchange wide-eyed
Looks; her father
closes his eyes]
Can you please fight someplace else?
[abrupt silence; --pensive]
I didn't understand why
it was so important, but Beren says cairns are
the only proper way to honour the dead, so--
Aegnor: [stiffly defensive, even hostile]
You shouldn't criticize mortal customs without knowing the rationale
behind them, Luthien.
I didn't say I thought there was something wrong with it, I said that
I was trying to understand it because it didn't really make sense to me.
That's why I didn't question any of it -- because it isn't our people's
way. I know that mortals make hills to remember where they bury their
dead, because I remembered hearing about it when Lady Haleth died. And
I suppose it matters so much because they're not reborn. And it was
important to the liberated prisoners too -- I think because so many of
them had died, and were under the Ban, so it was almost the same for them.
I think. I still don't understand it all. When Beren died, I didn't care
where they put his body, because he wasn't there, and looking at a hill
of dirt and boulders didn't help me remember him.
[frowning, to Finrod, who is looking at her very compassionately]
Please -- don't
tell him that his barrow -- that my father built it
taller than yours -- not that Dad knew it or meant to -- but it would
upset him so.
Which would be quite unreasonable, and yes, you're right, it would
distress him no end. We won't bring it up, I promise.
Amarie: [unable to control herself]
Ah, doth no shame, neither fittest revulsion, constrain ye, that converse
so freely upon the severing of self from self? Is't not enow, that house
be ruined, that needs must dwell upon the matter of't?
[it's clear that her sentiments are shared, in
some degree, by the other
lawful Elves present]
Elenwe: [in a benignly absent-minded way]
And one be housed anew, it me seemeth it should matter naught. --I mind
it little for mine own self.
For myself, neither -- but for my son, and for my people, 'twas a mercy
to them no less, I am most sure, than the news of it to me for their
sake, that the Lord of Eagles prevented my slayer from throwing my
body to his hounds.
[his brother clenches his teeth]
Finrod: [not quite looking at his own brothers]
Yes -- one never minds anything so much for one's self, as for
one's loved ones.
[his aunt looks at him, directly, and very bleakly]
Good my nephew, thou needst it not, I ken -- yet needs must I
entreat thy pardon for the sad ungraciousness of my twain--
'Danel, it isn't rational at all for you to blame yourself for
what my cousins did, when you tried to forestall everything that
led to it.
Even as thou most reasonable did bear the wound of Alqualonde
in thy heart.
Just like that.
[two of his companions look at each other]
What did I say? I told you it was only a matter of time.
[he holds out his hand; the other Elven shade passes over a small dagger]
Warrior: [grumbling as he does]
It still doesn't make any sense.
They were -- they weren't betting that Lady Nerdanel was going to
apologize for her sons' actions?
[the Captain nods]
That's -- rather crass, isn't it?
[the Steward hides his face in his hands]
Finrod: [biting his lip]
Er -- friends, I fear that -- regardless of intent, any -- anything
that seems to make light of our discorporate state, is going to seem
disrespectful to my family. If you'd not mind delaying any bets until
later, I'd be most appreciative.
[but his aunt shakes her head, with an unsteady smile]
Nay, gentles, and ye find aught of light within these walls, do ye
keep it, as merrily as may -- I begrudge it not.
[there is still a high level of discomfort visible among the living audience]
Elenwe: [to Amarie, puzzled]
Art thou not much wrung, for thought of thy consort's fate?
His own fate, he did him choose.
Thou answerest not. --Why?
Wherefore I answer not unto thee, kinswoman.
Again thou answerest not.
Are you -- really -- all right with me talking about this?
No. The thought of you standing there, unarmed, being wolfbait upsets
me more than I can convey, even though I know that worse things happened
to you afterwards, and they're all in the past anyway.
Past -- but news nonetheless.
[he and Finarfin exchange significant glances.]
What would have been worse--
[she closes her eyes for a moment]
--is if Sauron had learned
what it was you were there for, and who you
all were. I don't know what would have happened then, only -- I doubt
very much that we'd be dead yet. If -- if he had known that Beren and
I -- and he -- and used him as a hostage against me -- there, or before,
in Doriath. I -- it would have been everything Dad feared, only it would
have been his fault--
[with a fierce look at the Ambassador]
--for sending Beren on
such an errand, it would have made him the tool
of the Enemy to get hold of me, to make me crazed enough to fall into
their hands, if they had brought him out to bargain with -- I--
[her cousin grips her shoulder with one hand
and the muzzle of the snarling
Hound with the other]
Shh -- it didn't happen -- he didn't drag Beren out and torture him in
front of you, you didn't surrender to try to stop it -- it didn't come
Luthien: [fighting a holding action against tears]
I know -- and -- I know why--
[she turns a strained, watery smile upon the
Ten, who are a bit embarrassed
by her gratitude]
Aglon: [aside, anguished]
Yet I do not -- or why no other--
[this time, the shade of the former Healer appears
again, where Nienna's
Apprentice had been looking earlier, though rather tenuous and transparent still]
We had no leader to believe in us, and no cause to believe in but ourselves,
and in the end . . . that was not enough.
[she has eyes only for Luthien, who regards her steadily in turn]
You -- knew. You always -- saw me for what I was.
[the half-Maia nods slowly]
And yet you never turned
from me, even then. I did not understand that
until now. That -- changes . . .
[she bows her head a little to the Princess]
I give you my thanks, for that -- if late.
[stepping slowly back into the shadows, the Feanorian
lady vanishes again,
despite the beckoning gestures of the Ten welcoming her among them, though
she hesitates briefly when the Captain reaches out a hand to her. As she
disappears from view entirely, he casually unclips the brooch at his neck
and shrugging out of his cloak, tosses it into the dimness after her.]
She hasn't decided yet.
[she gives him an askance Look at this cryptic answer]
Finarfin: [slowly and heavily]
'Tis burdensome to say, yet perforce I must yield me unto the truth:
howsoever I would to set all blame, else cause, upon some others --
the Lord of Beor, no less than Orodreth, no less the like than Curufin
and's brother, even as that most fractious Rebel fraction of our House
-- still, 'tis equal measure at the least thine own deed, Finrod, and
thyself answerable for consequence to thee.
[this neutral but loaded statement evokes guarded,
wary glances from all
the company, most particularly his sons]
Luthien: [with some reluctance]
My lord, I don't wish to grieve you more than I can't help -- but really,
you did forfeit your right to criticize your children when you abandoned
them in the course of the Return.
[nods of agreement and quiet assent from the
Ten as well as the Princes,
though Finrod himself only looks gloomy at her words]
Nerdanel: [pulling herself together a bit]
Nay, and dost declare, that none mayeth rightfully to advise, saving
only them that do stand in most present authority above? Else might
not friend e'er proffer word, each unto the other. --I deem thou hast
greater sense, than such to be propounding?
Um, no, of course -- I meant, as a parent.
Finarfin: [extremely serious, but with a certain grim playfulness]
Then, King Felagund--
[his eldest stiffens, drawing back a little,
but is thrown by the faintly
humorous expression his father is wearing]
--do thou hear me neither
as elder, nor as sire -- nay, but only as peer
even as friend, and thou will't.
[long pause; Finrod nods warily]
For mine own self, I comprehend not thee, nor this thy deed nor choosing, yet--
[he is cut off by his eldest]
Finrod: [extremely patronizing]
Father. --Is there any child in all of Valinor -- of all our kindreds
-- even of one whose parent set forth bloody-handed in direst refusal
of mercy -- for whom you'd not set your own life at risk, did you see
that one in danger? Though you knew it in all likelihood should cost
you breath, would you stand aside?
--I know you would not.
[Finarfin bows his head, with an grimace of mixed
exasperation, grief --
Then how, how, should
ever I--? How might I abandon the Singers I was
born to find and lead out of their simplicity, the Children whose life
I did in some part make, for them, from roughest beginnings of little
more than earth -- save for the inmost Spark, that was already there--?
Not when -- though I had failed them, failed to defend them from the
Enemy we have ever underestimated, they did not fail me in that Night
of our land across the Sea -- he did not rebel against me, though slain
his father and ruined his home!
[this explicit self-comparison to the Valar rather
unsettles nearly all
his audience, even among his own followers]
Finrod, kennst thou nay the least little how thy words doth resound?
Deemst it naught, deemst thou the Holy Ones should be not 'fronted by
this thy manifest pride?
[the late High King frowns judiciously]
Actually, Lord Namo did term it a . . . markéd improvement that he
understood Lord Aule's temptation and therefore now might correlate
it to his own experiences -- and empathize, rather than shake his
head in baffled pity the way we were used to.
Look, if They didn't smite down uncle Feanor in the Mahanaxar on any
of his numerous outbursts of hubris, not even the last -- you surely
don't think the Powers are going to punish me for comparing certain
aspects of my life to Theirs?
Yes, but you're so much more annoying, you never know.
You don't want me to have heard that, do you?
I thought not.
Finarfin: [with a strange half-smile]
Alas, my wiseling, thou didst end my speech ere I, nor learnéd thee my
thought its end, the which doth colour all the rest a most changéd hue--
[Finrod looks slightly abashed]
--Held thou silence but
a little longer whiles, thou hadst heard me
out: for mine own self, I comprehend not thee, nor this thy deed nor
choosing, yet for mine own self I do comprehend it well, for such selfsame
choice had been mine own, were it allotted me, the span of distant time
and Sea made naught, that turning back unraveled, that I had banish't
been, and tasted shame and taken death in thy self's stead, that thou
didst take upon thee for thy dear friend.
[as his speech progresses his eldest son's expression
changes to one of shock
and dismayed comprehension, followed by agitation at the idea]
Finrod: [stammering in his distress]
No -- Father, that -- that isn't -- I don't want -- I wouldn't want --
wouldn't have wanted you to go through that -- ever -- still less in
Aye, so I ken and well, that thou hadst liefer shield me from woe even
so much as harm; but thou needs must ken as well, that I perforce must
wish it so, and e'er regretting choice that once made, ne'er be undone,
hath made such choice as thine to follow, and I powerless to change. Yet
were it given unto me, even so little as this least relieving of thy
hurts, that I should take thy place, not in night nor iron withal, but
only in this twilit even' -- I'd will it, as thou'd most surely refuse it.
[Finrod shakes his head, with silent tears, too overcome to speak]
But not for us.
[Aegnor snorts, nodding agreement; Finarfin looks at his other sons coolly]
Said I yea, or not so, child? Then speak ye not presumptuous, aught
that I did not. But do ye speak to me, that have not heretofore, nor
do ye grant me even so much as glance, be it no more than pity, still
less to counter me with words, as I were less than thy murderous cousins,
nay, less than stone even?
[the Princes look offended, but also somewhat
taken aback at the realization
that their attitudes have succeeded in hurting their father]
Thou didst not even give so much as wrath, nor coldest scorn--
--thy brother Aegnor
hath sent only word that he returneth not, nor even
so little courtesy to bespeak us why nor wherefore, so that perforce thy
mother and myself must seek from others, what in mercy ye twain had best
sent of yourselves -- I presume me not to speak of duty, nor to me; yet
hold ye not, that aught be owed the Lady Earwen, no less?
[the living High King and his ghostly sons carry
on a brief duel of stares,
but the Princes yield almost instantly]
You left us at Araman.
Aye. We did in sorriest truth forsake each the other, that had been
all together one House, one strength. Thy wrath at that abandoning
I do comprehend full well, for having borne so many scalding hours
in mine own breast.
What can we say to her, after abandoning her for Cel and Cur's
friendship? Even before they killed Ingold. Even -- even leaving
[silence; Nerdanel turns away, wiping her eyes.]
Finarfin: [very gently]
Belike, -- that ye do love her, for all that ye be fools, for folly
'tis no bar to love.
[he cannot continue his protest, however]
Finarfin: [very dry]
Thy lady mother well hath most great and practiced skill, to deal with
sorry fools, my son.
[the Princes look at him warily, as it dawns
on them that he is jibing
Aegnor: [pointing to his eldest brother]
None of this changes the fact that he's dead--!
Angrod: [nodding seriously]
And in some degree, it is the fault of Beren son of Barahir, his liege
-- I'm sorry, Luthien, but I must say so, because it's true.
[their father sighs, trying not to smile in amazement]
Children. All ye be full well grown, and the governance of thine own
doings long have held unto thyselves. Aught that troubles ye -- that
ought ye take up anent thy brother, nor longer with myself -- unless,
belike, thou or thou do but seek my judgment, as King of all the
Noldor here . . .?
[simultaneous, outraged -- at the teasing]
But he doesn't listen to us!
[their uncle breaks in before any of the rest of the family can]
Nay, lads, do you not see that duty does bind lord no less than liege,
that a king's task may require him to die, if that death may save the
folk he rules? Or, if there is no people, how can there be any King?
That hazard must be cast, in the desperate time, and no mere game or
ritual of battle, when the stake is all.
[his nephew the former sovereign nods, looking
at his own former liege
Finrod: [with satisfaction]
[the Steward sighs, and looks down, and Huan
stretches his muzzle across
to set his chin on the Elf-lord's shoulder for a moment or two]
Angrod: [frustration almost to tears]
But don't you hold any of it against Barahirion? You must, at least
a little -- how can you not?
[his elder sibling gives him a deceptively mild Look]
Should I hold the Ice against you, then?
Aegnor: [through his teeth and at the edge of his temper]
Don't answer a question with a question.
[Huan turns his head, looking back over his shoulder
at the Princes
reproachfully with a guilting whine]
Would you have forsaken our City, our folk, even had you been the
ones exiled? Would you have given them to the Enemy with your names,
in hopes of saving yourselves, even after they had turned you out,
ungrateful as Tirion in the Darkening? Of course not.
Nay, I doubt not, you'd
have served Beren as I did, for all your words,
had it somehow impossibly fallen out that you survived and I fallen at
Serech -- you'd not have failed Beor, not of your own free will.
[silence: his siblings look sullen, while Luthien looks on wistfully]
Finarfin: [rather sternly]
Was not the mortal lord of our House, my sons, no less than Noldor
rebels, that ye did companion even so to lead?
Angrod: [defensively pleading]
But nevertheless -- he's still not my brother.
[Aegnor nods agreement]
Don't bother arguing with them about partiality, or a leader's duty,
my elders -- they know it perfectly well.
[in a changed tone -- as he speaks, increasingly
upset, Luthien and the
Steward take his hands firmly in comforting gesture]
Angrod, who came to me destitute and alone -- not to hurl
recrimination at the foot of my throne, not to demand my aid as weregild
for his father and family dead in my service, but to beg, as though I
owed him nothing, still trusting -- despite all evidence of plainest
sense -- that I might still be his saving, though he came from the cold
ashes of the homeland we gave his tribe -- Resent, perhaps, the reminder
of mine own failure thus brought to the fore -- but never its innocent
[Angrod looks away]
He should be more grateful.
You'd have him grovel incessantly, then, -- when it's been all I can
do to make him stop?
[rueful agreement from the Ten]
I don't remember you
being so ungracious, so mean-souled in your own
gifting to your lieges.
That isn't -- you know -- ah!--
[breaks off in frustrated exclamation]
Finrod: [with increasing effort]
Do you know -- what he said to me, when -- when we were waiting for the
end? He begged me to let him turn himself in -- to the foe he'd spent
six of the last seven years taunting and thwarting most egregiously,
until the bounty on him was as great as Fingon's -- to give up his name
and submit to what punishment would follow that revelation, because he
said no debt could possibly require such a price, and he should give
in to save my life, at least.
Huh. That was stupid.
[at Luthien's fierce Look, with a dismissive flip of her wrist]
--Well, it was. They were both about to die regardless.
Eol: [sniffing contemptuously]
He was your servant. It was his job to protect you, no more.
[raising an eyebrow at Angrod and Aegnor]
--Much as it pains me to agree with any of my wife's kin.
[the Princes bridle; their father breaks in,
in a very calm voice, steadying
Finrod who is shaking with anger and distress:]
What refusal madst thou?
Exactly what 'Feiniel said -- I mocked him for a naive fool, too young
to have learned that the Dark are all liars, not clever enough to realize
that what he was thinking of doing would only have made our situation
worse. And then -- I proceeded to do far worse than that, by pointing out
that not only would Sauron not honour his own "offer" and spare my life
if he surrendered, that far from setting us free, we would both be
interrogated and punished far more savagely, if the Terrible knew it was
the Lord of Dorthonion and the King of Nargothrond he had happened to
snag in his sweep.
[with a narrow, uneven grin]
You all see the irony, I'm sure -- even my most pacific lady.
No -- no wards? You let the enemy hear you?
"Let" --? That's one way of describing it. I couldn't prevent it . . .
any more than I could prevent my stupidity in giving us both away -- a
far worse folly than Beren's, I might add. My only excuse for what I
said -- for any of it -- is that by my best guess we'd not seen day in
seven sennights, at least, and I was not remotely rational.
[he gives his father a worried, somewhat guilty
look, but Finarfin is
controlling his reactions well]
Thou art Eldar, nor kelvar, far less olvar, that dark nor light nor
any outer variance should e'er o'ermaster will nor sense nor sensibility
-- withouten willing so.
You've never been a slave.
[as she recoils in affront, to the rest of his relatives]
None of you have. You
don't understand what happens when every element
of life, saving only life itself, is taken -- what havoc is wrought
upon the mind, with senses broken -- far less flesh -- when there is
no hope of cessation or escape . . . how even momentary respite from
pain becomes a torment, as all the mercy of it is ruined in anticipation
of its ending, and no clarity of perception remains, or can be attained
. . . how the soul becomes scarce other than any other terrorized
animal's, how the mind is stunted and sickened like a plant deprived
of light -- Injury does not compare. Nor does swift and sudden death,
[there is a general awkwardness among most of
the outsiders present (living
and dead) who do not know where to look and do not particularly wish to
encounter the Nargothrond contingent]
Some of us, however, do recall well -- too well -- the Grinding Ice.
As I said -- you don't understand.
And yet -- thou didst yet hold.
I had help.
[he makes a controlled sweeping gesture, taking in his followers]
I wasn't alone.
Finarfin: [same quiet, reasonable tone]
Was he wroth with thee, for thy words unmindful cruel?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
No. Not even then. Not even to blame me for betraying us myself --
any more than for having led him into a trap to begin with. He only
grieved for my passing -- not for his own fate, present or anticipated
-- to the bitter end, he considered my life more valuable than his.
[Luthien lets go of his hand and puts her arm
around his shoulders at
Angrod: [far too reasonable]
Yes, but that's partly you. You know you have that effect on mortals
-- you've always had. There was--
[Finrod makes a cutting-off gesture with his
hand, accompanied by a fierce
Look, but the urgency of it is not understood]
--What? I don't know
why you're surprised that a Beoring should worship
the ground you walk on, given all the trouble you had convincing them
you weren't one of the Powers at the start. --I don't know why you're
trying to hush it up now, either.
[his eldest sibling grimaces, shaking his head;
their Noldor cousin
straightens and leans forward:]
What?! They thought you were a god?!?
[she laughs out loud]
They're even stupider than my relatives. At least Melian was one.
Finrod: [to his brother, through clenched teeth]
[the Ten glower at their lord's relatives; Luthien
frowns slowly, with a
very thoughtful expression]
What's your problem with it, kinsman? You were just comparing yourself
to the Smith and the Hunter only now. It's too funny, the idea of you
becoming all flustered at the thought of such -- impious -- comparisons,
and the savages thinking you were one of the Worldsingers.
Finrod: [suppressed fury]
That's the problem.
That they were stupid enough to mistake you for Lord Orome?
Finrod: [voice shaking]
That you're mocking them for an innocent mistake. They had never seen
one of us before.
You really are so sensitive about these servants of yours. I suppose
you'd have to be, now, given your experiences -- not as though you
could back down at this point. But, objectively --what's so special
about them? From what everybody says, they're essentially talking
kelvar that look a bit like us--
[Huan gives her a Look and a short snappish bark;
before Luthien can
Aegnor: [savagely pleasant]
Ar-Feiniel, -- shut up yourself, you've no idea--
Finrod: [with an echo of power]
[he glares dauntingly at all of his relatives
despite his own agitation,
then gives them a chilling smile]
We are not going to reenact the Kinslaying right here. Is that understood?
Fingolfin: [voice of elder wisdom]
Nephew, 'twas never such a gall to your temper in life, that light words
and merry should be made of that meeting.
Before the Bragollach, yes. When it was only you and Fingon enjoying
the thought of my embarrassment, in private -- when it was the Lords of
Dor-Lomin and Dorthonion teasing each other at your banquet table, as
kinsmen do -- it was one thing. Now that they are all dead in our War,
in our behalf, it's quite another matter.
[he stares the late High King down]
Fingolfin: [quiet dignity]
I have mourned my own Men, too, Finrod, -- albeit not sufficiently for
your liking, that I have mourned my kindred more, and my father most of all.
[Finrod only Looks at him]
[Finrod gives him a brittle, wary glance]
Thy folk, thy friend his people -- they did in truth at first deem
thee from amongst the kindred of the gods?
Finrod: [defeated, trying to explain]
They'd -- they knew we were not like the Eldar they'd met before --
some mortals do have a measure of tercen -- they'd heard from them the
tales of our Awakening and the great journey -- they were more than
half expecting to run into Orome themselves, on their own March --
[shaking his head]
It was a natural -- nay, an inevitable -- mistake. No more.
Thou saidst "we" -- yet wert thou not alone, else meanst ye or thee only?
I meant -- us generally, from Aman, not -- yes, I was riding alone, then.
[Finarfin and Nerdanel exchange meaningful Looks]
And what didst thou, in answer of such erring?
I disillusioned them as quickly as I might, though--
I was never sure how thoroughly I succeeded, with everyone.
Nay, and how didst?
With some difficulty. It -- was an interesting problem. Since they
had no direct experience of the Powers, any time I said, "Well, would
one of Them do this?" or "Wouldn't They do that instead?" Balan and
his family would look at each other, and look at me, and say, "--Maybe,"
and it became fairly clear that that wasn't going to work.
[shaking his head]
It finally came down
to reason, pure and simple. --Did they not hold
the gods were good? I asked. Obviously, for they were seeking after them.
Did they not hold it ill to speak wanton untruth, even as we? Even so.
Then, said I, must it not be so that I should be speaking only the truth,
in my denials? For if I were lying to them, then should I not be evil,
and thus no rightful Power? That pretty much settled it, where saying
things like, "If I really were one of the Valar, I could turn into
something else entirely, but I can't, therefore I'm not" -- would have
some bright child come out with, "But maybe you just don't want to.
I can spit all the way to where you are, but I'm not, because my Ma's
watching. But I could. So maybe you're not turning into a tree because
we're watching." Which was impossible to refute, I discovered.
Luthien: [faint smile]
It's all very different, the way that Beren's family remembers it.
[Nerdanel and Finarfin share another Look, and
then glance at Amarie, who
is finding the map surprisingly fascinating at the moment. The White Lady
shakes her head.]
I think it would have been fun to play them along for a while
longer. You're far too stuffy and conscientious, Finrod..
Along with being far too nice for my own good?
I would have let them think I was Varda -- for a bit, at least.
And when would you have stopped, cousin?
Nerdanel: [definitely, with sad but humorous overtones]
Nay, I do confess thee right in this, nephew; and that the world hath
fallen out so that it hath, will we, nil we, then must I grant thee,
forasmuch as some there needs had been, that had met the Secondborn
whensoever and where yon meeting hath befallen, 'twas better far that
thou hadst been that one, than any of mine own offspring. Such tempting,
as freely given as most innocent its offer, had bettered e'en the
noblest hearts amongst them, I do fear.
Elenwe: [nodding gravely]
They would to have been kings, Oversea, even as father, even as father's
[Fingolfin bows his head, sighing]
--but unto thee was given
greater power yet than any of thy kin -- the
which thou didst refuse. Of this thou did make no mention, Ingold.
Finrod: [very dry]
It isn't as though I could have carried it off for very long, now.
[in a clipped, end-of-discussion tone]
Luthien, would you mind
exactly how it was that you demolished
Minas Tirith? No one's ever done such a thing, and while I realize that
some of it was you alone, and nothing that any other Eldar will likely
every be able to duplicate, still, there's got to be something that we
can learn from the fall -- the real fall -- of the Fortress, from a
Luthien: [sighing, understanding very well]
I'll give it my best shot -- but you know I was never much of an archer.
I just did it -- I'm not sure the answers will be more helpful than Mom's
when you asked her about making Arda.
Yes, but you're overlooking the fact that there are quite a few of us
who -- unlike the continents -- were actually present at and involved
with the construction of the Tower.
You're changing the subject.
Captain: [rolling his eyes]
And you noticed.
[the Prince gives him a dark Look, and gets a
raised eyebrow back; he ignores
the officer, very pointedly.
Finrod: [disregarding the by-play]
Very likely we'll be able to understand some of what you're talking about,
Well, don't go correcting me as to the proper technical terms, this time,
all right? It's going to be hard enough.
Fingolfin: [wishing he could disbelieve]
My son did in truth presume, to issue word of remonstration, in the Song's
regard, unto one that did assist the Lady Yavanna in her Singing?
Ambassador: [aside, unwilling smile]
Oh, much more than one . . .
It wasn't only me--
Luthien: [to Finarfin]
Mostly Galadriel, in fact. --My mother didn't speak Quenya. Not until
your family taught us.
Steward: [wry aside]
The which surprised no few of us; countless assumptions in those days
were shattered no sooner than revealed.
Brother, that your children lack nothing in either boldness nor certainty
of intellect should hardly come as a surprise, so late in the year.
[Finarfin's turn to look abashed, but he isn't
offended; the two High Kings
exchange glances of rueful, amused understanding at their scions' behaviour]
I told 'Tari it didn't exist when our ancestors began the great journey.
Yes, but I don't think it had fully impressed itself upon her.
the gods must speak High-elvish, that being the language
of Valinor -- and the Noldor -- right?
[they share a reminiscent grin]
--Can you make a map
of the building for me? One that you can see all
the parts in it, through it?
A schematic, you mean? Of course. --Sorry.
[as she gives him a Look]
--Edrahil, you want to help me get the scale right on this?
[as the effort of creating a representation gets
concentration and thereby preventing easy discussion:]
Nerdanel: [half to herself]
Doth it no more weigh upon him than air, how great a power for ill-
doing he did hold upon the Secondborn, pendant on their innocence?
Surely he must ken too well--!
Of a certainty -- perhaps. It always seemed . . . that the honour of
my lord's nephew never ventured to explore deeper into the shadowy
tangles of that possibility, its thorns presenting no attraction.
[Finarfin smiles wistfully]
Fingolfin: [with a melancholy glance across at his daughter]
I am grateful that no such snare was e'er laid before mine own path
-- or before that of mine own.
[the ghostly Vanya looks at her living kinswoman]
Doth not thy true-love's humility weigh for aught with thee?
Amarie: [raising her voice loud enough for Finrod to hear]
Aye; yet humble earth doth elevate lofty and most prideful blossom.
There's more than one current, in any stream, and one diveth deep enow.
[the ex-King of Nargothrond stiffens a little,
but resolutely goes on
drawing traceries of light, while Luthien gives Amarie a narrow Look
across the Work-in-progress]
That's the boundary of the foundations of the bridgehead -- past
that it's bedrock outcrop, going back towards the riparian forest--
[focus tracks to the back of the dais, where information is being assimilated]
I never quite realized, how much power was at your behest (or
potentially so) over there.
Hm. For all the good it did us. --Or we with it.
--Still -- I've got to say, your lot seems to have done a much better
job -- more responsible, at least -- of handling it, than, well, than
we would have expected, if we'd realized it.
[pause; there is an inevitable shifting of attention to the Feanorian lord]
Heigh-ho, here we go again. Well, what?
Aglon: [biting off his words]
What we were speaking of before. Is that all you've got to say on
Er . . . Well, I would much prefer being completely autonomous, to
having someone stupid, lazy, or malicious in charge, if it came to that.
I was not referring to that, --sir.
Guessing games aren't really my style, though I like a good riddle as
much as the next soul. What are you getting at?
Aren't you going to say -- "but he deserved it, after all"--?
I wasn't planning on it, no.
--Do I look like the
Doomsman? That's not -- thank the One! -- my job
to decide such things. I don't know your brother well personally: most
of the occasions I met him he was trying to pretend he didn't know I
existed because of his embarrassment over the first time we met in
Beleriand, when he assumed I was Grey and told me to look after his
horse for him. Obnoxious, yes, but nothing I'd ever say worthy of
[the Warden flinches at that bluntness, then checks]
Aglon: [slightly disbelieving]
I never heard about that.
[his adversary shrugs]
It didn't reflect well on him, and not just from our perspective.
Am I correct in presuming
you want to hear about it but don't want to
stoop to asking me?
Well, I want to hear it, if you don't mind telling it.
I never mind.
[pause; the Lord Warden sits stiffly looking
ahead, clearly attending just
as much as the disguised Maia, who is waiting expectantly for the rest; the
two Princes are also trying to pretend that they're more interested in the
architectural project, and not amused by memories of the event.]
Now, if you knew me a
little better, and not just as a patient here,
you'd perhaps have said something to that, like "Without a doubt," or
"Yes, sir," depending, or--
[tilting his head and looking loftily down his nose at him]
if you were Edrahil and not too busy moping to crack
a joke. Because "mind" can signify thoughtfulness and taking counsel,
as well as--
Steward: [raising his voice a little but not looking round]
I heard that.
[his friend grins]
This Old World humour is very strange.
Steward: [still not looking round]
Do not neglect to consider the source.
[the Captain grins still more]
So what happened?
Feast of Reuniting--
When you all decided that enough was enough and to act as though
everything between Tirion and then hadn't really happened?
Then. Big affair, as things go over there. I was helping according to
my own Gift, and it had been a long night and day, if productive, so
I was rather looking forward to handing over my game bag to the cooks
and locating some meat that was further removed from its feathers than
what I was carrying, and then after that some heated water and clean
clothes and so forth, and besides all the business of the upcoming
business I was preoccupied with some observations about differences
between various zoological forms in Aman and their corresponding types
in Middle-earth. Stuff like the cuckoos and the like.
[sidelong look at the Warden]
Consequently I didn't
realize that someone shouting across the field
was shouting at me, particularly since his words were, "Hoy! Sinda!
Look after my horse, would you?" When he repeated it I looked around
to see who he was shouting at, so I could make him apologize to whomever
it was, but then he put his steed right in my way -- which would have
been very rude, if I had been Grey, after all--
Our horses are a lot bigger, or were back then, than the native breeds.
There was an element of -- intimidation, or at least of overaweing-with-
humorous-intent, involved. After a few more jocular remarks regarding
my inattentiveness, he jumped down, walked off, and left us two standing
there looking at each other with the same expression -- "Who is this
strange person and what am I supposed to do now?"
So what did you do?
Took the mare to our pickets and brushed her down and got her fed
You just did what he said? Without saying anything to him?
Wasn't her fault. And I couldn't think of anything to say.
Apprentice: [very dry]
Somehow I find that rather hard to credit.
[Aegnor gives a harsh snort of laughter, and angrily suppresses it]
Not any one thing. Lots of 'em, but nothing that I wasn't sure would do
more harm than good. This was supposed to be a renewal of peace and family
feeling and so forth. I just made report to our lords when I was done.
[looking at the Warden]
You can check with the
High King, if you still doubt me, though I've
noticed you've not made any of the usual, "He'd never--!" noises.
[the other Noldor warrior does not deign to comment]
So, anyway, we were at
the Feast some whiles after, and I was debating
whether or not I dared presume upon Edrahil's sensibilities far enough
as to point out to him that I did, after all, own some clothes that
weren't all "the color of dirt," and deciding that I didn't--
You didn't dare tease him?
Not at that point, particularly since he wouldn't have been able to come
back at me afterwards, since we were still on most formal terms then and
amid people who but a little since were our enemies. Now, of course, I
could get away with it, but that took a while and some--
Very. You'll hear it eventually -- or--
[with a slight edge]
--you could just go look it up for yourself.
Apprentice: [instantly crestfallen]
You haven't forgiven me my mistake.
I've not forgotten it -- nor ought you.
So it was a mistake, then . . . ?
I don't know yet. But--
--you must ever be prepared,
that any deed or act or decision you make
may prove mistaken, because of what you do not know.
[the Warden rolls his eyes at this bit of lofty advice]
Apprentice: [shaking his head, exclaiming]
Why must it be so difficult? It all seemed so -- clear, so beautifully
simple and obvious, before I came down here.
[before he can go further, the Captain breaks in, with a warning edge]
Yes, I imagine it must have seemed so, from the heights of Valmar,
-- seemed as though it would be easy to come and set straight all us
dead and chastened rebels with your Vanyar wisdom, no doubt.
[it sinks in, as the Warden of Aglon is beginning
to give Nienna's student
a curious Look]
Everything turns out to be more complicated than it should be.
Not always. Sometimes there's less there than meets the eye, which
is just as bad in its own right. At any rate, when the time came
I went to my place at table, in my full regalia as one of House
Finarfin's commanders, and found that I was still on duty, since
persons far outranking me had determined that the best way of
administering a lesson was by setting me to share a cup with the
gentle who had presumed to give me orders so curtly earlier.
[confidingly, including both the Warden and the disguised Maia:]
You know the real
reason we started that tradition, is that we didn't
have enough good tableware to go around. We'd traded off so much of
the finer work, and hadn't established ourselves to start making our
own gold and silver pieces, that it was a choice between setting out
our bowls and cups of wood from daily use, or sharing. There was a lot
of haggling among our lords about which should be the most hospitable,
but Lord Fingon carried it with the point that it was nicely symbolic
of amity and friendship, which was what the Feast was all about. And
it did look no end impressive, given that we'd carried it all there
ourselves and made this establishment that was far grander than theirs
on the other side, and besides it made it much less obvious that Lord
Maedhros required help, when two partake of the same plate -- a concern
which has become far more comprehensible and in the forefront for me
[there is a slight tension in his expression and voice at the last]
But -- no, that wouldn't help, would it? I was going to say, but you've
done your best to take care of Beren throughout.
No, it doesn't. All that's peripheral, anyhow. Milord's brother here
kept on looking at me trying not to give away that he'd met me beforetimes,
or that he was trying to figure out if I were Grey or not, and I admit
I didn't help by not only sticking to the Common throughout but doing the
best Beleriand accent I could manage, slang and all -- and never once
letting on that I'd met him earlier that day either. It also wasn't helped
by the fact that Doriath's captains were there as well, and Beleg's a giant,
so every time he'd look up and I could see he was thinking I must be Noldor
for my height, he'd get doubtful again.
Apprentice: [a touch resentful]
You deceived him.
Captain: [shaking his head]
He deceived himself. If he'd known Sindarin better I couldn't have succeeded,
and if he'd simply asked my lineage he'd have known at once. But he was too
proud to admit he couldn't tell.
[the Warden glowers at them, starts to say something and stops]
Why didn't you just say anything to begin with? When he handed you
What, complain at him for thinking I was Teler? --That's how he would
have understood it, I warrant you. No way under Isil he'd have taken it
otherwise, such as the way I meant it.
[shaking his head]
No, I left the judgment
to those wiser than me -- and they adjudged me the
proper one to administer correction. And thus I saw fit to do it, to let
him wrestle with the fact that he had so insulted one who so outranked him,
at least in our command and understanding, and that his assumption that we
Noldor were so much superior that we could never be mistaken one for another
was just wrong.
And still you do not understand the shame, to boast so of it, you braggart!
Captain: [ignoring him]
So I went through the whole affair discoursing on all the unusual
things that had been noted by my counterparts in Lord Turgon's
retinue about the foreigners from Oversea, in such a way that it
could either be an ironic commentary on us, or a quite naive
remarking on strangers, and making silly jokes about being the
[Angrod ducks his head down to hide his expression]
That pun got old very fast.
I don't understand -- why is that funny?
Captain: [bland innocence]
Because the words are so close in both languages, and that made it a good
pun for the occasion since it could have meant me being doubly clever or
just utterly simple, answering whenever anyone started to say four anything.
Steward: [looking back with an eyebrow raised]
His superiors were only half joking when they discussed having some one of
them step down or else get killed so he'd not be able to do so any longer.
You want to tell the story?
Wouldn't have helped,
anyway, "cano cantea" just started it, "con nelui"
wouldn't have ended it. --So, eventually, as the banquet part was winding
down someone comes over with a question for milord's brother from their
side, and he can't answer it, and is about to translate it into the common
for me, being reduced to asking one of the locals, and I go and answer it
before he can finish turning it into bad Sindarin -- in perfectly good
Quenya -- and he sort of withers there like an early frost had got him,
as if he'd known it was coming but hoped it wouldn't nonetheless. And
after his colleague had thanked me and gone off, he just sits there waiting
for me to gloat, and I just go on as if it's every day that strangers press
their horses on me, and not worth remarking about, and call for more wine
for us. And after that when we were out East or up at the Leaguer, he
always suddenly had an unexpected but urgent errand to be about whenever
House Finarfin was in the vicinity.
Hm. It's funny -- and it isn't. I understand the impulse myself.
I don't understand . . . he always said that he'd die before giving in
-- that only weaklings would be willing to live as thralls, that it was
a sign of the Dark-elves' inferiority that they would -- that he should
remain so long, then . . .
[shakes his head in baffled distress]
Captain: [very seriously]
Hope dies hard. And when hope falters, -- there's always fear to keep
you going that last little bit further, and then the next, and-- You
weren't at Serech.
Aglon: [exasperation and even more distress]
Why am I saying this to you?
Because you've no practice in discretion, I gather. You've not ever had
much experience of diplomacy.
I was Doorwarden -- which is a post of no small responsibility, involving
dealings with multiple strangers.
You don't say! Singly, or all at once? --Seriously now, how often did you
have to deal with any not of your own House or close aligned to your lords
-- and when you did encounter travelers or petitioners, how often did they
not speak your own language? How often did you have to worry if your words
-- or even attitudes, might jar against theirs, and so undo some delicate
work of your master's, for ignorance of those not Noldor like yourself? Or
not even Eldar, with far less to be presumed in common between us, though
such similarities might be deceiving, too. Whereas such discretion was
daily consideration, for us who were out and about King Felagund's business
-- and had his counsel to keep, as well.
[the Warden sneers]
We dealt with the Naugrim --and you can't get much farther from us
Yes. We've heard about House Feanor's dealings with the Children of
Aule -- firsthand. You've not made the best impression, you know. Your
lords' brothers aren't the only ones to deal with Belegost and Nogrod.
Word gets around, below-ground as above, with echoes as far as Menegroth
and Nargothrond -- roots do spread as well as branches. Did it never
occur to you that someone might understand what you're saying, even if
he doesn't speak your language? It's quite amazing what you can reveal
by tone of voice, by expression -- even by your posture alone -- that
you've neither intention nor idea, if you're careless. It's as good as
hand-code, for the attentive.
[the Warden looks somewhat taken aback, and then
chagrined; the Captain
continues not unkindly]
Not that it's all your
fault -- you hadn't any better leadership in
that regard, so don't be too hard on yourself for being obtuse.
[his adversary glares at him]
--What are you really
trying to say? I'm certain you're not starting
these obscure conversations with me for the joy of it, but I'm not sure
what you can be getting at, given that I don't know your brother well
at all. He hasn't stopped avoiding me here, if that's what you're
trying to ask.
[after another angry Look, the Feanorian lord gives up]
Aglon: [desperate, if resentful]
Do you -- Is --
[breaks off, resumes with difficulty]
Are you -- still haunted
by the recollection of your ordeal, the way that
those who were captured by Orcs or escaped from slavery, never -- never
stop remembering what happened to them?
[silence. The Apprentice watches them both with some apprehension]
No. No more than the recollection of the wounds we give each other here,
once forgotten. My lord holds it so, that pain itself scars the flesh,
invisibly, and those invisible scars, which hold the memory of pain in
them, the way the remains of old wounds themselves do, for mortals, cannot
persist in this place where flesh itself does not exist, because they are
not part of our true selves, and so not recalled in the form of ourselves
that is in (or is) our thought. --That's a direct quote, of course. If he's
here -- not holding out on the other side still in rebellion -- then he is
not suffering anything save guilt, or the lack of it.
[the Warden looks slightly less troubled, but still doubtful]
You're not winding a snare of falsehood with true words again, are you?
Don't you remember it yourself?
I -- died quickly, I didn't even know I'd been hit until it was too late.
I remember . . . confusion, and a certain amount of surprise that I could
no longer take part in the fighting. Then -- I had no place else to go,
What abides . . . is
what was not truly of the flesh to start with. The
dark, the dread, those memories of things you said or did or didn't --
housed, unhoused, doesn't make the difference.
[this does not appear to comfort the Warden much]
Captain: [giving him a sharp look]
Time -- and the Gift of my Lady and yours.
Aglon: [making the word sound like an offense]
Why are you being kind to me?
Well, you're not attacking anyone dear to me, verbally or otherwise.
--Though I warn you, if you haven't figured it out already, that if
you try to stab Edrahil in the back you'll regret it before you've a
chance to finish the thought. Your presence is being tolerated, but
aggression won't be.
I have no intention of doing so.
I am here to see the Lady Nienna.
[he does not quite look at them, when he continues tersely]
--If any were to attack
my brother, I would not stand -- have stood --
stand by nor even warned them, if I were at hand.
I'm not exactly being kind, you know. Among my people, we call that civil.
Apprentice: [very curious]
Which people do you consider yours?
Captain: [faint smile]
I serve House Finarfin. My people -- are the Eruhini. After that, Eldar.
--In the widest possible sense.
[breaks off abruptly, unable to go on; the Captain
turns a flashing Look
upon the Feanorian partisan.]
[waits for answer, but none forthcoming goes on:]
Thieves? Savages? Only now you shoved a maid
aside as though she were a branch across your path and no more. Who are
your people, eh?
[he looks pointedly at the two talking by the Falls and back again]
Aglon: [righteous protest]
I never killed any children, I sw--
Captain: [cutting him off]
Your friend has admitted freely to giving the order and the suggestion
to fire the houses along the waterside -- denies there's anything wrong
with it -- did you stand aside at Alqualonde?
[pause -- the Lord Warden makes several false starts before he can answer]
Aglon: [angry and pleading]
We -- We're not -- we're not evil folk.
Then that just makes it all the worse, doesn't it?
[he looks deliberately at the Teleri again, and
back, until the Feanorian
partisan drops his head in anguish and humiliation, closing his eyes]
[Elsewhere: the Corollaire]
[While he is shaking his head over the idea,
Yavanna parts the grass beside
her with her fingertips, as a huge, iridescent beetle struggles up from its
newly-completed metamorphosis out of the dirt. (It might be of the sort with
ornate 3-D carapace and pincers as well.) As it lumbers clumsily over the folds
in her skirt and up onto her knee, Beren gives the scarabaid a respectful nod.]
That one looks like duck feathers. Only more so, all over, not just from
one side when the light's on it.
[the Earthqueen smiles the pleased smile of an artist whose efforts are understood]
I've never seen one like that.
[he carefully grabs it along its lateral edges,
so that it's stuck walking in
place for a moment, to look at it more closely, until it buzzes with indignation
and he lets it keep trundling along. Ruefully:]
--Tinuviel doesn't get along with those, very well.
They give Vana the heeby-jeebies, too.
[as he frowns, cocking his head at her idiomatic expression, she sniffs a little]
--Though anyone who comes
up with the things she's thought of shouldn't call
anything creepy -- have you seen those caterpillars with the spikes that have
spikes on the spikes, and the ones with the enormous painted-on eyes?
[Beren nods, bemused]
I asked her about them
once, after she tried to tell me that beauty was
entirely relative and they were quite as gorgeous as the smooth ones with
stripes and as darling as the fuzzy ones with the little black snouts, and
couldn't do it without becoming quite incoherent with giggles. --It can't
be defense merely, I said, because you could just camouflage them like the
green stripy ones -- or that other joke of yours, the ones that look like
bird droppings -- so what are you trying to do? She finally admitted that
it was for the effect of surprise -- she just thought it was so much fun
to have something as elegantly-sweet as a giant rose-tinted moth coming
out of something as shocking as that. --It's like a present, she explained.
Usually, when you give someone a gift, you put it in a nice carved coffer
or you wrap it up in a pretty piece of cloth -- you don't disguise it as
something gross or boring. I mean, I guess grubs are kind of weird, but
you don't see them before they turn into goldbugs and chafers . . .
Yavanna: [even more dryly]
Yes, well, you've met Vana. She's very fond of surprises -- the more
unexpected and improbable the better.
[he struggles not to grin, not very successfully,
as the Earthqueen scoops
up the giant coleopteran and lifts it up level with her face, then blows on
it, so that the carapace parts as if in surprise and the filmy, flimsy-looking
wings are opened to the air -- the massive bug takes off, like a flying
gemstone sailing over the countryside, lapis and chalcedony and jet.]
[shaking his head]
--I've seen 'em do that
a thousand times, and it still doesn't seem like
they oughta be able to.
Yavanna: [serenely pleased]
I like surprises, too.
Um. Mostly. He -- he wasn't the same, after -- of course, neither was I.
I tried to explain to
my parents that I wasn't the same, that I wasn't
a child any more any more than I'd been when I left home, and now less,
but when I tried to make them understand, when I tried to show Mom in
detail, so she'd stop telling me I didn't understand myself -- she
wouldn't, she made me stop talking because it was too horrible.
Luthien-of-Doriath never came back from Tol Sirion, either.
Changed how? I'm not implying that you didn't know what you were about
in Healing him, but it's possible that being unfamiliar with Mortals,
you might not--
No. It was nothing that one wouldn't consider normal for someone who
had been through some terrible experience, surviving a battle or a
raid on a village, it's just -- I never thought -- I didn't anticipate
-- not Beren.
[wringing her fingers in Huan's fur]
He was -- quiet, but
always quiet, and serious, except when
he found something to delight him, so it's not easy to put in words
how exactly he was different, but he was. How couldn't he be? Part
of it was just the way he was so grateful to me -- so utterly glad
to have me there -- not blaming me at all -- the way he was when I
first came back to him in Doriath, but all the time. There was a --
a reflective quality to those days -- you know how reflections are
so much sharper and clearer than the real things--
[Finrod nods again, not taking his eyes off hers]
It was like that, like a reflection of Neldoreth,
for so long as we could
-- not pretend, exactly, but so long as we could avoid disturbing it --
but it wasn't possible, to keep still, to keep out the world's winds,
forever. I didn't know what to feel then, either -- on the one hand I was
simply glad to have him back, but it wasn't quite true, because he was like
the ghost of my Beren and--
[she blinks hard, fighting back tears, while
her hearers display varying
levels of discomfort and sympathy and Huan licks her hand]
Do you know what bothered
him most -- to hear him speak of it -- that
he'd missed the leaves turning at their full colour.
[Finrod nods, but says nothing]
It took me a while to
figure out what he was really saying, so far
as I was able.
I'm afraid I don't understand.
I don't suppose you do. I didn't, either.
No? 'Tari wrote an epigram once in a letter to me not long before she
and Celeborn were married, commenting on the strange custom of Beleriand
to drop every matter of business when the autumn-fires began:
"This year's gold is full-risen: we must go live in the trees!"
"Why must --? They shall be as bright tomorrow."
"But not the same. Haste, make haste, my love!"
I couldn't help remembering
that, a few years after, when I overheard
her explaining earnestly the principle of "the beauty of the transient"
to artisans from the Blue Mountains, and why the Laiquendi hadn't been
playing tricks on them to declare that gold did grow on trees, as it
was the same quality of light which made metal valuable as one beheld
in the leaves, the colour which gave value to the permanence, and not
the other way around.
--I'm rather afraid she
changed history, then, as evinced by the more
naturalistic trends that started showing up in work for local use, not
simply commissioned pieces. There's something weirdly fitting about
an Eldarin student of Aule's crossing half the world to learn Elven
folkways and explain them to Aule's own people . . .
[shaking his head]
The idea that that this
year's are immeasurably valuable and unique,
not to be substituted by another season's, was something she learned
That, of course -- but it seemed so minor compared to -- well, everything
else that he lost. Only I came to realize that that was what he meant,
but that was the only way he could say it.
[closing her eyes]
The rest of it . . .
I didn't understand until after he died -- that this
year's were irreplaceable not only in themselves, but because for humans,
there might not be a next year. We never -- we never got to see them together--
[she breaks off in pain]
We did not mean for such to happen -- none of this.
[Luthien tries to say something, but is too overcome;
Finrod and Huan endeavor
to comfort her]
When you choose a course of action, you are responsible for the consequences.
We could not have forseen--
--that the daughter of Melian and Elu Thingol would not have tamely
yielded to thwarting in love and duty? When I was emissary upon Middle-
earth, 'twas mine the responsibility to reckon well all options that
might befall, from best to worst, and ready against each before speaking
forth. Claim you yet, that Doriath is blameless in all that followed?
Yet still I would lay blame at another's feet.
[she grits her teeth at his words]
Steward: [very dry]
Nor could you have foreseen that to do even as you did, should place
her at greater risk still that you sought to preserve from harm, if
her courage and resourcefulness should prove so great as all her kin
[his counterpart from Thingol's court draws himself
up to retort, but then
his shoulders slump and he does not answer]
Don't chide so much: he could no more have dissuaded my uncle, than you
Ambassador: [still stiffly, but with pained intensity]
--He might, however, have yet made some attempt--
[he breaks off, hiding his face in his hands]
Don't -- please, don't -- or else I won't be able to help apologizing for
[she looks away sharply, blinking hard, and finds
a welcome distraction by
What is she about?
[the Sea-elf has jammed one end of the Teler
Ranger's bowstave between some
rocks and is determinedly hauling down on the upper nock of it trying to force
it down into a curve, difficult because it is nearly as long as she is tall.]
I think she's gotten it unstrung and is trying to remedy it.
[as she continues to jump up and down without any evidence of progress or attempt]
Or possibly not.
Nerdanel: [shaking her head]
Yet a child is she.
Finarfin: [sadly agreeing]
She might have been nigh of age, yet for all her willing it other --
a most young twoscore and ten.
[his daughter-in-law leans forward, confronting the Steward with her expression]
Her spirit was still fledgling, for all her heart bade her nay, aye, and
seek to match her untried wings unto thy falcon restiveness. And yet she
too is bid by One higher to soar no less, and her path be high and far
afield, and other than thine, and thou hadst crushed her to thee like a
careless babe with blossom, that kenneth no better, and bade those half-
stretched pinions bide folded e'en as thou wouldst thyself to soar!
Fourth Guard: [indignant]
How should she know so much about it?
I heard more on't than I had wist, that day ere my espousing: the Lady
Earwen together with myself did spend longsome time endeavoring to console
yon's broken heart.
I never did understand what it was the Sea-Mew saw in him.
Alas -- perforce must I assent, though courtesy doth wish it other.
[the Steward winces a little, but with a lurking
wry smile, though his friends
are not at all amused]
Amarie: [with a curl of her lip]
Nay, gentle sirs, as to that -- she shall be scarce the first maid to be
caught by a fairest voice, a shining mind, the twain indwelling a hall
Captain: [lightly, trying to divert her]
Oh, well, that's much the same as my mother said, when Suli and my father
were wondering the same on an earlier day -- though she said cooking, not
Steward: [urgent and low, very differently from his earlier
The time for jests is not yet.
[his friend checks at once]
Finrod: [hackles rising still more]
Amarie, I never tried to set limits to you or control you--
Amarie: [biting calm]
Peace, sir -- I address't thee not, my lord, but I do speak unto thy
friend, and of their state, and not of thee -- nor is all that occupies
my thoughts, nor the wide world its own, of thee, little thou dost
guess it though 'twould seem.
[ignoring his reaction to this rebuke she continues to the Steward]
Thou didst ever place
first in thine own regard -- yet the same
didst demand of her!
Isn't it against some rule for the gracious Vanyar to argue with us
For shame, child, you mock your very grandmother in such wise!
She didn't approve of me, anyhow.
Do you really wonder why?
We came in for it too. Don't forget, and make it sound as if you
were the only one.
Finrod: [to all three of them]
And only after you -- and others in our generation, along with certain
of our elders--
[aside to his uncle]
--sorry, Sire -- started
listening to Melkor, and talking all that
nonsense about being prisoners and slaves here, and "our necessary
and rightful destiny to rule in Middle-earth," even before the first
sword-blade was hammered out. She knew there was more going on than
we ever let on, you do realize, from things you said, and others said
about our elder cousins, and you all did run pack together. Indis was
impartial, no more, in her disapproval of the family's behaviour,
blood descendents or adoptive.
Thou dost seek to divert me, that I say not until my heart is satisfied
against thy friend.
[Finrod can't deny it]
What would you say to me, my lady?
Amarie: [lifting her chin]
Yet again dost thou mock me.
I do not. Though I fear you shall.
Warrior: [aside, baffled]
What's he asking her for? He never could stand the lady Amarie when
we were alive.
First Guard: [confident]
Yes, but that was because he was jealous of our lord's friendship.
It's the same reason she couldn't stand him, either.
[Amarie goes bright with anger -- before she can retort:]
Steward: [looking directly at her]
Oh, I do not doubt there was considerably more to it than that, on
How might ye abide this bareness of secret thought so generally
display'd, that all should witness--?!
Fingolfin: [very dry]
Some here mark it less than others, for whatever private reason.
Most of us unhoused prefer a certain modicum of privacy as well as
peace, whether we get any or not at all.
[he gives Finrod a pointed Look]
'Tis the place of truth here: and it do hurt, then spirit must needs
make shift, to flee, else grow in strength to stand the sear of't.
I fear me, there bide others here I had judged more ready to bear such
disquiet of profligate description.
[the Nargothronders look somewhat worried and
apologetic at their first
officer, who isn't at all abashed]
When others have witnessed one stark mad and bereft of all self-restraint
by terror -- a few minor social infelicities between friends are no matter.
E'en so -- for love's truth hurteth but as the cleansing of a wound, nor
may aught of shame abide in't.
[although her words do not embarrass him, there
is a certain abashed
reverence in his nod of acknowledgment at her remark]
Even so, my lady.
[to Amarie, matter-of-fact]
As I said, there were
reasons beyond jealousy when we both did
walk and breathe beneath the unseen Stars: for you, the presence
of one so prideful of his gifts and yet so lacking in gratitude
towards those who had made such talents and their free exercise
Finrod: [taut, setting both hands on his counselor's shoulders]
There was always more than that.
Steward: [ignoring his affirmation]
And for my part, the knowledge that you Saw me for what I was --
and your dismissal was not erring.
Thy words do leave my sails slack -- how shall I continue, that
hath uttered the half of it ere might I? I must appear the oppressor,
as I judge me was thy words their intent.
Luthien: [remote and somewhat stern]
That which you would have said does not become less true, because
you now feel awkward saying it. As you've begun, you really ought
to finish, not leave him with an unresolved discord. That's hardly
[the Vanya looks at her sharply, but after a
moment looks down, and then
back again with a resigned expression]
Aye, then, and thou wouldst--
[to the Steward]
Thou woudst hear? Then
hear thou shalt. --In the Day when thou and
I alike were guest in the house of thy King's son, thou didst bear
thyself even as a child new-come to words, nor only in regard of
yonder maiden, but of all things thou wouldst first wish, no sooner
that wish granted wearying, whether of company else place else doing--
[with a toss of her head up towards Finrod, though
she does not look
away from the Steward]
--saving only 'twas his
presence -- moreover, thou didst grow ill-
humoured for impatience, were thy wish even as unwish thwarted, and
melancholy. So 'twas ever, when her we did ken as Maiwe was about
-- for was she not, thou didst seek her out, yet swiftly tired of
her lightsome ways, yet wert thou discontent did she seek out other,
for all thy morose looks, eke gloomsome silence, did quench her
heart. Even so a babe might cry, beholding another reach hand to
take up bycast pebble, "Mine! Nay, mine!--" Nor wouldst thou stoop,
for so thou didst perceive't, to entreat what thou wouldst have, be
it companioning, else diversion, else that thou e'er didst seek the
most, the wreathéd words of praise -- lest any see thee weak, and
seeing deem thee so indeed -- but only ever didst compel all those
about thee to strive to guess, what thou shouldst favour. Aye, and
blame for failing so, in truth! Nor was thy vaunting in thine own
blood made less, for all thy heart's inclination to one thou held
far 'neath thee, for subtlety as skill, but grew the fiercer for
thine own self's self-treason.
But true, alas.
[the Lord Warden darts a sidelong glance at them, frowning]
Amarie: [still more heatedly]
Aye and oft I did wonder me greatly, that thou shouldst compel her
to accept thy friendship, that had so little of friend, still less
of "ship"--! For I saw naught, naught 'twas common between ye, to
draw such unlike together despite inclining.
--And now thou
shalt answer me, Edrahil Enedrion, as I have answered
thee. For what sought thou my condemnation on thee? Thou, that didst
disdain me with words most smooth, didst deride me in company as simple
by speaking of my people's simplicity, our simpler ways, and deem'd
I did comprehend thee not!
[the Steward winces, but does not look away from her indignant glare]
Finrod: [softly, doubtful]
You never made mention of that to me, Amarie.
Amarie: [ignoring him]
As I do adjure thee, answer, spirit forlorn! Why dost thou entreat
Because he still doesn't think he's suffered enough -- yet.
Steward: [ignoring him]
Because I judged that you would speak me fairly, regardless of our past
and present enmity, and in your words some better understanding of a
conflict that has utterly confounded me might be revealed.
[Amarie recoils as if he had shouted or struck at her]
And indeed, your judgment
on me is far milder than is my own, so that
my failings I must grant in some part owing but to folly, and not all
to villainy. I thank you.
[Finrod tightens his grip on his friend's shoulders, protectively]
Finrod: [addressing Amarie as well]
There was always more than skill -- and pride -- and need.
Only because you Saw it, and kindled it as coals wakened from beneath
[Nerdanel looks at her former liegeman and shakes her head sadly]
Aye -- yet of those sunderings that prideful folly did formerly to
magnify so greatly, they have not lessened in th'intervening Age, nor
grown lighter; for thou art yet elder, and thy days thou hast spent
amid busyness and the changéd realms, and thy knowledge hath great
increase, nor hath she any gain of her hours in death, to match against
thine own most learnéd wit, nor even of this shore, but doth remain
e'en so young as when the World no less was young, while thou art more
solemn yet for all thy gentled heart, even as thy skill in words and
I do guess in song, hath increased no less.
[the Steward glances involuntarily at the Sea-elf
- who is presently
teasing her foreign-born companion by waving the bowstave over his head,
then whisking it away before he can take it, and then down, closing his eyes]
Luthien: [very slowly and meaningfully]
None of those things . . . being older -- much older -- or having lived
through more things -- or coming from vastly different backgrounds, makes
any difference . . . or has to. --Unless you choose to let it.
[drawing herself up, and changing the subject to much relief]
I'm afraid you all are
going to have to fill in some of this next bit
for me, because we hadn't any notion what was going on meanwhile in
Nargothrond after I left, and after, and we only found out some of it
later, and put the rest of it together with a good deal of guesswork,
because Huan didn't want to talk about it.
[frowning, as if struck by a sudden thought:]
I wonder why not Huan either.
[at the curious Looks directed towards her by Finrod, and others]
--Changing. Since he certainly isn't evil.
[Finrod starts to answer, then checks, looking taken aback]
Hah. --Of course.
[he gives the Hound a wry smile and an almost reverent stroke along his muzzle]
That -- makes perfect sense.
[shaking his head]
Funny, how one can overlook something because one's too close--
What are you muttering about now?
Oh, you'll only say I'm crazy.
Luthien: [wry smile]
No, that's me these days. --What are you trying to say?
Finrod: [glinting mischief]
If there are Wolves -- then there must be Hounds mighty enough to guard
against their depredations, must there not?
But -- nay, mighty indeed is the Lord of Dogs, but Hound of Orome or not,
he remaineth yet a hound. I did behold him a blind pup with mine own eyes,
suckling in milky sleep amidst his littermates, no more -- no less -- than
any other dog else of Lord Tavros' pack. Inded, I did first much favour
his sibling, that did constrast coat as white of silver with red-copper
ears, still, my son would have none other than this selfsame hound.
Finarfin: [wry aside]
In truth, there's one fashion of far-off words I care little enow for
Ambassador: [glum agreement]
Indeed, it is most annoying, Majesty. --Hence its employ by our dear ones.
Aegnor: [wrenched out of his gloom]
--Are you trying to say that Huan's a Power?
Well, he's certainly a force to be reckoned with.
[the Lord of Dogs gives a playful tug on his sleeve]
Oh, come on!
But wouldn't that make all of the Hunter's dogs the same?
Perhaps. I'm not sure necessarily so.
But -- he's an animal, whelped in a litter, he didn't embody himself,
so how can you say he's also divine? You're cr--
[he stops himself guiltily]
I was born.
I wasn't insulting you, cousin -- so was I -- so weren't we all -- I was
just pointing out the facts of the matter, that none of us are mirroanwi
just supports my argument--
Eol: [to Aredhel]
I take back what I said about your relatives being good for nothing --
they certainly are entertaining, I've got to give them that.
[she makes a face at him]
Fingolfin: [shaking his head]
Still, 'twere beyond belief, to declare that one or many of the Holy
Ones, like to those who inhabit the airs and waves, should instead run
subject on the earth even as our own servants, and wear our collars and
gambol in the fields or lie basking in the dust beside our doors!
Would it? How would we know? If we've been surrounded by demigods all
our lives and didn't recognize them, then how can we judge what they
would or wouldn't do, if we missed half the data all along?
[the Ten are carefully not looking at the Apprentice
at all, who is looking
both amused and apprehensive of blowing his cover once more]
But we all of us have thrown gilded balls for Huan and matched his
fleetness against our horses, in peaceable times, and Celegorm bids
him go here and there and do this and that, in the hunt and on the
field of battle!
[Aredhel nods agreement]
Not any more.
[the Noldor princess gives her an angry Look]
Finarfin: [forestalling escalation]
Yet, good my brother, I recollect me well how we all did throw the ball
for our disport unto Lady Nessa, the whiles we guested 'mid our mother's
kin, aye, and bade Lord Tulkas bear us hither and yon, and all the gods
and demigods of Valmar did most gladly answer our multitudinous commands.
Fingolfin: [mild exasperation]
We were children then.
And you'll say, nephew, I guess, that we are but children now, to those
who made the Song, even did one such Power find his way belatedly hither.
And I cannot gainsay you, but I cannot agree with you either, beyond its
[Finrod suppresses a grin]
Yet must I question -- how might it e'er be so?
You'd have to ask Yavanna as to the -- not mechanics of it, but --
practicalities; after all, it's in the old story, isn't it? We just
never thought about it actually happening among us.
Aredhel: [getting impatient]
Look, Ingold, everybody knows perfectly well that Balrogs and Wargs
are fallen Maiar living in Middle-earth as monsters. But they're not
natural -- their bodies were given to them, as you know as well as I
-- so there's no comparison between them and Lord Orome's wolfhounds.
Finrod: [somehow managing to be even more so]
'Feiniel, weren't you listening to me at all? That's what makes it all
so obvious when one considers it closely. The Enemy devises monsters
to be his Champions in the field -- and there are heroes, not of his
making, who come to face them down.It's the exact same thing we learned
as children -- the only strange thing is that we should have assumed
the Wrestler was alone. Or that Immortals could only take Elven form.
After all, we've all seen the Earthqueen in her arboreal body.
--Nahar's got to be one, too.
You didn't know that?
Finarfin: [keenly interested]
Thou dost hold, then, this noble Hound hath come from far beyond this
World's realm, even as his first Master, yet hath entered as beast,
subject unto all the laws of nature that do govern the Lady's earth?
Well, not quite all -- there's a little too much of him for that, eh, boy?
[fondly scratches Huan's jaws; the Lord of Dogs blissfully closes his eyes]
--Makes one wonder rather
what those who will -- or do -- inhabit the
olvar will be like, doesn't it?
[they share an intimate smile, the understanding
of those who are both
friends and fellow-seekers after knowledge, as well as family]
It opens up other possibilities as well--
Aegnor: [barely controlled]
Don't. Say. It.
[his eldest sibling does not look round at him]
You're thinking it. --Don't.
[Finrod only half-smiles, bittersweet, ignoring
the bemused exchange of
Looks this cryptic interchange gets them from his lawful kin]
But Huan was born before Morgoth made his move, so how could he have
known -- to -- become a hound, if what you're saying is correct.
Finrod: [raising an eyebrow]
It was all in the Song. Obviously.
[behind him Aegnor makes an exasperated noise
and covers his face with his
hand, pounding on his knee with the other]
Angrod: [not sounding entirely confident]
You know, he was reared here, in Aman. He could just be strengthened
like all living things grown here, by virtue of the land itself.
Luthien: [very acerbic]
He talks. I don't think that's quite the same thing as being six hands
taller and having greater stamina and fortitude or even being as clever
as Valinorean horses are. Being able to talk -- and make independent
decisions against his own instincts, even more -- says to me that he's
no ordinary giant dog.
First Guard: [without irony, despite using the Hound's back
as an armrest]
And Beren thinks the same as well, gentles.
Ambassador: [sarcastic aside]
--Who is, of course, an authority on Immortals!
Well, he's met a good few more than you, milord -- granted most of them
have been evil, but some authority, wouldn't you say?
I mark me friend Huan sayeth nor aye nor nay.
[Huan wags his tail at his name]
Finrod: [edged bantering tone]
Does not the loyal Vanya present offer some counter absolute, of her
greater knowledge of such high matters, that he surely cannot be more
than merely kelvar, by virtue of his rebel status?
[his wife only shrugs]
Amarie: [same tone]
Nay, forasmuch as there be great precedent, eke for rebellion even as
repenting; or hast thou forgot Lord Osse quite, my lord?
[this round is hers]
Perhaps the Lord of Dogs remains in one fixed form owing to his birth
upon this world: perhaps a dwelling not wrought of mind's force but of
earthly substance in natural fashion cannot be reshaped as 'twere but
wax, but like cast glass or metal must keep to but one shape.
Or in better-fitting comparison -- I trust --
as the plant that springs from
its shell must be and grow into only that which it is the seed of, and cannot
change into another, as if an iris were to become a rose midcourse.
[the Hound just grins at him, panting]
Ranger: [but quietly]
But gladden don't grow from seeds, they're rhizomes--
Shh! that doesn't matter, it's the principle.
Luthien: [smiling a little]
Or maybe -- he just loves being what he is.
[Huan whines at all the attention, then yawns
hugely with a resounding snap of
fangs and settles his head back on her knees, content in purely canine fashion.]
[Elsewhere: the Corollaire]
Beren: [gesturing as he speaks]
I don't know if you can tell me this, but do you know if -- if what
they said -- well, showed me, was true? I mean, could have been.
I mean, the other one -- I know that getting captured and killed
could have been.
[as the Earthqueen looks at him, waiting]
I can't tell what you're asking. Do you think you could include
a few more details this time? --Such as which "they" you're
referring to, and what other one?
Oh. Um. The Skylord and the Starqueen. Sorry. --About having a
[she keeps waiting]
If I'd gone west. I mean,
to Dor-lomin and all, and not stayed in
Dorthonion. Would it have worked out so that . . . I just wondered . . .
[he sighs, frowning]
Could I really have had
a normal, peaceful life with my own home --
at least, as peaceful as anyone's got, serving the High King, on the
right side of the defensive line, instead of out in the woods until
"Would" and "could" are two different words, dear one.
I know. But . . . Was it possible? Could that have been my life instead?
[pause -- the goddess looks at him sympathetically]
The mortal leaders of that seawards Barrier are your kindred, are they
not? Through several couplings?
Er -- yeah . . . ?
What followed, the last time that aligned lords of a related House
arrived as war-displaced with their own separate retinue and took up
residence with their kindred-hosts?
Are you saying . . . that I'd be like Celegorm and take over Dor-lomin
from Marach? That I'd throw out my relatives and make myself lord there
instead? Even if the High King allowed it, which I can't think he would,
-- I -- No.. I--
[he is very upset]
I haven't seen my cousins
in years and years, and some of them are real
losers, and some of them I love dearly, but that hasn't anything to do
with it. It's theirs. I wouldn't take it away from . . . Hurin, it's got
to be, if his father's dead like I heard -- at least, I hope it is, that
he's still alive . . . I would never betray hospitality like -- like
House Feanor. I would never start a rebellion against the lawful rulers.
But could you prevent it?
[as he looks at her, uncomprehending and distraught]
Were you to arrive there,
of the same bloodlines and your own heritage
of renown, with an element loyal to your name alone, and remain there --
do you think you could avoid becoming a . . . focus, for conflict, whether
you wished it or not? Or to put it another way -- could you remain silent
and not object, if you thought matters were being handled poorly by those
in charge, whether you were subject or not?
. . .
And if you raised your voice -- whether you were leader or not -- do
you think nobody would listen? Have not Men always listened, when you
spoke, with word or deed?
But -- I wouldn't have any authority -- except what the House of Hador
was kind enough to give me. And I'd have been just a kid, anyway.
Do you really believe that? As young as you were, did not your own
people -- elder or younger -- follow you?
Beren: [puzzled frown]
Well, they had to. It was war. And it was only because of Da, anyway
-- it was really his authority I was borrowing, before he was killed.
People listened to me because I was the chief's son, and then the Beoring.
Or was it the other way round?
[he only Looks at her warily]
Do you think that it
was only being given responsibility that allowed
you to become a leader, or did you receive that authority because it
was latent in you to wield it, reaching from within you as the stem
within the oak-nut when the right circumstances presented themselves?
How do you think your
friend became ruler? Or his kinsmen? Or Feanor
for that matter -- none of us gave leadership to any of the Eldar,
except insofar as giving opportunities for knowledge, ability, and
benefit provides a means for those inclined to order things themselves
to flourish. You don't just hand power to somebody in a lump, no more
than understanding -- as if the act of handing someone a loaf were
to end their hunger without the work on their part of eating and
[looking at him curiously]
That's why I ask you:
do you truly think you could ever have mutely
obeyed without question what you saw as folly, and do you truly think
that if you had challenged your cousins, on however small a matter,
that none would have heeded you -- and of such small cracks and slips
are landslides made, as my husband likes to say.
Are you saying that's what would have happened instead? Because that's
even worse than it meaning only that I'd never have known Tinuviel and
married someone else.
Why not both? They don't rule each other out.
Beren: [heavily, but with some irony]
It sounds like you're saying that wherever I ended up, I would've just
brought trouble no matter what I wanted.
Very likely. You have to think of the roots as well as the leaves --
ah, look at it from all sides, is that how you say it? There's never
just one consequence to any deed.
Beren: [bitter smile]
I guess it's a good thing then that I died instead of going there --
too bad it wasn't any sooner.
I don't remember saying anything like that.
But if my going there instead of Ma would have started a civil war
If you'd gone and not stayed in your land -- that is, if you'd even
survived to reach the other mountains -- so many other things might
have gone differently, that it might have been a good thing for your
kinsmen that you were there to take over. How can we know what might
have happened in the battles that followed? You might have been the
only one left. Or you might have gotten killed yourself, instead of
your kinsman, aiding Fingolfin's lad. I certainly don't know, and
you don't either.
But it could have happened that way instead.
Well, yes. That's the way of it, I'm afraid. You do one thing, and either
it works the way you hope it will, or it doesn't. And if it does, then
other things happen as a consequence, and some of them are good, and
others aren't, and other things don't happen as a consequence, and some
of them are good, and others aren't. And if it doesn't happen, well,
then -- it's the same thing, only different.
So what are we supposed to do? Nothing?
Yavanna: [same innocent tone]
Well, if you don't do anything -- then things happen anyway, and some of
them are good, and others aren't, and the things that would have happened
because of what you didn't do don't happen, and--
--So you're saying we're stuck with the situation no matter what? Whatever
we do, it's gonna cause problems? And no telling what?
I'm afraid so.
[he snorts again]
We make the best decisions
we can, or we try to, given what we know,
and sometimes . . . sometimes all the endings are sad. I think that's
what Varda and Manwe were trying to convey, from what you've said.
I'm still not sure that you believe it, yet.
[she looks at him questioningly; he finds the ground very interesting]
No . . . I believe it. I just . . . don't want it to be true. I want
there to be some way that things can just work, dammit, without it
breaking somewhere else, either by accident or because of it.
[he jams his fingers into the dirt savagely, scowling at the grass]
I wish it wasn't Marred, either.
[as she gazes out sadly towards the horizon,
he stares at her in concern,
wondering how to console a Demiurge]
Beren: [not a question]
There's no way to fix it.
Yavanna: [suspiciously level]
We haven't found it yet, if there is.
We can't even patch it, thanks
to Feanor, as we might have been able
to -- thanks to Feanor.
[with a sidelong Look at Beren]
He made the Three because
he was afraid that Something Bad would happen
to the Two, you know -- and he was right, only it was partly because of
the Jewels that it happened. But Melkor might have killed them anyway,
whenever he did choose to take his revenge, whether or not the Silmarils
had been made or not. And then there would have been no hope of restoring
them at all.
I'm sorry. I know -- it's nothing I could have changed, but--
--I wish more than ever
that I hadn't failed. Even if it wouldn't have
[Beside the waterfall, the Elf-girl is still
teasing the Sindarin warrior
by dangling the bowstring over his face like a fishing line, but when he
continues to ignore it with a smile she stops and starts prodding him in
the ribs with it instead. This is harder to ignore -- he sits up, and very
casually scoops up a handful of water, splashing it towards her. She squawks
(definitely a squawk, even if Elven-melodious] and scrambles hastily out
of the way, dropping the longbow as she escapes.]
Youngest Ranger: [amused]
You a Teler, and afraid of water?!
I am not fearful of water. I do not want to hear what it would say to
me, that is all. At least, what it would say to me if it were real, but
I did not think of that only now.
[she frowns at the stone floor -- it's definitely
wet where she was kneeling
That was real!
Someone could slip, for
the pavement is not graved for proper footing
like to a quay here. --How did you do that?
[he shrugs. --Grumpily]
I need no more of being told that I should go home.
But now that you know
that none of your friends were part of the
Kinslaying, why not still?
Because I will have to face my people's reproach for having stayed
away so long. And for it being for having fallen in love with him. And--
Youngest Ranger: [anxious]
You do believe that Lord Edrahil is innocent, don't you?
[she nods, disconsolate]
He has truly changed, then?
[he shakes his head]
I've no knowing, of that. I'd heard of the King's foremost Lord, who
was more exacting for having things all as they ought in word or making
than any bee was ever in building hive, long before I ever thought to
go to the City. He was a legend to be so fierce in the flyting, whenever
work went wrong, all over the Kingdom. And then I found it was all true,
but only the half of it.
Teler Maid: [skeptical]
How mean you?
When I went to the City at last, against my elders' wishes, it was--
Why did they not wish it? Or wish it not?
They thought it was a bad idea. That I wouldn't be happy there, and that
it wasn't a good thing for an Elf to want to go to a-warring, that those
were Western matters and we should stay well out of them, and that my
voice and my boat would be missed from the village, but that the Noldor
hadn't any need of me with all their power. And the like. So I stayed at
home a score longer, and then I had to go and see what there was above
the hills I could see looking upriver over the willows and the morning
mists. So I took my skiff and the sword my grandfather found when we came
back from the Havens after the King's folk made the great Shield-Wall up
North -- only not me, because I wasn't born yet then -- and I poled up
the Narog until I found the High-elves.
My family thought it a fine thing that I should go and stay in the house
of our Princess, and learn all the arts of our elder Kindred -- until
I learned there sorrow, too, and discontent of heart, and only then did
they press me to return thence.
Youngest Ranger: [sighing]
My family didn't know what to make of me when I returned home to visit
after, it wasn't comfortable for either of us. They didn't understand
why, when I'd belike try to tell them of the High King's stone towers
in the mountains that went up like the very mountains themselves to
the sky . . . By then I'd found my place following King Felagund, but
before when I first came to the City it seemed they were right and I
shouldn't have left home. The King wasn't there, but Lord Edrahil was, and--
Are you trying to say he was not good to you either, when you arrived?
Youngest Ranger: [still patiently]
Look, I'm trying to tell the story, but it's very hard when you keep
interrupting. I don't know how to tell stories, very well, not real ones
that I've been in, that aren't old tales -- what I was trained to do
was make a report and tell things in order exactly first -- except for
something that was an emergency, of course -- and then give opinions
and impressions after.
I will listen.
[Note: when he is relating others' words it is
in a fairly level recitative,
unlike his normal speech mannerisms -- clearly he doesn't have his commander's
gift for imitation, as though not monotonous he delivers it in a straightforward,
unadorned way that gets the job done.]
Well, when I first started working there, I just showed up and said I
wanted to go to the City and serve the King by helping defend it. But
he wasn't there, and I didn't explain myself very clearly, because I was
too shy to say very much then. So somebody put me to work helping make
weapons, which wasn't what I'd meant, but I didn't dare speak up. But
I was wretched at it, because I'd never seen molten metal like that --
I'd never seen anything but a little forge with a charcoal blaze, and
this was a foundry with the white-hot stuff pouring like water from a
pitcher. Even though they just had me working on tempering, I was so
scared to be in that place I couldn't think, and I kept making mistakes
in the order of words and ruining bars and so they sent me off to work
in Household, but that wasn't any good either. I never saw glass before
that, and I thought it was rock crystal, and I wasn't careful with it
because of that.
[with a rueful grin]
That was something
special, no one had ever managed to break eighteen
glasses and two in one go like that before. It got me sent to the
Steward. I got lost again trying to find his office. All he said when
I got there was, "You're late."
"I'm sorry, my lord, I got lost," I said.
"How is that relevant?"
he said. "It is one's own responsibility to
make certain that one has adequate information before undertaking an
obligation." I didn't say anything, because I didn't know if I should,
or what. He said, "What are you doing here? Nothing seems to suit you,
the simplest skilled labour appears beyond your ability, and quite
plainly, you don't seem suited for this environment at all."
"I wanted to fight for the King," I said.
"Then why didn't you
say so?" he said, still all impatient and cross
with me. And I said, "Because nobody asked me, sir," and he just stared
at me, and I got scared that he was reading my mind like some people
said the Lords out of the West could, but then I figured that I'd not
done much wrong except make stupid mistakes and he already knew all
about that. So it didn't really matter but I was still embarrassed.
He got up, he bowed to me, and he said, "I'm very sorry that we've been
negligent towards you. Please sit down and we will try to discern what
you are meant to be doing." He didn't make any excuses about there being
a lot of people in Nargothrond or being busy. He said, "Why do you want
to be a warrior?"
"Because the King looks
after us, and his soldiers keep us safe and
free," I said, and he said, "Well, he's the King. That's his job, and
theirs." And I said, "Yes, but it seems like we should give something
to help, my lord," and he said, "And you are that something?" and just
kept looking at me. I got more and more embarrassed, because I was sure
he was Seeing in me the arguments with my tribe about going to fight
alongside maybe Kinslayers in the Leaguer, but then he said, "Are your
parents requiring this of you, child?" I was surprised. I said, "Oh no,
sir, not at all!" and then I got too ashamed to talk.
"I don't think you are
looking for glory or vengeance," he said. Then
he said, "Are you afraid?" I didn't know if he meant of him, or of going
to the War, so I just said, "Yes, sir."
"You're far more intelligent
than I was at your age. Have you ever had
any Visions of being in battle?" he said. I had to think about that one.
"Sometimes while hearing
a ballad or after a tale, it seems like I'm
one of the people in it," I said, but he told me that could be just
ordinary Dreaming and wasn't conclusive. I had to ask him what conclusive
meant. Someone came in to complain about something and just started
talking away, and he made her stop. He said, in the Common, "Gentle
lady, I know the ban on Quenya doesn't mean much to the High King's
court away in the north, but here we respect it, and it is particularly
discourteous to employ it before a visitor." And then after she finished
saying it all over again -- it was something about something that I
didn't understand even in our language -- he said to her, "It is also
one of our quaint Old-World customs here to excuse one's self with
apology before interrupting, when a matter is so pressing that it cannot
await the end of a meeting -- but afterwards will suffice." I figured
out what suffice meant from the context.
That was not very kind to say.
No. But I was too shy to complain, and the lady should have known better.
On both counts. He said, "What are you good at?" I said, "Um, fishing."
"That's very useful,
but we have the provisioning arrangements for the City
generally under control at present," he said. I turned red all over again
but he wasn't being sarcastic. He got a little bit embarrassed and said,
"I don't want to make any assumptions, but are you good with a bow?" I said,
"Oh yes, but everybody is, I thought you meant something special, sir."
"Sword?" he said. I said,
"I've got one, but I don't know how good I am
with it. I've never had to use it."
"Spear?" he said.
"Fishing," I said.
"Of course. What about horses?" he said.
"I've seen them, sir,"
I said, "sometimes. They seem like big pretty
dogs. Are they?" He nodded. He didn't say anything for a while. Then he
said, "You've had unpromising experiences with metals and glass, to date."
"Er, the metal was last
week, sir," I said, because I didn't understand
the expression. Only he didn't laugh at me. He just said, "Yes. How do
you feel about learning to work stone?"
"I don't feel anything,
milord. Not yet," I said, because it was true.
He said, "Fair enough. Would you object to learning?" and that surprised
"Could I, sir?" I said.
He said, "Of course you could. But I'd prefer to
find out before, not after." I must've looked a proper picture at that,
because he said, "I think you're meant to be a Ranger. But the people
you need to speak with about that are several hundred leagues off at the
moment, and I daren't make a mistake with your destiny. If you want to
wait here and no more until King Felagund and his senior officers return
from inspecting the front, and employ your time visiting the rarities of
the City and reading--"
"I can't read, my lord,"
I said. Then I said, "I'm very sorry for
interrupting." He just said, "Or learning to read, that would be
"But I wanted to serve
the King. Even cleaning things is fine, even if
it isn't what I meant," I said, and he told me that it served the King
to have the City serve its purpose, which was a haven for people and
things, and for the things in it to serve their purposes, which was to
be appreciated properly by the people. I figured that meant it was all
right for me not to be doing anything, but I wasn't easy with it. So I
said, "If there isn't any Work I can do, sir." He said, "There is, but
it's dull and no one will see it."
"So is mending the bottom
of my skiff," I said, and then I got embarrassed
for being flippant, only I hadn't meant to be. But he smiled for the first
time in our talk, and said, "All right, then; I'll put you on the condensation
project. A branch of the river has shifted and it's starting to cause problems
with moisture buildup. No one wants to spend their time making plain tiles
and drainage gutters these days, but we need to get this under control before
it gets out of hand. Any questions?" I had one, but it wasn't about stonework,
but he did say any questions.
"Can you really read my mind, sir?" I said. He didn't laugh.
"No. His Majesty can
understand thoughts, when directed towards him, as
he can speak his thoughts to others, over greater distance and more clearly
in hearing and utterance than any that I know of. Even of strangers, and of
more than one at a time. But there's nothing unnatural in it," he said, and
when he saw I was embarrassed about being worried for it, he said, "Nor in
being fearful of an unknown. If you experience anything else here that
unsettles you, of rudeness, or of witnessing power usage you've not seen,
or ways of ours that don't make sense -- or if you should think better of
City life and wish to go home, before you swear fealty to our King as a
warrior, come to me directly."
"But aren't you too important
for that, sir?" I said. He didn't say anything
for a minute, and I wondered what I'd said wrong. He said, "I think you may
be the first person who has ever asked me that. That's very thoughtful of
you, but no, this is my job, stopping problems. --Or managing them. --You
aren't the problem, by-the-by: the fact that you've been drifting about
like a lost scrap of parchment on a breezy day, into situations you're not
prepared for, however, certainly is." Then he took me to the workshop he had
in mind, because he didn't want me getting lost again, and he explained how
the caves fitted together around the river, so I understood it better.
The master mason wasn't
very pleased, he wanted no part of a tribesman who
didn't know how to hold a hammer let alone a chisel, and said he hadn't
anything I could do but cut rough slabs. Lord Edrahil said no, I didn't know
anything about machinery and he wasn't to put me on the hydraulic saw straight
from the marshes. He said, "He's illiterate, or I'd take him back and put him
to work in Records right now." --That was before he gave up completely on that.
He said, "But if you won't take care of him, I'll teach him how and start him
filing things until the King's return. I thought you were in need of willing
hands." The stonemaster said that it wasn't any good if I was only temporary
help, and besides I wouldn't be any good at it, it would be wasting my time
as well as his to teach me.
"Do not, as the saying
goes, hazard on that," Lord Edrahil said to him, and
I worked there for a fortnight, polishing finished pieces and then doing some
roughing out on blocks that others pointed up for me. Then I got called back
to the Steward's office. He said, "You're not late."
"No, my lord," I said,
because I didn't know yet then that that was by way
of his making a joke. He said, "No complaints?" and I said, "I don't think
there have been any, sir," and he said, "From you, not about," and I said,
"Oh. --No. The job's fine." He said, "Good." Then he said, "They'd like you
to stay on there, you know."
"Must I, sir?" I said.
"Do you want to?" he
said, and I said, "I want to help defend the realm
for the King." He just looked at me again the way he did before. Then he
said, "It shall be, I fear, much harder -- even for you -- as well as more
dangerous, than this Work."
"Yes, my lord," I said,
and he said, "Very well. Someone will notify you
when his Majesty returns, so that you may ask your boon of him, and he
decide if he wishes to send you for testing. He may tell you that you're
not suited for battle, you do understand." I hadn't thought of that. I said
that. He said, "You should, then, and prepare yourself so that when the
choice comes, if it comes, you will know whether you wish to return home,
or to remain here doing something other than you had planned to do. Neither
one is without its trials." Then he said, just like before, "Do you have
any more questions or requests?" I did, and I said, "Could you still teach
me how to read, sir?"
"I am afraid my time
is not my own to dispose of," he said. I couldn't hide
my disappointment. He shook his head. "There are other literate persons in
this City, many of whom are not occupied at all times," he said. I didn't
know that was another joke, or what he was being sarcastic about, not back
then. He said, "Here is what you shall do -- if you want to learn. Go to the
Gardens or the Hall of Hours in your next free interval, and find someone
who is reading or writing there, and tell them that Lord Edrahil commands
them to teach you the cirth. --What?"
I said, "Um, don't you
mean ask them to teach me, sir?" He said, "No. After
you have learned your runes, do the same thing again, but this time tell
them they must teach you to read tengwar. In between, and after, practice
forming the letters -- you may requisition whatever materials you need from
the Scribes, in my name -- and of course, actually reading books. We have
a few in our libraries." That was a joke too, but I didn't know that then.
He said, "If any Sage objects or raises concerns about you taking anything,
invoke my name as your warrant." I said, "Yes, sir," even though I didn't
understand yet then.
Why he said for me to go boss people around in his name.
So wherefore did he?
Because that way they would be annoyed with him, not with me for
interrupting them and taking up their time, and not take it out by
being short or hasty with me, but go for him afterwards if they were
[she looks very thoughtful, but not much happier]
So what then did happen? Or is that the end of your story?
Youngest Ranger: [reasonably]
Well, it's not over yet. There's a lot more of the world to happen,
Do not tease me! You know well what I do mean.
Youngest Ranger: [deadpan]
Oh, you mean the part before I became a Ranger, what I was telling
All right. After a season the King came back to the City and he
interviewed me and so did the Commander and I proved I was good enough
at archery and not too insane to be worthy to be a Ranger, and that's
what I did for the rest of my life. My master and the other artisans
on the project tried to convince me to stay and train as a mason, they
said I had a real Gift for working with stone -- the words "untutored
native genius" were said several times -- and I would be wasting it
if I went off and just fought in the wars.
And was it so?
Youngest Ranger: [shrugging]
I don't think so. We had problems in one of our guard towers with
the chimney never drawing right, and I was able to fix that up in
a trice when I was stationed there, stuff like that. So it turned
out to be pretty useful sometimes.
Oh. --What is cirth?
It's a kind of writing we use over there, basic runes invented by
Master Daeron, that don't have dozens of different ways they fit
together and mean.
That same Daeron who hated Beren, or another?
Teler Maid: [acerbic]
I think you are right in the matter of your skill at recounting stories.
Youngest Ranger: [shrugging]
It is a very plain story, notwithstanding your plain telling of it.
That's just me. The most exciting thing that ever happened to me before
I came to the City, was when there was a wet season so bad that we had
to move three times, and my Gran couldn't stop it, and she sent my my
Dad and his sisters upriver to ask the King for help. And he told them
not to worry about it, and sent back a convoy of troops with foodstuffs
and stuff and engineers with cut timber to shore up the pilings of our
village high enough we wouldn't have to move it again. I was almost
two, and I didn't get to go to the City until I was sixty, so you can
tell that our lives were pretty plain.
I never did figure out
if his Majesty it was that made the weather change,
or did he just know it was about to, when he said not to trouble over it.
Why not then ask him?
[he shrugs noncommittally]
--It is not a very good story.
But it's a true one.
I'm thinking you'd like
it to be more like a song, where things happen
so everything balances out in the end and there's a great fine note at
the end of the tune. You'd like for Lord Edrahil to have set down the
cooks and the smiths who berated me and maybe for him to have taught
me the reading as well, and us to have been friends and I to have taught
him things that all his cleverness hadn't fathomed, because that's how
a tale should go.
[she doesn't say anything]
But he was too busy for
such purposeless meddling, or to spare time to
indulge my curiosity. He saw to it that I found my place, and he made
sure that I might learn if I willed. Beyond that -- we had work, that
rarely, rarely brought us together, only a little more often than might've
been, for the Commander's friendship. But he was too preoccupied to think
on me, when I wasn't a matter of trouble to him, and he was far too old
in years and knowing alike for me to be giving him any lessons. --I only
ever surprised him once after, I think.
[glancing over at Luthien and the rest]
[he nods, once, and she shudders]
Why did he make apology
for holding you should yield to the foe? Or rather,
why did he think so?
Youngest Ranger: [matter of fact]
Because I almost did. I would have, without his help. I think -- in a
way -- it was worse for me than Beren.
But the Atani are weaker than any of us, everyone does say so, so how
can that be?
Youngest Ranger: [shrugging]
I don't know about weaker, now. Different. They burn faster, but maybe
more fierce for that, like grass at summer's end, not the hardwood logs
that last the night in low coals. And besides, he couldn't See the Dark,
not the way we could, and there's a difference between afraid when you
know something's out there, and afraid when you know exactly what's out
there. I was -- it was -- for me at any rate it was like the Terrible
One's power was a giant claw, pressing down on us, and I was this little
bug under it, that couldn't get away. I couldn't hide from it, and I
couldn't fight it. I kept saying, "I can't stand it," and he'd get angry
-- Lord Edrahil, that is, not Beren -- and remind me of my oath to the King--
And that was help?!
For a little. I cursed him. I told him, "If you'd not held back from
changing my mind, I'd be a master mason and safe in the City today.
You could have seen to it that I gave it up, or that they'd never have
considered me for a soldier." And he said, "Yes, but you gave your oath.
Be silent now," and he was right. But then--
[he breaks off]
But then what?
I don't think you want to know about this.
[this provokes a strong outburst]
I am not a child! I have died, no less -- I recollect me well what it was
to be trapped and not to be able to escape from pain and to be unhoused!
But then what--?
[he looks at her anxiously for a moment -- she
is very frayed and increasingly
upset right now, but he obeys her insistence]
Then I went crazy. I broke most of my teeth, trying to bite through
the chains. I think I cracked my skull against the stones, but that
might have been a hallucination, I'm not sure. No one could help me
enough, until Lord Edrahil did what Beren would call putting a spell
on me, only that wouldn't be wrong, really, because I still don't
understand how he did it or could have, except that he's that much
stronger than me or any of my near-kin. He put illusion over me, so
powerful I couldn't tell 'twas a Dream, nor could I leave it even had
I wished to, as if I were not Eldar at all but mortal, which none of
us should be able to do to another.
Of what fashion was it?
A little space of a garden, fitted into a corner of walls, but under
a sky, only the sky was gold like sunset, only not either, and there
was a low bench in another corner, and all of it stone, but the bench
was carved soft and rounded like a fallen log, and there was a pool in
the other corner with a low spill into it, and water-lilies that were
blue, not white or yellow. And there were squared stones around the pool,
but someone had put a twisted weathered branch on them, and across from
that was a single shell like a snail's, only it was all purple-blue as
But that is here -- I know that garden.
Not here. I mean at home. --At the House.
I knew it was no place in Beleriand, for the taste of the air and the
color of it, and the shape of the fish in the pool, but I didn't know
then there was a real place of it, just like that. For all that time,
almost until it was my turn, he kept me there. I didn't know then that
he'd hurt himself so badly doing that for me, that he'd not any longer
the strength to remember for himself, not then or after, and I wouldn't
have cared then if I had. I was too broken.
[throughout he watches her to see how she is
taking it; her expression and
posture are very tense, but she does not hide behind her hair or otherwise
retreat from his account]
And then it got dark,
and he apologized for that, and spent the rest
of the time telling me about them crossing the Ice, and how frightened
he'd been then, and it was like he took my fear for himself, and I could
stand it, until I had to die. Then he ordered me not to resist, either,
he said it wasn't any shame to follow my people's way and hide when the
Enemy was too powerful, and I might get through fairly unscathed. And
I did, only he paid a heavy price for it. But I didn't know about that
at all until the Commander arrived and was able to explain a little of it.
Wherefore did he not help you?
Youngest Ranger: [flatly]
He couldn't. The only thing he could do was blame himself, and that
didn't help. At all.
[struggling not to smile -- she gives him an outraged Look. Apologetic:]
It's sort of funny that
he complains about them doing it, Lord Beren
and the King, is all.
There's naught amusing in it -- at all.
[he ducks his head a little]
You had to have been there, I guess.
When Lord Edrahil came
here it was as he said, he was unlearnéd as a
newborn child, saving only that he knew us for his friends -- but when
I returned him the memory he'd shared me, of that small safe place in
bright Tirion, it filled a gap of lacking in his wits, and he was able
to remember all manner of thing, not that only -- but that time it
worked as it should, nor I to lose it for the sharing of it.
--So it's a real place,
that garden, not only one he Dreamed of making
on a day?
[she doesn't pay attention to his last question]
Teler Maid: [suspiciously-brittle tone]
Then for what does he hold he wronged you by fearing for your weakness?
Youngest Ranger: [shrugging]
He doesn't believe it, as I do, that I couldn't have held out without
his help to it.
Then for what does he call himself a coward, when that is not at all
the way of it?
[he shrugs again]
It's like when he told me he couldn't read my mind. It was the truth,
but not the whole of it, because what he didn't say was that by his
Insight he could tell far more of me than I could of him by mine, all
manner of things that I didn't know to say, and didn't know I was
revealing, that would have seemed close to what I meant by mindreading.
Why did he deceive you?
He didn't. He just didn't tell me, because I couldn't understand the
answer then, and it would have worried me, and by the time I would have
understood about it, I already had realized it anyway, and so it didn't
distract me from my tasks then.
I do not understand. Are you saying that he did it -- or did it not --
not of mercy for you, but to further his purposes, or for that he was kind?
[she glares at him]
When he helped me --
when he forfeited his right to leave to the Commander,
it wasn't of mere kindness he did it. He was afraid we would break--
Then for what hold you it to his credit?
--and speak to the Terrible One and name the King to him.
Teler Maid: [looking over at Finrod]
He did it for friendship of Lord Ingold, then, and not of ye.
Youngest Ranger: [following her glance]
Only -- that was our own worst fear, all of us, that we would fail him,
and Beren, and her, and the City. --That would have been worse than any
death. Was that a friend's deed, to spare us breaking, or not?
That is too cold and tangled for me by far.
But it's true. That's who he is -- cold and complicated and not easy in
friendship. But he's just to a fault, and merciful within his duties
allow, or outside it, and he gives his skill at songweaving without any
pride in it. The first part he can't help more than he's done -- and I
think that must be greatly, for all you've said, and others, of him past.
So I can't say if he's changed or not, but I think what really you're
wanting to know is dare you trust your heart to him. Someone could change
for the worse, after all. Only he hasn't, not since I've known him. I'd
do anything he asked of me, without question for it. I trust him as I
trust my King, and my Commander.
But all ye do make sport of him with light words and many.
Only now that we're all dead, and he's himself again. --If we didn't,
he'd worry there was something wrong. More, that is.
Teler Maid: [skeptical]
You tease him but of duty, now?
Well . . . it's not so hard a duty, that.
[they share the beginnings of a smile, her unwilling, him wry]
Look . . . I'll tell
you something, that I wouldn't say among the
others, because I don't think but what it'd upset the Lady Amarie
very much and probably other people too -- but I don't think you'll
mind the same way, and besides it's true. It seems to me like I
understand a bit better why the Rebellion happened, only not for
some, because I knew them so well, it wasn't so hard a thing for
me to see the King threatened -- I didn't lose heart in him, nor
his lords, because I was at the Fens too and so I'd not got left
any false ideas that they were all-wise and indestructible and so
on, and if I'd not lost heart then why would I after? And that
makes me like the Vanyar, more.
[shaking his head]
But his lord brother
and the rest of the great folk of the City, that
weren't there in Serech in the mud, they'd not that knowing, and so
when they saw him challenged, and realized he could be overthrown, they
didn't stop to think that every chief's but as strong as the folk will
have it, and so they lost heart in him, and so he lost. And that makes
them like the Noldor. --I mean, apart from them being Noldor anyway.
Teler Maid: [taut]
I do comprehend.
And then most people, they didn't know what was going on, no matter
what tribe they were of, they didn't really know or care much about the
shadows under the houses, the old rivalries of the King's sons, they
were happy to believe all was peace still, not dreaming how much
temptation it was to be guests in a rich hall of a younger kinsman, and
to worry over that once they had wanted all of Middle-earth for themselves.
And that made them like you Teler, not expecting any evil to happen,
because they weren't thinking to do any. But sometimes the shadow in the
water's no log, but a pike to bite your ankle.
If you are like the Vanyar then how can you fear the gods?
I didn't say I was one, I said I was like them when the Trees were killed
but they didn't turn on the gods like the Noldor did.
But that means you are saying the Noldor -- some of them! -- are like the
Powers to you!
I guess Beren was right after all when we were fooling about.
No, it is not right! You are not so much weaker than they! --Besides which,
'tis as much folly to fear the Holy Ones as 'twould be to fear Lord Ingold.
[he doesn't say anything]
Surely you do not fear him?!
[he starts fixing the beads again -- she reaches
over and tweaks the end of
his braid out of his hands impatiently]
But how might you be
even so? --And how if you know so well how little
they might help, do you honor your companions as the very gods?
They locked shields above me, when I couldn't defend myself.
Teler Maid: [discontented]
And thus you are grateful to them, because they protected you, and so
because they felt sorry for you.
Youngest Ranger: [shaking his head]
Because they are my friends, for long or for a little while. That's all.
[pause -- she looks over at the Captain and the rest, and then back at him]
Teler Maid: [shrewdly]
Your friends do think that you are most brave. And wise. I have seen
it -- they attend you, and not only to protect -- and heed your rare
commands. Were none else to be leader here, I think you would be leader
[he follows her glance, and then looks down]
Is that not how it was, when you first were dead?
Youngest Ranger: [conscientious]
Not at first -- I was as lost and wracked as any, before they caught
and calmed me, like a runaway steed.
Teler Maid: [imperiously]
You know what I am saying.
[he nods, not looking up]
Youngest Ranger: [awkwardly]
Whenever anyone started thinking we should go to the Lord and Lady
of the Halls and submit ourselves for judgment, I said no, we had to
stay and wait, to care for the rest as we had tended each other, at
least till the Commander came and ruled otherwise if he would -- for
wasn't it true that They must know what we were about, if Lady Nia
did know it?
Teler Maid: [knowing]
You held them by your will, and love.
Are you afraid of them as well?
[he shakes his head]
No more than of Lady Nia.
[she looks confused and troubled]
But why then of Lord
Ingold? He is not frightening at all. --Nor only
for that I have known him all my life.
Youngest Ranger: [quietly]
You've never seen him in battle.
No, but I have seen Lord Ulmo and Lord Osse arguing over a reef, and
no Elf could ever be so terrible as angry gods.
Youngest Ranger: [raising his hands helplessly]
You've known them all your life, too. I've only ever seen their
Messengers, and only from a high-up distance. Except--
[it is his turn to break off abruptly]
Who? Excepting who only?
Youngest Ranger: [looking over at the Hound]
Except for old Huan.
Teler Maid: [shortly]
You did not truly answer why.
[he looks at the water, and it seems as if he isn't going to for a moment]
Youngest Ranger: [hesitant]
What I learned in the City, now, was that the gods can walk as they
do among us, but they don't have to -- that what we see is just a veil
over their true power, their spirit, so we can understand them.
Teler Maid: [tossing her hair back with an impatient head-shake]
Of course! Everyone does know that.
Youngest Ranger: [more and more slowly]
It seems like then, our bodies are veils too, only different. And in
the Dark . . . there's no more veils. There's just Insight. And I was
blinded by him. It was as though -- if the Consuming Fire herself
stood between me and the Terrible One, to keep him from taking me,
and I but a new shoot, plucked from my native shade and fading to a
bleached brittle leaf in her brightness -- I couldn't bear it. It was
. . . a relief, that I didn't have to wait very long.
Does -- does he know?
What does he about it?
Nothing. --It's my problem, not his. He . . . he treats me the same
as he always did. It's only I did change.
That is so very sad.
Youngest Ranger: [shrugging]
Not so very.
But to bide among the friends you love, you must also suffer Lord
Ingold's presence that does you dread, and also it is sad that such
should come about because he tried to help you.
Youngest Ranger: [shaking his head]
They're not two strands -- like the plies of my bowstring, one my
sword-brothers' friendship, the other my fear of the King. 'Tisn't
that simple. It's all one. I would follow him to the end of the world,
the way my cousins followed their lady his young sister.
[he dips up a handful of water and lets it run
back into the spill-pool.
--I do love the Sun,
and her gifts -- the water-lilies and bluebells,
and the smell of the meadowgrass at noon, and the fiery colors in the
splash over rocks. It isn't her fault I get overwhelmed by her brightness
easily, that I come from a place where the woods shade the water's edge
or that my people see best in twilight.
Teler Maid: [forlorn]
I have never seen the Sun. I have tried to conceive of Lady Arien's ship
in my fancy, but I cannot make any picture of others' thought of her.
Youngest Ranger: [nodding]
Same for me, with the Trees.
[her self-pitying expression is replaced by an intent frown]
Teler Maid: [softly]
When I was alive, I dared not go to them when the Golden One was wakeful,
because -- She was too much. I think -- I understand what you would say.
[looking at him earnestly]
I think . . . you are braver than any of the Noldor, kinsman.
[struck by a sudden thought, she nods towards Luthien]
--Are you afraid of her?
A little . . . She's like the stars -- bright and sharp as winter, or
notes of trumpets sounding in the night when the High King rides out
from his castle, or cut crystal. I can look at her, and long -- but it
makes me tremble inside like a flag in a high wind.
[she looks curiously at his serene expression,
and her own becomes still
Teler Maid: [half to herself]
Sometimes -- before everything -- I would go up to the masthead, or lie
upon the deck, and look far into the sky, and it would seem as though I
were in amid the stars, and I were as deep within the Upper Airs as a
diver in the Sea, and it would be to me as though I were falling, and
so very small, and I was in no danger, and knew it so, even if the dream
were true, for only our Swans and the Eagles were aloft, and the stars --
but still I was afraid, though I could not look away from it all. Perhaps
-- perhaps that is how it is for him, to look on the Sea . . .
[with an abrupt change of manner, teasing]
--And which, say you, am I most like?
Youngest Ranger: [smiling]
Oh, like the Moon. Definitely. --On a summer evening, when the sky's all
periwinkle and green still and the moonlight soft as mallowblossom.
Teler Maid: [offended]
I am not in the least like to Tilion! He does naught but mope about after
Lady Arien and hope that she will feel sorry for him or admire him, when
she has no thought of him and does indeed find him most annoying, and then
he does grieve all his friends with his gloomsome sighing--
[she stops abruptly and glares at the water -- long pause]
--Besides, he forgets
what it is he is about when he is not pining and does
much annoy his comrades for that the lightest thing may distract him. I do
not go hither and yon like a catspaw on a quiet day.
Youngest Ranger: [simply]
I like the Moon. That's why I had my badge set with pearls, because they
look like Ithil at the full, reflected in little pools along the marshes
where I grew up. Everyone has flaws.
[his distant kinswoman gives him a suspicious look -- then jumps up suddenly]
I had forgot! I meant to ask Lord Ingold--
[he can't help grinning; she tries to glare at him, but can't help it either]
I am not like the Archer -- much.
[she goes dashing over to the dais and skids
down to crouch by Finrod's shoulder,
tugging on his sleeve:]
Lord Ingold! I need to
know something, so that I may know if I must be angry
Teler Maid: [glaring fiercely]
Should you have truly let yonder Kinslayer take his vengeance from him--
[pointing to the Steward]
--as you seemed to countenance,
or was it but a feint to lead them to your
true purpose, that they should go away?
[she glares at the Warden of Aglon, who does
a fairly good job of pretending
to be oblivious]
If I could have justified it, certainly. It would have done him no
lasting harm, and then it would have been over with, and we'd not have
that ongoing distraction.
And he would be
over his guilt, instead of fretting and agonizing over
it indefinitely as is now the case.
It will not affect my work, I promise.
I never doubted that.
[to the Elf-girl]
I don't think that's what you wanted to hear, though.
Teler Maid: [still scowling]
Your words sound sensible -- but still for all the truth of them they
do not content me, for--
[looking at the Steward finally]
--to even think
that you might be hurt, in fashion howsoever small or
great, hurts me here--
[she presses her hand against her chest]
--whether I would or no.
[he bows his head; sharply:]
But do not think that
means that I have pardoned you, and so you now
again might do as ever before and once again neglect my will!
[to Luthien, earnest:]
Are you done with the wretched part yet?
No, I'm afraid there's a long while yet to tell before we died.
I meant about my friends, for that is what mostly does concern me.
That's true for everyone, isn't it?
There is no more to be recounted of mine eldest nor of his vassals in
this tale, Maiwe.
[suddenly she springs up again]
Wait, wait! Do not begin yet!
[and dashes back over to the waterfall without
explanation. There she grabs
up the Sindarin Ranger's bow and stands imperiously beside him]
Don't go poking people with that, all right?
[she does not even smile or really notice his
words, but stares at him very
Not only would, but did -- so why bide here afeared?
Youngest Ranger: [totally confused]
Teler Maid: [reaching down and taking his hand]
You have come to the end of the world -- except for the Outer Ocean and
the outside edges of the sky where it goes up against the Void -- so 'tis
folly to be scared of Lord Ingold now, and I say high time for you to
cease! Come sit with us now--
Youngest Ranger: [reasonable]
I'm not scared, "scared" means--
[she makes an impatient noise and yanks him to
his feet, dragging him behind
her like a sea-anchor, him following with a patient, bemused expression as she
leads him to join the others, making him sit down on the other side of the
place she has taken beside his Captain.]
Go on with your story!
Luthien: [with a slight smile]
Are you quite settled, then?
[getting a quick nod she turns back and resumes explanations for those of Aman]
So the way they used
to go, they couldn't, because that was all Enemy
territory now, and they couldn't cut through our country -- well, obviously,
but even before then they couldn't, and unless you had good boats and knew
the river you wouldn't want to cross Sirion at the southern border, and so
that left only the way they'd come, back at the beginning during the Battle
-- but then they had an army, you see, or bits of one, so that meant--
[this isn't interesting enough for the Sea-elf,
who fidgets for a moment, then
starts reaching over with the bowstave towards the speakers on the step below;
her kinsman from the East clears his throat and she starts guiltily, quickly
handing the offending implement back to the rightful owner -- but not before
having dropped the end of it against Finrod's back. The ex-King of Nargothrond
looks over his shoulder to see Lady Earwen's sometime handmaid looking utterly,
impossibly innocent with wide kitten stare and hands folded safely in her lap,
while the apparent culprit hides his face in mortification -- and helpless laughter]
You know, I used to know someone who would ask for cloths full of grain
from the kitchens saying she was going to feed the lovebirds in the garden
with it, and then wait for unsuspecting people to walk under the trees or
the raingutters or the colonnade instead.
Angrod: [faint smile]
I do, too.
Aye, even so.
Dost thou not the same?
[Amarie nods shortly, not willing to be diverted]
Teler Maid: [reasonably]
The birds did eat it.
[she is losing the battle to keep a straight face]
Finrod: [to the Youngest Ranger, warningly, but with a twinkle]
Watch out for her -- she's crazy.
Youngest Ranger: [solemnly]
Yes, Sire, so I've noticed.
[this gets him a narrow glare of mock-irritation
from the Sea-elf, who the
next instant leans forward and starts tugging furiously on Finrod's sleeve]
Lord Ingold, make me something! All this time and you have not made me
one thing, not even a riddle!
Finrod: [raising his eyebrows]
What do you want, then?
Something strange from far away. And pretty. And I might wear it.
[Amarie's attention alone is not on the Sea-elf's
antics, but on her ex's
reaction to them]
Hmm . . .
[he leans back and holds his hand out over hers,
manifesting something large,
jointed and shiny into her waiting hands]
Teler Maid: [rather disappointed]
Oh. It is most . . . heavy.
What is it?
It's a bracelet worn by a Dwarf-lord across the Sea. Everything you asked for.
Teler Maid: [critical]
It is not so very pretty.
Eol: [commenting, not quite aside]
Strength is infinitely more important than beauty.
[Note: the armlet is made of dark square-cut
crystals, cabochon-set in a very
geometric framework, somewhere between Art Deco and Mesoamerican or pre-Dynastic
Chinese in style -- impressive, with a definite rugged classiness, but not
something that would be likely to attract Telerin tastes]
Finrod: [shrugging (and ignoring Eol as he contradicts him)]
They think it is. It's based on the underlying structures of rocks, not
the visible surfaces of things that move over them, like our images based
on waves and leaves and animals. It's a style -- it takes getting used to,
[with a doubtful expression she goes to clasp
it around her arm -- and shrieks,
sharing her startlement with everyone else as the bracelet silently explodes
into a cloud of flashing sparks and gleaming "petals" that drift upwards like
apple-blossom or maple seeds in a breeze before fading out]
--Now, wasn't that pretty, at least?
Teler Maid: [sputtering]
But -- you --
You only said you might wear it.
[she folds her arms and makes a face at him;
the Steward's wistful expression,
watching their interaction unobserved, is the mirror of Amarie's . . .]
Finrod: [not unkindly]
Now pipe down now, Sea-mew, all right? Let us hear Luthien's story without
any more interruptions, please.
[as she starts to protest]
--Are you a grownup now or aren't you?
Oh, Finrod, it's all right--
Son, hast not pity on her?
She's only a child--
Finrod: [in the same tone as before, but firm]
Since Maiwe has apparently attached herself to my following, she can
manage to obey me and to exercise the minimal courtesy expected of any
adult, Elf or Mortal, in full possession of her mental faculties. --Part
of which is the recognition that silliness, like the tides (and every
other humour), has its proper times and boundaries.
[the shade in question, looking rather teary-eyed,
does not speak to her ex,
but gives him a very speaking Look, challenging him to criticize her or defend
her as well. Instead, she gets directness--]
Would you have exception always granted you, in concession of your
weakness, or expectation placed upon you, in recognition of your strength?
[she clenches her jaw, looking very put-upon,
but nods quickly and sits very
straight and attentively as Luthien starts again . . .]
[Elsewhere: the Corollaire. A few white snow-hill clouds are drifting overhead]
Beren: [sounding puzzled]
You said something earlier that made it sound like Melian was one of your
relatives, too. But I thought -- from what everyone was saying -- that she
belonged to Lorien's following.
She does. Not everyone works for their own families, at least not with us.
People move around, try new things--
--some admittedly rather
more than others! -- and join up with new-met
friends to start projects. --At least, that's how we do it.
Yeah, us too. But now I have more questions. How can you -- the gods --
meet -- I mean, didn't you all know each other back when -- in the
Beginning? -- or--
--before the Beginning, I guess.
Yavanna: [with a twinkle]
Do you have any idea how many of us there are?
[he shakes his head]
It took a very long time
for us to understand ourselves enough to be able
to start hearing each other and discerning our kinship to begin with, let
alone knowing each other. And some of us are more -- limited -- than others.
Of course we don't all know each other. Did you know every person in your
[again he shakes his head]
And even those you did
know, did you not know some better than others?
And . . .
here. Coming here -- changes one. It's easy to become
distracted, and to forget . . . especially if one hadn't a strong Voice --
hadn't, erm, focused one's thought to begin with. So many have. It seems
to make it easier for them to be lured away, as well . . .
Okay, but what does that mean, that Tinuviel's mom is one of your kinswomen?
[checks -- giving her an astonished look]
Besides the fact that we're kin too, now--
[the Earthqueen only smiles in answer]
What does it mean,
to say Vana's your sister, even, when -- none of you
[frowning, she begins pulling stalks of grass
through her fingers idly, as one
does while distracted in thought -- but they change as she strokes them, becoming
taller, opening more leaves, and unfolding into tasseled heads of grain as her
touch leaves them]
You see, for us it's quite different -- I would ask of you Children, what
does it mean to say that you are siblings, when you have not -- affinities,
I suppose, but that isn't so clear -- in common? We do not fully understand
it, because so often you who are kindred do share in the likeness of spirit,
so often there is more similarity -- or seeming-similarity -- to us than
otherwise. But then each soul has many facets, and perhaps it is only that
we see two facets that are the same, in this pair, and two that are not,
in those. Even so for us.
The Bride and the Hunter don't seem very much alike.
Less so, perhaps, and less still to your eyes. But Tav' isn't only serious,
though his lighter side can be rather frightening, too, and like all his
pursuits directed towards his Task on some level or other.
You've just caught him at a bad time, I'm afraid.
Beren: [wary & confused]
Well, things haven't been going very well in the world lately. Melkor
just keeps getting more and more control -- people who ought to be
working together to thwart him have been squandering all their resources
and energy on internal squabbles or oblivious isolationism -- vast
stretches of wilderness have been reduced to sterile ash -- and just
when it looks like someone is actually doing something proactive about
it, he steps in front of a Wolf and gets smashed.
I can't believe I'm that
dumb. I -- it didn't occur to me at all. And
I've done the same thing, myself, I chewed Hathaldir's ears off for
taking unnecessary risks until Da had to take me aside and clue me in
that nagging a kid for almost getting himself killed wasn't going to
help if I drove him to fall on his sword by it.
You understand. --It is all your fault, really -- you raised everyone's
hopes so much, accomplishing so much with so little in your favour, that
I'm afraid Tav' forgot the wider scale of the situation and started
thinking that winning -- really winning -- was actually a possibility.
It isn't, then --?
Yavanna: [dead serious]
What do you think? You've been there; you've seen it close to for all
those years. How much force will it take to overwhelm him and are the
Children over there even willing to work together to try to apply it,
whether or not they could muster enough? --Why are your friends here?
Beren: [terse, because otherwise his voice would shake]
Then why keep trying?
Beren: [slowly, choked]
Because you can't not. Because you have to do what you can, until you
can't any more, because accepting his world is worse. --Even if you can't
do very much and it seems like it isn't worth anything at all by comparison.
[she looks up at the sky, unblinking, and smiles faintly at the sun overhead.]
It isn't the same, but
-- at least I have something left of my darling,
my girl of red-gold flame to remind me of her living. She was so bold, so
loudly carefree in her shining, while my silver-blossoming boy was always
the quiet one . . .
[Beren looks at her with dawning comprehension]
They were your children. The Trees -- were your children.
[she gives a small pained twitch of a shrug;
her voice is a little ragged as
she goes on:]
After a fashion. I couldn't have Sung them alone. But I Thought of them
first, and I knew their lives as none else ever did or shall, each one
with a separate note, each one perfect and entire, and both together
greater than themselves alone--.
[with an angry sigh, leaning back to look behind her at the overshadowing trunks]
Some people think I should
let them fade, not leave their ruined houses
standing to sadden Aman -- and myself -- with memory. Some say there isn't
any hope of bringing them back, and I shouldn't deceive myself, that I should--
[lifting her chin]
[with a hooded Look at Beren]
What do you think,
mortal, after having known both life and death from
either side? Should I give them back to Arda and forget, and let everyone
else forget, for their peace of mind? Shall I dismiss their blackened
shells into ash, and unbind their component elements, and "accept reality"--?
No. Even if there isn't any hope . . . it's important to remember.
[she nods once]
You know, we used to say that when you were upset -- that is, when there
were storms in the woods, that meant you were upset. I guess that was
kind of dumb . . . I mean, you wouldn't be in charge of that anyway,
because the wind comes out of the sky. Though Finrod said it could be
a -- a shared memory from the Laiquendi in the East, associating it with
the storms of Lord Orome's huntsmen. But it couldn't be both true -- or
could it? But you wouldn't cause storms that would knock down the hay
and all anyway.
. . .
Yavanna: [looking somewhat embarrassed]
Well. Strictly speaking, you're quite correct. I haven't any authority
or ability that would let me control the winds. But--
[she glances at him, definitely pink]
--how much do you know about the weather?
Um. I know that depending on which way it comes from depends on what we
get, and I can tell what's coming most of the time, so if the wind is
coming out of the west it's probably rain, but if it's east it's gonna be dry--
I meant on a world-wide scale, not a regional one.
Well -- it -- comes out of the sky, --doesn't it?
Eventually. First it comes out of the sea.
[he looks even more doubtful]
It's a collaborative project, like most things.
Okay . . .
Firstly, the water comes out of sea to get into the sky, and secondly,
it's always touching the air. That means that whatever happens in the
ocean, affects the atmosphere above it. Think of how the water moves
when you throw a stick into it -- now, even though you can't see it,
you can imagine the air moving when that water gets thrown up into it,
right? And storms are very much water, and moved by water, even though
the sky's Manwe's job.
Okay, but, you know, I learned my myths when I was a kid, and Lord Edrahil
drilled me really good on the different gods and their powers, and I don't
know that it's all come back to me, but I'm pretty sure that I never
learned anywhere about you being in charge of water at all.
[she isn't looking at him, playing with the seed-heads
of the grass in front
of her instead]
I'm not. But I have friends who are. Sometimes -- sometimes we get upset
together about the way the world's going and . . .
There were a lot of storms the seasons after you died.
[he checks to see if she's teasing him. She isn't]
I was thinking about
-- well, about what kind of storms there would have
been, if -- but after the Treeslaying. Not -- me.
[raising his eyebrows]
Sorry, I . . . didn't
mean to cause this much trouble. Not to our side,
Did you just apologize to me for having gotten killed?
[she reaches over and gives his shoulder a little
shake, then ruffles his
hair, smiling crookedly at his shy grin]
[the Hall. Luthien is looking rather dauntingly
irascible at her present
episode of reminiscing]
Well, of course you wouldn't leave him after that.
I wish that someone would have understood that as clearly.
[she lifts her chin in defiant recollection; Finrod winces]
Youngest Ranger: [aside to his friends]
Did I miss anything new we hadn't already guessed?
Um. --Her Highness got lost in the City too, only nobody helped her get
Youngest Ranger: [grimacing]
Teler Maid: [a little subdued]
"Someone" -- do you by that mean Beren?
Teler Maid: [encouraged by not being quashed]
Are all Men like him?
Oh -- I -- I don't think so, but I really don't -- my family didn't
work directly with humans, you see, so I don't know as much about
them -- except from Beren -- as the Noldor did--
[she looks from Finrod to Fingolfin for assistance]
No. Beren is -- extraordinary even for his most extraordinary family.
Moreover, among the kindreds of mortals their customs vary, gentle
maiden, even as between our our own, in speech and manner; no less, as
well, between one man or woman of their race and the next, as of ours.
Thank you, Lord Fingolfin -- I mean, your Majesty.
[the High Kings (dead and living) both smile
in fond amusement; she glances
warily at the Steward, but he is lost in thought with his chin resting on
his hands, looking off into the distance, and does not seem to have noticed
her question at all]
But, indeed, for the most information, you should apply to my wise nephew
[Finrod gives him a very askance Look]
Nerdanel: [mustering up her voice at last]
I do aver, 'tis passing strange to hold converse with one so like to us,
and yet so far unlike, so that unlike to like exchange with others of
this land, be god else semi-sundered kin, one kenneth not e'en what one
doth not comprehend, but might only guess, from the edges' shape, as one
did touch certain carvéd letters with closéd eye--
Luthien: [earnest nod]
Right. He would tell me stories about being mortal, and I'd know that I
wasn't understanding half of them, like when you all--
[looking at Finrod and his siblings]
--would talk with Mom
about Valinor. There was one that I only half-
understood, because I knew that humans talk later than we do, but I
didn't even realize the whole of it until Nargothrond and learning more
about Men there. He told me how when he was quite young, he didn't speak
until long after other children his age did, and people thought that it
was because he'd been very sick as a baby -- which made sense to me,
since the Enemy would want to stop people singing, if he could -- and
his mother had left in the night to take him to the Elves in hopes they
might heal him--
[she looks around very sadly and seriously at the discomfited Princes]
--but before they had
gotten there, she and her riding had to stop for
water and rest, and they were at this sacred lake which his people revered
-- and you know, I never put it together with my parents' stories about
their wanderings before I was born, not until they started trying to make
small talk with Beren at dinner when we came home -- and Emeldir thought
it might help him. And it did, so she went back home, and never made it
as far as your place, because she thought it would be rude to the goddess
to imply that the cure might not be good enough and the Eldar would be
necessary for a reserve plan, and because she was needed at the harvesting.
And some people
-- not all, but some -- said that it was her fault for not
taking him to the King's brothers, and if she'd cared for her son like a
proper mother he wouldn't be slow-witted. He would just sit there, as a
toddler, very quietly, wherever she told him to do, with one of their dogs
to watch over him--
[Huan wags his tail]
--and look at
something, whatever she gave him -- a bit of rough crystal,
with the matrix still about it, or a knotted rope, or a carved wooden
animal, and never try to take it apart, or make it do anything -- just
look at it, all over, for hours on end. Once she gave him a little sprig
of beech-leaves, and he spent a morning watching a caterpillar on it, and
listening to it chewing. The day that his great-aunt had come to consult,
it was a bowl full of water, and she watched him, watching it, sometimes
the surface, sometimes the depths, from all different angles, and at the
end of it she said, "If your son is touched, Em', it's god-touched, and
no worse -- or better. There's nothing simple in that mind."
[she smiles a little]
And Beren looked up from
the bowl and asked them, "Why do they say I'm
touched in the head? Shouldn't it be on the head?" Emeldir started
laughing so hard she was crying, too, but Lady An' called him over to
her and she asked him, "What do you see in the water?"
"Light," he answered.
"It moves like dust blowing. But does the water
move it, or does it move? I can't tell." And she started laughing, too,
and said, "Why don't you speak, boy?" and he told her, "But I can't hear
when I talk." And she said to his mother, "Deep as the tarn you washed
him in. --But you should have named him 'Headstrong' instead." That's
one of the earliest things he can remember--
[shaking her head]
--he thought it was a
funny story, and so I did too -- but I didn't know
that mortal children don't usually start speaking in complete sentences,
without lots of stumbling practice first, and I didn't realize that the
behaviour he described wasn't normal for them, either. So I missed most
of it, without even realizing it, when I thought I was doing well to
imagine what it must be like, to worry about sickness and diseases as
well as injury, and not be able to Heal them properly. Everyone thought
his aunt had cured him, too, because he started talking then -- but I
think perhaps it was just that they started asking him things, instead
of telling him -- and mostly forgot that he'd ever been slow at all.
[looking at her cousins again]
How can we live so long
and know so little about this world of ours?
Because even though in your City they treated me like a naive fool out
of the woods, and made a great deal about how little I knew of Men --
you Noldor don't actually know all that much either. I would ask questions,
and assume that someone there must have the answers, and afterwards I'd
think about it, and realize that wasn't an answer at all, it was just a
guess. Mortals don't understand themselves, and Finduilas and Gwindor
would say, Well, of course they don't! -- as if I were silly for being
surprised -- but they know that, and that's why they have lore, and sages,
and come to us for advice. And what I want to know is, how much don't we
really know about ourselves, and only think we do, and what questions
ought we be asking?
Now you've just proven you're crazy, I'm afraid. I've been wrestling
with these questions myself ever since meeting other Children, and
particularly since my brother fell in love with one himself -- and
you see what it's gotten me. Sensible people don't question their
assumptions, or didn't you know?
[Aegnor glares at the floor]
You're not being fair.
Your pardon -- it's only dying for one. It's all right to hazard your
life for a friend -- if he's an Elf. And no one thinks anything of it
at all, if an Elf-friend dies for us. After all, that's the natural
order of things, that the weaker should protect the stronger, the
younger their elders. It couldn't be that we're greedy, to cling fast
to all that we can lay our hands to, and too fearful of facing justice
to run the risk of meeting it, now!
You sound like me . . .
Fingolfin: [shaking his head]
You are bitter, nephew.
No, merely angry.
Everyone has the hardest time telling it, though.
Luthien: [in that tired, dreamy tone of too much stress and
That's because it looks so different from most people's. When you get
angry it's like a smoulder that just goes on and on without seeming to
interfere with anything on the surface, instead of being fast and loud
like a lightning strike or long and dramatic like a wildfire. --Do you
know there are fires that can burn underground in the roots and turf
for decades? I didn't believe such a thing was possible, even after
Beren described it -- I thought he must have been mistaken somehow --
not until I saw it for myself.
In the Nightshade. There are places where the layers of leaf-mould
and humus are so deep that air can get through the ground, and so
some of the root systems which were burned when the Sudden Flame
happened just kept on burning, very slowly, and the trees keep
growing back and it takes them years to die of it. You have to be
careful there, because you can notice a burnt smell, but it's hard
to tell where it's coming from, and depending how deep it is, and
if it's rained recently, you can't feel it at once -- but if you
camp there, it isn't safe, really, because shrubs sometimes burst
into flame, or sparks work their way up through. Even if it is nice
and warm there.
Finrod: [anxious frown]
When were you in the Nightshade?
Before we went to Angband.
Finrod: [still more worriedly]
Well, I wanted to see what we could of where Beren used to live, so
just along the edges where the ground starts levelling down from the
uplands. It wasn't very far out of our way back. And Beren was a bit
homesick too, I could tell, even if the Nightshade isn't very homely
to be in.
That's not on your way back from the Fortress.
Um, no -- from the Fens. Up by them.
What were you doing up there?
I wanted to see where you all were caught, where Beren had been, the
places he could point out to me that you used for cover, or camped by,
so that I could feel more properly what he had while I was moping
around Esgalduin and it would be more real than just hearing it, if
I walked along the same distance myself. --I guess it sounds rather
foolish now, to you. And also where the battle where his father saved
Ambassador: [shocked out of formality]
You went sightseeing along the borders of Hell?
Finrod: [looking up at the ceiling]
All right. Is there anyone here who still thinks I'm the craziest person
in our family?
At least you had -- that Hound with you, to protect you?
N--nope. That was before Huan caught back up with us.
That's an interesting way of putting it.
Cousin, did you think you were invincible?
No -- just invisible. We had my cloak. And there weren't any enemies
around -- they'd all high-tailed it out of there and weren't taking
I'm still surprised that Beren went along with it.
Luthien: [heavy sigh]
It didn't last long.
[scowling at the map]
He started getting better
-- really, finally, and -- that was worse.
I wanted him not to be helpless any more, but then he just argued
with me. All the time. That's how we almost got run over when the
sons of Feanor caught up with us.
[Nerdanel folds her arms about herself as if
chilled, but says nothing,
despite the inevitable glances her way]
Captain: [somewhat surprised]
Arguing? Hm. That wasn't what we'd gathered.
Why? What did he say?
Nothing, in fact, Highness -- only that you two were distracted. We'd
assumed he meant embracing.
Luthien: [getting more and more exasperated in retrospect]
It wasn't for lack of trying. I'd much rather have been distracted by
a kiss than because I was crying too hard to notice if it had started
hailing because he kept telling me we had to say good-bye and it was
time for me to go back to Doriath! --Why did you think that, my lord?
Because he was so embarrassed.
Luthien: [still snapping with anger]
Well, I'm glad he's ashamed of being so pigheaded even if it's too late
to make a difference now.
[curiously, to Finrod]
Are all Men so awkward and shy as he when speaking of desire and generation?
No. He lost his people young, even by mortal reckoning, and though 'tis
true that for the Secondborn--
--and I have, as you
might well imagine, various and sundry theories,
perhaps mad, perhaps not, on the matter -- there seems to be a not-
uncommon sense of disjuncture between the spiritual union of marriage
and all other sorts of friendship which makes for a certain measure of
awkwardness between their men and women, --mostly it's that he didn't
have the chance to understand the roles of adulthood by growing into
them among his folk. There's a customary respect for the offices of
"husband," and "lover," and "father," that does not quite yet realize
-- or accept -- that yes, one is old enough to appropriately hold them--
[the following is said with a glint of quiet mischief at the Youngest Ranger:]
--rather as when someone
who feels far too young for the authority
entrusted him must nonetheless employ that authority among warriors
a dozen times his age, and does so with surpassing competence and an
[the Teler Ranger grins bashfully at the praise
and tries to retreat behind
his comrades, only to startle as the Sea-Elf pokes him in the ribs with an
"I told you so" expression]
--which makes it difficult for him to think of doing so.
But consider this: if
it had been otherwise, he had likely not been free
to choose you with unbroken heart, when you twain did meet. He'd have been
wed or widowed, already, like the rest of his company.
[Luthien nods thoughtfully]
But Men are free to choose another, without any conflict of their nature,
nor any limits saving local custom -- which derives much of your influence,
--indeed, who can be
certain that this human does not have already
another spouse elsewhere, and think nothing of it, any more than the
forest creatures whose company he prefers?
[Luthien's temper rises visibly]
That -- depends very much on the Man.
[with a quick, deliberate glance at Aegnor]
It is not unheard of,
for instance, that a widowed mortal would choose
to remain alone, deeming it to be gross treason to his soul-mate even in
this world's circles, to give his heart unto another; or that one whose
beloved did not choose her in turn should pair with no other thereafter,
but hold herself as truly bound as any Elven bride, for all eternity--
[meaningfully, to Thingol's emissary]
--We are not so different, my lord.
Eol: [exaggerated boredom]
Who cares what mortals do or don't or why or why not, anyway? --If one
isn't personally involved with one. They don't endure, and they don't
make anything that endures, so it's one of those pointless intellectual
exercises like . . .
[choosing his words very carefully]
. . . oh, trying to determine
the precise distance between earth and
the stars, or the reason that birds sing, or the passage of time in the
world outside -- a harmless waste of time for people with no lives or
jobs to occupy themselves.
[he smirks as any number of people now irritated
with him prepare to pounce,
verbally or otherwise]
Luthien: [quite loudly and quellingly]
[her listeners choose the better part of valour and don't interrupt her]
--I was trying to make
him see reason, or at least to grasp the fact that
just because I'd admitted I was homesick -- sometimes -- too a certain
degree -- for Doriath didn't mean that I considered it home any more or
that I was willing to go back there under any circumstances whatsoever
except with him by my side. --I mean, how many times does one have to say
NEVER! to make it clear that it's going to be a balmy day in Angband first!?
To the Edain, your Highness?
Are they all that stubborn, then?
Mm, not . . . quite.
Well, I can be stubborn too, at times.
[the Apprentice coughs suspiciously]
[she turns to him in mock exasperation]
You promised you wouldn't try to cheer me up.
Oh, that's right. --Sorry.
And I'm getting things out of order again. --Though it doesn't matter so
much, about the fighting, I suppose -- really it was all one long sameness
from then on.
[impatiently dashes away tears]
So we were going back
and forth about it, and it was rather windy and the
dead oak leaves were rattling quite loudly, and I know that doesn't excuse
me, but I didn't notice the sound of hoofbeats until it was almost too late
-- Beren just managed to clear the path without getting any bones broken --
partly that was the horses realizing that we weren't Enemy minions, after
all and trying not to step on him, but being ridden and all, there wasn't
a great deal they could do--
Thou strivest to make excuse e'en upon my sons their steeds?
If I could make any excuse for their masters, believe me, I would.
[in the shadows at the back of the dais, some
distance away from the main
group, a tall, shrouded figure appears, enough like the Lady of Sorrows to
cause a momentary uncertainty, but as soon as the newcomer takes an awkward,
hesitant step closer it's obvious she is patient, not healer here. Cautiously
the Ex-Thrall moves in and sits down, completely muffled in the Captain's
cloak, hiding her face, while nearly everyone tries to ignore her out of
courtesy. The Lord Warden stiffens and stares away from her with an even
more angry, miserable expression than before, and the Elf of Alqualonde
keeps giving her tense, thoughtful glances throughout]
My Princess, why on earth would you wish to? Those -- reprobates are fully
as Dark as your lady mother and your father the King have named them in
They're still our kinsmen. It's still a terrible thing that they've gone
bad. It would be better if it weren't their fault, somehow.
Everything that happens
after this point is just sort of a blur of grey
sky and whirling branches and flashes of people and animals, almost like
scrying without any sort of control, so I'm sorry if it's a bit confused.
It all happened so fast -- How could they be here? I was shocked that
they were still trying to track me down -- that's what I thought then,
only it didn't make any sense--
[making a sweeping motion with her hand]
--they swerved right
around us and Curufin reaches down and grabs me
around the waist and pulls me up in front of him, as if I were just
a big fish he was hauling into a boat, or like a toddler being picked
up by her father in the midst of a tantrum.
It was -- very humiliating.
I -- I wasn't -- I couldn't react fast enough,
I couldn't understand it all, my wits just froze like a partridge under
a falcon's shadow and then I was all tangled up in my cape, I couldn't
think to do anything to Curufin--
[she shakes her head, distraught, her shoulders hunched defensively]
Luthien, Luthien -- you're not a warrior. Your training, your temperament,
and all your experience have been directed at thinking things through,
observing them and responding carefully to the situation. It's foolish
to blame yourself for not being good at rushing in and taking violent,
Aredhel: [conversational tone]
Oh, I don't know about that -- It sounds to me as if she should have
listened to all those people who warned her that she didn't know what
the real world was like and that she'd be useless in a combat situation.
Talk to me, kinswoman, not about me. Leaving aside the fact that Beren
would have been dead with our cousin if I had done that, -- your battle
skills didn't do you much good, did they? You were still snared despite
[Eol gives her an icy glare]
Aredhel: [voice rising]
I chose to stay with my consort, of my own free will -- I wasn't caught
like some stupid tame sheep --
--but I think you're making it all up anyway.
You've convinced yourselves that's how it happened.
You believe what you want. We know what happened.
Anyway, Beren made up
for my inability, and then some, because as they
-- we -- were still circling past, he flings himself at Curufin -- who
was laughing like a fiend at us -- and catches hold of him to drag him
off, except the combination of the impact and all our weight and Horse
being off balance turning as it was, spilled us all over in this awful
tangle. It was strange -- it didn't really seem as though I was moving
at all, but as if the woods were a painting being turned sideways. Then
the grass tilted up and slammed into me like a door shut in my face--
[she claps her hands together in demonstration]
--That's what it felt
like. Apparently, I was unconscious for a few
moments there, even though it didn't seem like any time had passed at
all, because when I sat up, Horse was up again, standing there watching
the fight all wild-eyed, and Celegorm was roaring insults at Huan, who
was -- roaring is the only word for it, right back, snarling with his
hair all on end, blocking them every time Celegorm tried to make his
mount charge him, and snapping at Celegorm's spear when he tried to jab
it at him. He wasn't backing down at all, and Beren didn't even realize
that Huan had just saved -- was saving -- his life right then, because
he was too busy trying to strangle Curufin.
And succeeding. Until I stopped him. He'd gotten some good hard blows in
too, Curufin's face was all over blood, but right then he was just choking
him, completely silently and matter-of-fact like Huan taking out the Wolf-
guard, while the Feanorion scrabbled at his hands, gagging, and trying to
pitch him off without being able to at all. I managed to get up and stagger
over to them, through all that madness, I can tell you I was shaking like
a leaf and it all felt so strangely real, as if it were one of my mother's
[confused silence -- her audience exchange Looks]
But -- it was real, Highness.
--Was it not?
I know. That's what made it so strange. Because it was so improbable,
and yet it was. It was all happening, and I couldn't do anything about
it -- just like seeing things in a pool . . . except I could, because
I was there, change some of it. And so Beren didn't kill Curufin,
because I ordered him not to. And if I hadn't--
[she laughs humorlessly]
--Either way there's
blood at the end of that song, Beren's or Celegorm's.
--I was terrified -- worse than when we fought the Terrible, and I felt so
sick, but that might have been the concussion I suppose -- that he wouldn't
stop -- or couldn't, and then -- but he did, even though he wanted to, and
I couldn't really blame him -- but how could I let him be swept into the
Curse even further, and be trapped into helping the Lord of Fetters by doing
the work of one of his minions and murdering Elves?
That was very good of you.
[she only shrugs a little]
I can guess how tempting
it would have been to simply let someone who'd
hurt you as he did, suffer without you having to do a thing about it --
by doing nothing about it.
Well, it isn't as if he didn't -- wasn't -- suffering as it was. That
had to hurt a lot, being beaten like that -- but the humiliation hurt
far worse, you could tell, being overmastered by a "mere mortal" and
notwithstanding all his fancy arms and mail and cavalry and so forth.
--And witnesses. Losing his garb was just insult added to insult; going
by his expression when Beren pulled off his hauberk, being killed would
have been less painful to him.
Beren stripped him?
Not completely -- just his armour and weapons. --Not that that made any
difference to how it turned out. He's sort of obsessively conscientious
about fairness -- Beren, that is -- I mean, I know it's his job, or would
have been, as chief, but the way he won't take anything that he can't
justify to himself, good or bad -- or accept, either -- like insults --
makes things harder on himself than they have to be. He said it was only
fair since Curufin was responsible for the circumstances that led to him
losing his own defenses, and he was taking Horse because they owed some
compensation to me, too, and in any case they weren't fit to have care
of any beast, and I was.
[Huan growls agreement]
And then he leaves him
lying there like so much chaff dumped back to the
ground, just takes my hand as I'm standing there half in shock at it all,
and looks at Huan still guarding Celegorm, and something was said between
them, without any words or need of them, and Huan just heels right with
us as soon as Celegorm dropped his spear and out of his saddle. He --
Celegorm, that is -- was helping his brother up and comforting him and
shouting at us, cursing Beren and making it clear that still he only thought
of me as property to be handed back and forth or fought over like treasure
-- just like Sauron thinking I was the key to his career advancement and
securing his position against upcomers.
[she frowns angrily]
Finrod: [shaking his head]
More curses -- so many terrible words over three little stones!
[his chief counselor turns to him with a curious look:]
My lord, what did you say to Feanor's sons ere we departed the City, as
they watched us go? I did not feel it fitting to pry, nor had I heart for
thought of them in that time; but if you will not now mind such curiosity
-- though not merely idle -- I do wonder what silent injunction you did
give to your supplanters.
I told them that although
they might have the upper hand now, this victory
would come back to haunt them, and they too would have no better luck in
their pursuit of the Silmarils, for their Oath would devour them in turn.
An unfortunate choice of words to express it, as it fell out.
An thou'd make less of war, than increase, sir -- surely 'twere better then
to refrain from calling down more ill, despite thine injuries no less than wrath?
That wasn't a wish. Yes, I was angry at the time -- but that has no
bearing on the truth of Foresight. --I'm sorry, Aunt 'Danel. I don't
know how, or under what circumstances, any more than I knew the specifics
of my own Doom until it happened -- though it's hardly something that
takes a Seer to discern, that the path my cousins have chosen to tread,
is not one that will have any happy or peaceful destination for them at
[Nerdanel shakes her head in silent agreement]
No. Nothing seems capable of awakening remorse in them now. They'd already
ridden past your grave, they could hardly pretend to themselves that they
were victims any more. There's no reasoning with them now, any more than
Luthien, I don't expect you to be objective about this, so please don't
get angry with me, but -- Beren did attack Cur, with lethal intent, so
of course his brother was going to try to save him.
I'm perfectly objective. I don't fault Celegorm for that, but for not
stopping his brother in the first place, I fault them both for interfering
with us at all. If they'd just ignored us, just ridden past without stopping
to harass us, what could we have done to them? They had all the weapons and
we didn't even have horses, we couldn't have done anything to them if they'd
left us alone.
[her expression grows colder]
I saw Huan suddenly leap
from the corner of my eye, and turned just in time
to see him plunge down like a trout in spring snapping a fly out of the air
-- kchk! -- and beyond him, Curufin, already setting another arrow to the
bow in his hands--
[the High King of the Noldor in Beleriand leans forward, thunderously angry]
He loosed against you? --Unarmed, afoot as you were -- and from behind?
Apprentice: [bemused aside]
How would it be better if it had been from the front? That sounds like
No High Elf has ever killed -- or sought to kill -- one of the Secondborn,
our lessers and our lieges. Such unchivalry is beyond thought.
Nor liege, nor less, that one, I fear, my most royal brother -- no more
than beyond thought.
Luthien: [with a weird smile]
He wasn't shooting at Beren, either.
[as this sinks in for those who haven't heard the story]
It's a very strange thing,
to stand there and realize that you're about
to die, and that there's not a thing you can do about it, there's no
place -- no time -- to run, that your earthly existence depends on the
choice of another to spare you -- or not.
[the Youngest Ranger notices that the Teler maid
is listening wide-eyed,
biting her clenched knuckles, and leans over towards her]
Youngest Ranger: [quiet reassurance]
It's all right -- they didn't die yet, then.
Teler Maid: [not relaxing at all]
It was all done in less time than it takes to tell it: Curufin sighted
and I heard the string hum, and Beren flung himself between us, using
himself as a shield for me, and the sound of it hitting him--!
[Aredhel shudders involuntarily and folds her arms tightly around herself]
--It threw him back a
little, and he made a sort of gasp as though he
couldn't quite catch his breath, and knelt down, almost as though he were
stooping on purpose, only his face was completely white, and this terribly
focussed look as if he were trying to remember something crucial, and then
he just curled over at my feet, only -- I knew --
[Luthien struggles against the recollection, and wins]
--I knew he wasn't dead,
because I could hear his heartbeat, but I didn't
know how badly he was hurt--
[tears win briefly, and she scrubs them away
furiously; in the silence, the
shade of the former Healer gives a rasping caw of laughter -- completely out
of place, and appropriate. As the rest of the company stare at the shrouded
And there's the honour of our Princes, and the glory of the Noldor, shown
before Elves and Men!
[the Lord Warden of Aglon lunges half upright]
[his voice is shaking]
They wouldn't --
[he makes a violent gesture of his arm -- the
Teler Maid recoils, staring at
him as if at a rabid animal, equal parts angry/frightened/disgusted, as he
--my lords would never
do such a thing, to shoot at anyone who could not
defend themselves, without any warning, like savages incapable of winning
in a fair fight -- Lord Curufin could not do such a thing, nor would Lord
Celegorm permit it! Not even under the Enemy's power -- I swear that even
were he to seek to possess them, they would resist any such command. It
was not them -- it must have been phantoms of his making, to work such evil--
Finarfin: [very stern]
What warning gave ye unto Alqualonde, boy? ere thou and thine accompliced
did smite them down? How equal the contending, between thy heavy swords
and heavier hands, practiced in the thought of battle, and the ship-folk
unready, all untrained in war?
[the Noldor ghost stares at the living Elf-King, wild-eyed]
The -- the Kinslaying -- was -- an aberration -- it was an isolated
occurrence -- dire necessity--
Finarfin: [cutting off his stammering]
Of all deeds, there must e'en be a first of doings; yet of none howsoever
grim else glad, might any say -- the last of it, within my kenning.
Still, 'tis well thou
seest the deed as ill, nor seekest justifying of it,
but must disavow the wrongs done against her Highness and her true-love,
else disavow thy masters. Belike in time, as well shall see the Shadow on
thine own act of slaughter, no less. --I have some hope of thee.
[the Feanorian partisan flinches a little at Finarfin's judgment on him]
--Pray speak, Princess, nor doubt that all misdoubt thee in this place.
[Luthien gathers herself to speak, but is interrupted]
I still refuse to believe it.
Ex-Thrall: [suddenly, startling everyone again]
What for? You know well that the Enemy's poisons work in such a fashion
-- one can block them temporarily, but unless they are cut out and drawn
completely, the blocking agents, whether word or tincture, will not hold
forever, and at that point the venom will start to work again. Why should
the poison of his words in us Kinslayers be any different?
[the High King's daughter turns around and gives her an icy glare]
Do I know you?
Ex-Thrall: [darkly humorous]
Not yet. Someday -- you may recognize me -- in your mirror.
[the White Lady looks away in disdain]
Angrod: [desperate hope]
Luthien, you're sure that it wasn't -- I know this sounds stupid, but are
you quite sure -- accusations of murder aren't to be made lightly -- are
you absolutely certain that it wasn't an accident, or that -- at least,
even if it was deliberate -- it wasn't a momentary madness, not -- not
[his brothers and the Ten express disbelief, but Luthien only looks sympathetic]
Madness? It was like they were possessed by the Enemy, or as if they really
were Orcs in our shape -- and I'm speaking from experience now, not just
secondhand -- especially the way they laughed at us, sat there the two of
them, looking at me standing there in shock, laughing at Beren and Curufin
grinning with his face all messed up and no remorse, no indication that
they had any sense of what they'd done, nothing Elvish at all left in them.
Curufin particularly, never once spoke throughout -- never said a word to
me, to Beren, to Huan or Celegorm -- I think on some level he isn't Quendi
any more. I don't know what they would have done next, if Huan hadn't been
there, if they'd have killed me, too, or carried me off to Himring.
But if Huan hadn't been
there Beren would have been dead already and I
a prisoner, so that's sort of a moot question.
But are you quite sure that he was shooting at you, not at -- at Beren,
[Huan gives him a very dark Look over his shoulder]
Elenwe: [lightly ironic]
How improveth any such a belike? else belike "mayhap" and that,
no little reach?
It doesn't make it right, cousin, but -- at least understandable.
[his sister-in-law gives a hollow laugh]
Aye, there's Noldor reasoning for thee, no less -- 'tis sound good
sense to waylay and molest him that's enemy, lest he harm thee in's
stead -- when 'tis thine own harrying of that one that hath set him
in counter 'gainst thee! Who else than a simpleton and fool should
hold, that fittingest 'twere supplication, as to seek pardon of them
that first were done to harm--? Nay, such were be weakness, verily!
Third Guard: [apprehensive aside]
I'm not sure who she's talking at.
Youngest Ranger: [cautious reassurance]
Not us, I don't think, this time -- not mostly.
Angrod: [desperate plea to Luthien]
Might it be that Cur thought he was going to attack them again perhaps?
[loud hostile bark]
You know them better than I do -- they've been your friends for Ages.
How bad is Curufin's aim -- at ten paces?
[gesturing with her hands about a yard apart]
--Is he likely to miss by this much?
[the Prince looks down]
'Tis most strange, my son, that thou wouldst yet seek justification for
thy friends, that well didst ken bloodguilty of thy kin, long ere thy
brother did fall afoul of their long-held ambitions -- and yet do thou
blame yet those his friends, that ne'er slew Elf nor set violent hand
on maid nor wrested aught from rightful keeper . . . ?
[Angrod ducks down further, closing his eyes
in misery, and the Ten look
uncomfortable at his father's compliment on theirs and Beren's behalf; as
Finrod starts to intervene:]
Nerdanel: [struggling to keep her voice level]
--Nay, good my brother, chide him not for his loyalty, I pray, for that
there bideth in this worlds-realm yet a soul that kenneth my sons' ill
deeds, and yet some love doth burn within's heart that seeketh to cast
a better light upon -- so little and so much ease of sorrow thy child
granteth me, as one didst find a least fragment of some fair work as
yet unbroken, amid a ruin--
[Finarfin bows his head, instantly apologetic.
She looks from Angrod to
Aredhel, with a sadly-knowing expression]
--Even if, in truth,
'tis kindled in no smallest part by pride, no less
than love, that may not admit of error -- still I cannot help but prize
it most dear.
[Luthien sighs deeply, stroking the Hound's face;
he looks up with a whine
and licks her chin]
What passed thereafter?
What happened next? Oh--
[she gives the Vanyar lady an apologetic look,
but Turgon's late wife only
smiles at her, cheerfully conspiratorial, and after a momentary hesitation,
she scrambles over to sit next to her at the implicit invitation. Elenwe
touches her hair lightly]
My daughter shall be e'en so grown as thee, I think.
Luthien: [to Nerdanel]
I'm sorry I can't make this any easier on you.
Nerdanel: [terse and pained]
E'en as I bespoke thy true-love, Curufin did ever take unto his father
greatly, and mine own lord prized his own high repute above all else,
saving only his father's love, and held vengeance for slight as for
great, beyond all claims -- mayhap unto the Silmarils. And of his elder
Curufin was e'er the leader. I confess me less astonish't at thy recounting
than I had wist. --Say on.
Huan went berserk and charged them, just as if they had been Wolf-cavalry
instead -- he was so outraged, it wasn't just the moral indignation at the
injustice of it to us, I gathered, but the betrayal of everything he and
they had stood for and that he'd followed in Celegorm -- I really think
he might have killed them, then, if he'd caught them. I wasn't really
thinking about that at the time, though -- although I admit if I had,
I wouldn't have cared enough to shed any tears over them. The world had
closed down to that bit of clearing, and Beren lying there on the cold
ground not moving . . . I'll never forget how it looked, everything grey
and bleak and dead all around us, and the blood bright as fire on the dry
grass, and so hot on my hands even though he was so cold . . .
Somehow I managed to
get the arrow out and the wound purified -- at
least it wasn't poisoned--
[with a shaky laugh]
--the benefit of being
shot by your own side, I suppose! -- and seal the
major vessels by the time Huan had given up pursuing and come back, and
we got him out of the open, out of the wind and a fire going, and get
him cleaned up and comfortable with the linen and blankets that were in
the Feanorion's packs.
Finrod: [forced lightness]
Kidnapped, rescued, taking a bad fall from a running horse, breaking up
a death-duel between mortal enemies, shot at, and called on to perform
major critical Healing in a very marginal setting, all in one afternoon?
-- You know, cousin, most people would consider any one of those things
to be quite enough excitement for one day.
Luthien: [meaning it]
It wasn't all that much.
Youngest Ranger: [smiling wryly to his friends]
You'd not think that, to hear Beren tell it.
Luthien: [turning up her hands helplessly]
Well. What else could I do? Stand there wringing my hands until he died,
or do what I was trained to do with what I had on hand? It didn't seem
like a choice. Though I was pretty panicked all the way through it.
It was Huan who saw us
through it, of course, chasing off the Feanorions
and catching Horse again and fetching wood and bringing me enough of the
Lady's Gift to stop the pain so that Beren could rest and not fight the
Healing I was trying to do. It was hard. --Different. Hard because it was
different. Not knowing if he'd recover, or even knew I was there trying
to help him through the fever, not being able to sense his thoughts at
all. --Not being able to stop, because every time I did he'd start to
lose ground again, not like us at all . . . as if he hadn't the strength
to repair and to maintain at once, and knowing if he did die, it would
be my fault--
[she shakes her head, remembered distress vivid
in her face, struggling
not to cry]
Holy Stars, another one --
--No, my Lady, 'twould not have been.
Huan: [snuffling Luthien's ear]
I'm all right. Truly.
By thy gracious terming, dost thou signify the herb that giveth ease unto
heart even as body, the which we in our tongue name maralasse?
[Luthien looks blank]
In your speech it would be rendered athelas.
Er . . .
[she darts a defiant look at her Western cousins,
Finrod very obviously not
saying anything, Angrod visibly hesitating between answering and annoying
Luthien again and taking the safer route of silence]
No, it doesn't grow there, Father -- what she's talking about looks
something like it, but it isn't the same thing at all although it
smells similar and has the same effects.
[the Doriathrin Ambassador looks at the ceiling, shaking his head]
. . .
Nay, nephew, wherefore claimest thou difference, and it be in all
respects more greatly of sameness?
It grows much lower to the ground, the leaves are shaped differently
and aren't the same colour, and it has a different number of sepals and
the climate's too cold for it there part of the year.
I seem to recall, Prince Aegnor, that you said much the same thing
concerning all the creatures of Beleriand, whereupon it was demonstrated
that your names and ours were in fact the same, taking into account the
variances introduced by the passing of years and leagues.
[he bows graciously -- and very pointedly -- to Finrod]
That's because our ancestors gave them the same names when they got
to Valinor, not because they were actually exactly the same--
I seem to recall much ado being made of physical changes effected by
the same passage of time and distance--
Finrod: [trying to head off a verbal duel]
Besides, the existence of cultivars decisively proves that any species
can have a great deal of variation, under the right circumstances, if
nurtured -- just look at dogs, for instance--
Brother, I will grant you expertise on the matter of words, but when it
comes to hunting and wilderness and outdoorsmanship, -- stick to your books.
[Finrod only smiles tolerantly; behind them the Captain shakes his head]
Dear Lady, grant me patience with fools!
You wouldn't like it if She did. It doesn't work like that.
Eol: [deliberately stirring things up]
What would you foreigners know about our lands, in any case?
Luthien: [very decided]
Quiet! All of you. We are not having that silly argument about the
living variations in plants and animals between here and Aman again
and whether or not they're different species or only subspecies,
[glaring around at the Princes]
"Your elk aren't elk,
because they've got too many teeth -- they're
really something else entirely that just look like elk"--! If you're
so curious about it you can ask the gods later.
Don't humour me now.
I'm not. I was noting how much more abrupt and decisive you've become.
Luthien: [shooting a glare at the Ambassador, as Thingol's
representative on the spot]
That's a nice way of saying "impatient and rude."
That wasn't what I thought. I was thinking how much you remind me of
Haleth. It wasn't the axe that made people jump when she said frog,
[in the following pause:]
Apprentice: [quietly to the Nargothronders]
Another mortal expression?
Youngest Ranger: [same tone]
No, that's ours.
How very confusing.
Aye, it was, your speech mixing in with ours.
Luthien: [to Finrod, chastened]
I'm not sure which of us is more defensively paranoid at the moment.
--Not without some justification, of course. But--
[ruefully, glancing at his father]
--it is critical
for a leader to be able to recognize the difference
between feeling threatened and being threatened.
[he and Finarfin share a quick smile]
I'm not a leader.
[Aredhel snorts in disdainful agreement]
Despite the negligent and remarkably chaotic recounting of events which
we have previously been party to, there have been definite indications
that yours was the motive force and the guiding, too, Highness, of much
of the subsequent action.
But I thought leaders were supposed to lead. Not -- follow. It seemed
most of the time I was just hurrying along after trying to prevent
disasters from getting any worse.
Not that I'd know anything about that, of course.
Angrod: [dismayed aside]
Are we going to be hearing snide remarks about the Helcaraxe for the
rest of Time?
Belike, lad, I have little doubt of it.
But it didn't help, in the end, I still lost.
Wouldn't know anything about that, either.
I had to change. Nobody was going to come rescue me. And then -- I was
the only one who could fix things, or who was there to deal with things.
My priorities -- no, that's not the right way of putting it. The most
important things -- taking care of the ones you love -- become so urgent
that nothing else, no matter how valuable they are for themselves, can
be spared for any longer. Because there's no time.
Is that what it's always
like, for humans? Because I don't think I can
go back from that, now.
To a great extent. --But it's also a consequence of having been in command
in situations of crisis, more or less continually. Some people -- recover
-- from it more than others, and faster. But one is always different, after.
I don't know that I like it. I would like -- to be able to just relax for
a little and not worry about what was going to happen and simply -- be,
simply look at the starlight and smell the pine needles and listen to
the wind . . .
Eol: [caustic aside]
So would we all, child.
Shut up. You've only yourself to blame.
Luthien: [oblivious to them]
. . . just for a few hours without always wondering what was coming next,
or who was going to try to kill us next.
[she sighs deeply]
Even mortals do manage it, from time to time -- just ask Beren.
That's no good. He's forgotten.
[Elsewhere: the Corollaire. A huge hawk comes
into view, circling in the
updrafts rising from the plain and turning with the breeze off the Pass
Beren: [earnestly, frowning]
I understand now why you're one of the Great -- it's because you chose
to be, right? Because you're doing it all the time -- trying to build and
protect and repair everything, and you just don't stop. And I get why
you're not like Morgoth, and why you can't be as efficient as he is, even
before he destroyed so much of your power with the Trees. Because he doesn't
care what happens to the stuff in the way, or the things he uses, so he can
just reach over and do things, or make things happen, or make people serve
him, like when he'd drive a tusker mad, or a normal wolf, to the point where
it wouldn't even back away from fire, when he was trying to drive everyone
out of the country. You wouldn't do that, because you couldn't, because
you're you. If you did -- you'd start turning into him instead. Not really,
I mean, but you know what I mean.
They taught you well.
But what I don't understand is--
[breaking off abruptly]
You're gonna be upset with me, if I go there.
I can't imagine anything you could say that would do that.
Beren: [still reluctant]
Well -- first, was I right? That feeling I had that I was fated to take
It looks that way, doesn't it? As it turned out.
[he frowns at her remark, rubbing his temple
with his hand and staring downhill
at the empty fields. In the distance the circling hawk folds its wings and
hurtles towards the ground. Impact with its unseen target is concealed by the
tall grass of the plain, but after a moment it takes off again carrying its prey
towards the mountain cliffs. Watching it, Beren does not see the Earth-queen's
melancholy smile at the successful hunter returning to her nest . . .]
Then . . . it seems like, if you all wanted me to get the jewels away
from Morgoth, maybe you could, you know, could have helped me a bit,
and then . . . maybe I wouldn't've failed.
[Yavanna doesn't say anything; after a moment he looks at her sidelong]
Not with you.
[she sighs, shaking her head, and purses her lips a little]
You don't realize how
much help was mustered with minimal resources and
the shortest of notice to give you all the support possible, do you?
Admittedly it wasn't enough but under the present circumstances it
represented a considerable outlay on your behalf.
I don't follow you.
Well, what sort of help did you get?
But -- you already know -- from the King and Tinuviel and Huan.
I wouldn't count Huan,
even if he is an Immortal, because he came on
Oh. That's right. There
were the Eagles. So, that's one time, which
doesn't seem like much, not that I don't appreciate it.
What about earlier? In your homeland? You received help there, didn't you?
From other people.
You know this.
You said as much yourself. Before, during, and after
[he doesn't say anything, she goes on, gesturing animatedly as she speaks:]
You got dream warnings.
--Do you have any idea how much work that was,
trying to speak to you, one of a race that has never spoken with us
directly, at such a distance, through all Melkor's interference, without
the Trees to draw on? More than once, because Luthien received messages
too -- which would have been easier, if she hadn't been too stressed out
to pay attention most of the time. You got an environment friendly to
and supportive of you alone, and deadly to your foes -- again, against
active efforts by our Enemy to realign the region under his power, and
everything we and our subjects could give you at such a range, to maintain
harmony -- that is, strength and healing and perceptual clarity. Despite
everything you did to destroy yourself rather systematically for all those
None of that felt like divine intervention. It just isn't . . . you
know . . .
[Beren shrugs noncommittally]
Like, oh, Royal Messengers coming out of the blue?
[he looks abashed; she continues:]
There's other help that you received all your life, too.
[a blank look is his only answer]
Not you exclusively, of course.
Oh. I forgot about the Sun.
Yavanna: [trying to keep a straight face]
My poor husband would be very put out if he heard that. So would the
rest of his team, I suspect.
Well -- we do think about her, just, not, like that -- I know we
shouldn't take the Lights for granted, but, they, they've always been
there for as long as we remember. --I do think sometimes about what
it takes to keep Anar and Isil up--
It's a good thing we don't.
[at his confused Look]
[he is frustrated, upset with himself for being
apparently ungrateful and
disrespectful to her, and still not satisfied, and therefore not able to
see that the goddess isn't insulted or upset in the least]
The growing earth is mine, as it is no others' --
[with a snort of anger]
--certainly not that insufferable dolt Melkor!
[Beren looks at her with a touch of alarm]
-- but it is not me,
however much we are identified. You're right, I
can't work as Melkor does, seizing and controlling. Whether I fight or
build, it's slow, and subtle, as all things which live and grow according
to their proper seasons. I can hasten things, just as there are times in
all creature's lives when flesh changes swiftly, but that isn't easy, and
it takes much strength from other needs, and there are always grave costs
after. There aren't any shortcuts -- and there isn't any cheating. You
understand the economy of bodily things -- how effort beyond all normal
ability is possible, and how much you sacrifice in that effort, be it the
taking of rightful prey, or the finding of fodder, or the building of den,
or escaping a predator in turn, or rearing of young, or surviving an
injury -- the lack can be supplied from elsewhere, wit and skill to
assist in it, but always it must come from somewhere.
[shaking her head]
Even when one does cheat,
as Melkor and his people do, it doesn't really
come from nowhere, all those powers and abilities of theirs. The land
starves when you steal the life out of it to give yourself supernatural
strength -- and you can only cheat that-which-is for so long. The price
for eternal vigilance is -- exhaustion.
Are you talking about the Enemy, or -- are you really talking about me?
Yes. He tries to be all-powerful -- he's trying to be all of us, to
do all of our jobs, because he wants to have it all -- and he still
doesn't realize that it's too much for any one Power. So he must rob
from here to strengthen himself there -- and he doesn't realize that
this is self-defeating: that the more he grasps, the more he must
extend himself, and that if he does succeed, he will only have himself
to draw upon. You understand that there are limits, to what one soul
can do in the world -- even if you did push them farther than anyone
else did or would have dared.
But it comes to the point where the choice is, keep doing what you're
doing and die, or stop and do something else. Sometimes you can't stop,
because the alternative is worse than just you dying. But --
[he looks away fiercely for a moment]
--that's because of the
Marring, not because death is better. And if
it's something you shouldn't've been doing in the first place, like
picking fights for no reason except orneryiness, then getting scared
when you realize that it's gonna kill you is the only way some people
learn to change. But . . .
--But he -- can't die.
And he's too stupid-stubborn to change.
[looking at him from under her eyelashes]
--What about you?
. . .
Do you remember those days of waning, when your life too waned, and it
seemed that you would not live past Sun-Return that year -- and there
wasn't any point in trying, because your rebellion had failed and you'd
clearly lost? When it seemed as though the only thing left for you to do
was to go down fighting in a last berserk stand, taking as many of your
enemies with you as possible?
[he nods soberly]
Help can come
in the breath of a southern breeze at evening, stirring
attention to look towards a horizon unconsidered, and the sight of gray
woods sleeping far-off waken hope of another Spring, another life . . .
if one listens, that is, and is willing to take the hint.
That was a horrible journey.
Do you still think it was worth it?
But how can you guys
help us if you can't actually go to Middle-earth
any more and you can't do anything directly because of the distance
and the Enemy's magic and all, how can you do anything from over here?
Yavanna: [raising her eyebrows]
Where, exactly, is "here"--?
[as he grimaces, shoving back his hair in a gesture of frustration]
We made the world.
Designed it, thought of it, crafted it -- and it still
works the way it's supposed to, more than not. Not least because we've
kept fixing and patching and redesigning it to counter the flaws introduced
by Melkor. It isn't supposed to need constant hands-on interference to
keep it growing. How do we do it? By asking me how I bring forth my Art
-- it's different for each one of my family, of course -- what you're
really asking me is how it is that I am myself and know how to act, to
think, to be.
[raising her hands]
--How do you do
You think, speak, perceive and do -- how do you
yourself, or your people, shape the world around you? Can you explain
[with a dry Look]
wiseacre comments like "by hand" or "with tools" -- you
know I'm talking about the movement of the will, which starts those
outer motions, and the intellect, which comprehends the world and their
effects on it.
Yeah, but you're supposed to be way wiser than we are, so you ought
to be better at explaining what it was that you did than me.
Yavanna: [slowly, as if searching for the words]
A . . . way of describing things would be to say that . . . I had . . .
marked you with my blessing, so that all my dominion would know you for
a kindred spirit, and do you no harm, and aid you whenever possible.
But . . . it's more complicated than that. --After you found your way
to safety in Melian's woods, and shelter under tree and stone, do you
remember how sick you were, and how you hadn't the strength to go search
the bush and brush for berries and nuts the birds overlooked or dig for
roots . . . but the banks of the water were hardly any distance from your
cave, and rich with fish waking and returning to spawn -- only you wouldn't
snare yourself a one, tempted though you were to it, whenever you managed
to drag yourself down to the stream's edge to drink.
I've already heard enough about that from the Hunter, thank you.
You don't think I'm criticizing you for that, surely? That vow of yours
was one of the most beautiful "thank-yous" I've ever received. It meant
infinitely more to me than any Festival of Plenty -- not that I don't
appreciate them too, of course. But I was speaking of what happened after.
I couldn't cause a fish to fly from the stream to where you were resting,
could I? --Of course not. I can't even force another wild animal to catch
one and bring it to you, like a trained bird to the falconer. They wouldn't
understand what I was getting at. But -- when the turning of the season
brings the salmon runs, and the hunters of the woods, the martens and bears
and their kin converge, then it isn't impossible that some fisher cat might
try to rob another of its catch, and while the two were distracted by their
fighting, a firstling hawk might seize the moment and snatch it up, with
them unawares -- and flying over the woods, find the wriggling weight too
much, and lose its grasp.
Or perhaps, a stray gust
of wind from the storm front coming in distracted
the inexperienced flyer, and staying up and holding on were too many things
to do at once. But in either event, the end result was the same -- a full-
grown, full-lived hook-jaw of many summers, still fat from the sea, not yet
wasted in the season's contest that would have been his last, given to a
winter-worn cub too weak to forage and too honorable to take what was
within his grasp.
So . . . are you saying that was chance, or it wasn't?
[simultaneously as she starts to nod:]
You're gonna say "yes" again, aren't you.
I still can't believe you continued to agonize over it for the rest of
the thunderstorm before deciding it wouldn't be immoral for you to eat
it. That's taking it to extremes, isn't it? After all, if I can't grant
an exemption to a vow made to me, who can? Ignoring both the river trying
to tell you not to waste the gift and your own common sense -- believe
me, if I'd been there I would have fetched you one across the ear for
being more stubborn than granite!
It was the random lightning strike happening to hit an already-dead tree
rotting on the ground six yards away that made it awful hard to keep arguing.
Honestly -- did you expect me to come and cook it for you, too?
[they look at each other -- and start laughing]
You know I'm not a very
domestic goddess. Breaking the things I've made
and burning them has never appealed to me in the least, even if Aule can
come up with the most delightfully savory results, it's like all those
devices he thinks of to make cleaning things easier -- frankly, I'd rather
just move and build a new house, or take the roof off and let the rain
wash away all the dust, but the look on his face whenever I suggest it--!
[she struggles virtuously against a mischief-filled grin]
Though I do enjoy
baking -- it's the same as the eating of grain, with some
improvements, grinding it up and heating it, and it's rather fascinating
how burning something partly can make it last longer -- but I draw the line
at anything else. I've got more important things to do. There's so much more
interesting work that can be done with plants and animals than worrying
about how to cook them.
It's hard when you have
so much in common with someone, and yet so much
not. Eventually . . . you have to accept that someone can only change so
far without ceasing to be themselves -- and that's true of both of you.
I'm never going to care about rocks or metal except as something to feed
and shelter my creatures -- though I do find them pretty with the vines
growing down them or coloring the soil's hues against contrasting leaves
-- but I'm never going to see them the way Aule does. And he's never going
to look at my artwork without thinking that it ought to be improved --
and not the way I mean it -- by making it more tidy and efficient.
[shaking her head]
And he's not the only
one who forgets that I'm the Lady of the Wild Things
as well, and yes, you can make some plants grow better by clearing away
the ones that compete with them, but the "weeds" are lovely even if the
Children can't eat them, and the wildflowers aren't any less beautiful
than the tame ones, even if they're subtler. And not everything has to be
useful in some quantifiable way -- I get rather insulted when people look
at some bit of countryside and only see it as "potential" -- potential to
be something else that they've made out of it! A flat space of ground isn't
just there to be dug up and ploughed into straight lines!
[she tosses her head indignantly]
Beren: [a touch of nervousness]
I've always liked the wilderness just fine.
Oh, I'm not talking about you personally at all. Not even your race,
even if you all do tend to act like young beavers, felling trees and
not making any use of them -- though you did learn good manners from
the King's grandson, and your situation puts practical concerns above
aesthetic ones for the sake of survival. But I was complaining about
my People. Some of them, at least.
[he looks confused, as she rants on]
The Noldor are just as
bad, not happy with anything unless they've
changed it. Why is it so hard for some people to simply be, to be
quiet for a moment, or longer, and look at what is around them, and
listen, without going a little crazy inside and having to distract
themselves? Though my husband can, but only for the things he thinks
are important. He tries to be polite when I talk, but it's clear his
mind is a thousand miles below, and when I try to get him to come for
walks with me it's always, "Just a little bit longer while I fix up
this or that," and then it's months later and everything is all
I used to sulk, and wait inside with such patience!
[rolling her eyes]
--to make him feel guilty,
after we settled here, and things calmed
down, and he started spending more and more time in his workshops, but
Varda pointed out that all that was accomplishing was making us both
miserable, and did I really want to waste Time by not doing what I
wanted, so that I could make him not do what he wanted either? Just
because he's my spouse, and we're both Elementals of Earth, doesn't
mean that we're identical -- or ought to be. After all, I wouldn't
like it very much either if he sulked and complained because I have
no interest in his little gadgets or in metallurgy. So now I go for
walks when I want, by myself, or with friends who enjoy the woods as
well, and sometimes Aule comes, and mostly he doesn't, but we don't
fight about that any more.
[looking at Beren, a bit hesitantly]
Of course, most of our
arguments haven't been over anything as serious
as yours, not for Ages now. I can see that the immediate dangers of
your situation would add a level of urgency -- and insolubility -- to
the problems. But you did make them worse, you know.
Me? I wasn't the one being unreasonable!
Like you just said, dangers. I was right. I knew what I was talking
about, and she didn't.
You really think that?
Well, yeah -- I was the one who'd lived through an invasion, not her,
and I'd actually dealt with Morgoth's people, not her, and she just
didn't understand what she was getting into.
Even after she pulled you out of your grave?
How stupid do you think she is, now?
[he starts to say something, then stops]
When someone's risked
life and limb and endured hardship, captivity,
and no end of unpleasantness, including immediate danger of death,
and still won't be dissuaded from the chosen course -- one might call
such an individual any number of things, but ignorant of the risks
doesn't seem like one of them, does it?
[Beren wraps his arms around his knees, curled
up in a defensive tight
knot, staring out at the distant Pass and the City below it.]
So was I supposed to be happy about the idea of her getting killed
Those weren't your only alternatives, though.
[he ducks his head]
That wasn't all of it.
No. That wasn't the real problem.
Do you understand what was, now?
Beren: [dryly sarcastic]
The fact that I gave my word to King Thingol?
You're using one problem to hide from the other. Still.
What do you mean?
Why you couldn't even let yourself consider the suggestion that you two
could find a place distant enough and make a life together on your own
terms? It's true, there were a lot of strong words uttered about the
Silmarils, not yours alone, all of which were echoing in the world and
having their effect -- but Doom alone doesn't explain what it was that
caused you to resist that temptation so ferociously.
It wouldn't have been right. I didn't have anything to offer her.
A landless vagabond? What kind of a life would that have been for her--
Yavanna: [cutting him off]
--You lived quite happily in the woods, without any roof or walls,
without a fixed home or material possessions, beyond what gear you
carried, and never missed any of that. So why not again?
Me, yeah -- but not for Tinuviel.
Why not? Why not?! Because -- because it wouldn't have been right. I keep
saying this, like I told her, it isn't right for her to be living like a
homeless refugee out in the middle of nowhere, in rags, no shoes, no jewelry,
nothing for comfort or convenience about her, not when she's a princess,
not with no hope of ever going back to civilization, and all because of me.
Dear one, she's an Elf.
Yavanna: [patient, but a little frustrated too]
Luthien Tinuviel was conceived and born beneath the Stars when the
world was still young, the child of bold wanderers and a wandering
people. It's hardly been any time at all, comparatively speaking,
that the Eldar of Middle-earth have settled down -- in so far as they
have. Building permanent structures and staying in them year round
is really a very foreign idea -- as you ought to have recognized on
Not for us. It's -- not the same. A Man can't just live like a nomad
with no home, no job, no kin and no land and take on the responsibility
of a family, not and have any respect for himself. It isn't proper.
You left the world of mortal Men behind long ago. Even before you left
your mountains, you guarded your folk not as a prince among people but
as a hound against wolves, apart from them, no longer joined to them in
speech or dwelling. And then you entered her realm -- the only one of
your kind to do so -- and lived there according to the laws of that land
-- the ways of the wood, not the customs of your people. Don't you think
it's a little late to be insisting on human traditions now?
[he glowers at the horizon]
I can't help the way I was raised.
Place her, then, in the picture in your mind, that happy human ending
you resisted, too -- the square-built hall in the midst of ploughed
fields, the fenced pastures, the flat road cut in the hill, the dooryard
with its gate, the water tidily kept to well and trough, the day with
its tasks for every hour, for every thing its proper place. And now here
is Melian's daughter, amidst all those ordered lines, and the set times
in their seasons. Where are there tall trees for her to climb and sing
to, in that tilled mortal vale with its orchards? Is it customary for
the lord's wife to dance alone at midnight under the moon, among Men?
Or not? She whom you named "Nightingale" -- you'd have properly held in
a wooden cage?
[he winces, closing his eyes]
I don't want her to suffer because of me.
Too late for that.
It always was. Just as
there was no way that you could not have suffered
for your friend's war. The choices that led to the one, as to that other,
were made long before, and by others than yourself. And you cannot change
who loves you.
But you're free, now,
for ill, and good, of all that came before. You
might want to think about that, and what follows from it.
Yeah, but I'm dead, too.
There is that.
[another hawk circles into view, and stoops,
much closer, to one of the vole-
like animals in the grass on the hill -- but misses as the rodent dives
successfully into a hole, and has to brake hard and stroke harder to avoid
colliding with the ground and regain scanning height]
Beren: [jolted out of his dark mood]
Did you see that? How his wings twisted all the way around so that he
was actually flying backwards for a second there while his momentum was
still carrying him forward like an arrow? Swans do that too when they're
landing, they stand up like that and keep on skidding forward only it's
through the water--
[he makes a sharp cutting motion with his hand]
And did you hear the
they made? Just like a sword blade going
through the air. There was this one nesting pair I used to watch on
the cliffs back home, and they did the wildest thing -- they were the
big dark ones without bands, you know that kind -- when one of them
was bringing prey back to the ledge, the other one would take off,
and come flying out, and turn upside down and the first one would drop
the meat and the other one would catch it in mid-air -- upside-down! --
and take it to the fledglings so its mate could go out and hunt some
more, it was the craziest thing you ever saw, I don't know why they
--unless it was just
for fun, the way we throw things for no real reason
instead of carrying them over to each other, 'cause it isn't really easier,
but -- and they make this funny call when they're talking to each other
up close, not a scream, but kind of like a magpie almost, sort of barking:
[as the camera pulls back he is still gesturing
animatedly in augmentation of
his description of raptors. . .]
[the Hall. Aredhel has gone back to playing "catch"
with her dagger though
it's a toss-up which looks more dangerous, the blade or her expression, as
she affects to ignore the rest of the group. Eol gives her worried glances
from time to time. Nerdanel has regained her composure, though still showing
emotional strain; but the former Lord Warden to her sons is staring gloomily
off into the dimness with the same abstracted, no-avenue-of-escape expression
that the Steward is wearing. Everyone else is attending without any demurral]
Captain: [too incensed for formality]
So you flattened the Lord of Wolves as if he were no more than an angry
goose, ripped open a stone fortress that took decades to build as if it
were a pinewood box, brought Barahirion back from a penetrating chest
injury that would either have killed him or laid him out for weeks at
best -- and he's still telling you to go home because it's too dangerous
Er . . . yes?
Captain: [closing his eyes]
Oh, Beren, Beren--!
[he shakes his head helplessly]
Well, he never actually saw any of that, he just knew it had happened,
and that doesn't seem to be the same thing at all for humans.
That's very true.
But I simply refused to go home. I think perhaps he thought if we were
close, I'd -- oh, give up, or perhaps get so homesick that my resolve
would weaken, but I just kept telling him that I wasn't leaving him,
and then we'd fight over it some more. And then change the subject and
ignore the problem for another day. So he waited until I finally fell
asleep and sneaked off. --I hadn't thought that he would have been able
to keep such a thing from me, that he could plan that and me not to have
any notion what he was thinking until it was too late.
That is how he survived the invasion and occupation of Dorthonion, though.
I know. And it is just like him, to try to rook out by himself and do things
all on his own, rather than drag me into danger. It's just that he ought to
have realized by this point in time that it wasn't going to work.
I had to spend hours
convincing Huan to take me after them, because the
idiot had told him to look after me, as if I were a child, and since he'd
taken Horse it would have been useless for me to try to catch him again
before it was too late, with or without Huan blocking me. It was only
after I'd pointed out that if he didn't help me now, then he might not as
well have helped me the first time, because it would all have been for
nothing, he should have just laid low in Nargothrond since he was going
to let Beren die now, and your sacrifice be wasted, and then he wouldn't
have had to agonize over his duty or have Celegorm angry at him--
[Huan starts making distressed-dog noises, increasingly
--and everything would
be fine as far as he was concerned, just like
everyone in the City, or at home, feeling comfortable and justified in
not doing anything--
[the Ambassador closes his eyes]
--and I was crying, and
he was crying, -- just like that -- trying to
get me to stop talking about what would happen to Beren, once he was
caught, and licking my feet, and finally I said that if he didn't take
me to find him, he wouldn't be keeping me safe at all, because I would
get there eventually, just the same as before, alone if I must, and save
him or die with him -- or after him. And then he lay down and let me
climb on his back, and then we made up the distance of those hours,
[patting the Hound hard on the shoulder]
This time it was so much
lighter that I had much more of a sense of
how fast we were going -- and I'd already crossed the terrain, too --
and a forest fire couldn't have gone any quicker than we. But he still
had a long lead on us, and Horse wasn't a pony, unfortunately. At first
my hopes got up, though, only to be dashed down again, because Huan
turned south for a bit, when we hit the Crossings again, and we went
towards the Fortress -- where it used to be.
Well, I thought it was because he was tracking him, and that Beren had
gone there for personal reasons, the way he used to visit Lord Barahir's
cairn before he was driven out--
[earnestly, giving him a concerned Look]
--That really wasn't your fault, you know.
[the ex-King of Nargothrond nods, still looking grim]
He doesn't blame you at all.
[Finrod only nods again; she sighs, faintly exasperated]
But it turned out that
Huan had some things stashed there that he'd taken
in the fighting and hidden away after, Enemy Workings that he'd a premonition
might be useful some day, and we used them to reduce the risk of being
spotted by any spies as we passed along the Nightshade again.
Aredhel: [revealing that she is paying attention after all]
Are you really suggesting that in addition to the faculty of speech,
that faithless Hound also possesses the power of Foresight and is a
sorcerer on top of that?
Well, he was right, about everything he said would happen, so I rather
think he does have the Sight. And he didn't make the enchantment, it was
just warfain spoils that we used to disguise ourselves.
[the Noldor princess rolls her eyes in exaggerated
Huan sneezes suspiciously]
Then what happened?
We didn't run into any trouble this time, either, the area still seemed
to be deserted -- for which I was extremely grateful -- on the dash upriver
to the edge of the Battle Plain. We had a nice clear sky and a very bright
moon, too, no haze at all with the frost that night, so I was able to see
Beren long before he saw us, which was a great relief to my mind -- and
hear him too. He was making his death-song, in defiance of the Dark and
in praise of Being, in the event of him not getting the chance to do so
after, and naming me as the pinnacle of creation whose existence alone j
ustified the Song.
[with an uneven smile]
It was very touching. And more than a little embarrassing.
It was also very stupid. Speaking of you, out loud, in Enemy territory!
I know. I told him that, although I'm not sure if it sunk in, what with
the shock of seeing us there at all. It was a few moments before he started
believing the evidence of his own eyes, that it really was Huan and myself
there, and not a hallucination or phantasm or just plain wishful thinking.
How did he take it?
Nerdanel: [looking at him with a raised eyebrow]
Thou, that hath of Men the most long acquaintance, and might not foreguess?
He was pretty upset with us both. There were . . . words. On both sides.
Nay, surely belike not
[Luthien shrugs uncomfortably]
Fair is fair.
Luthien: [starting out diffidently, but increasingly heated]
Words like "irresponsible." --And "fool." And "What the hell do you
think you're doing?" and "dereliction of duty" and "Do you honestly
think you're the only one who gets to risk your life for someone else
and isn't it a bit insulting to imply that I'm not capable of the same
level of loyalty, and would you take me more seriously if I'd sworn some
kind of an oath and--
Oh, all right, I'll stop. --Then Huan stepped in and made him see reason.
We had heard something of the kind, indeed, -- but one does concede curiosity
as to how he managed it.
Luthien: [tossing her head]
Apparently hearing it from someone other than me was enough to make it clear
that "Luthien goes home and lives there contentedly for the rest of the world
while Beren gets himself killed or captured on a solo mission to Angband" was
not one of the possible ends to our song -- though "Beren gets us both killed
acting like an idiot" was a distinct possibility, while "We both manage to
retrieve a Silmaril and fulfill Dad's stupid condition" was a remote one, and
it was up to him to pick which one of those it was going to be -- if he wasn't
going to reconcile his conscience to the obvious solution and treat my father's
demand with all the respect it deserved--
But nooo, he couldn't
do that, so here we are. I mean, there we were.
Trying to figure out how to break into the least-vulnerable, most
heavily-guarded stronghold ever devised.
Youngest Ranger: [gloomy aside]
Yes, he is that.
What does that mean?
Apprentice: [dawning enlightenment]
Oh -- like her.
[Finrod snorts and turns away hastily]
I'm not swarn!
I'm not unreasonable.
It doesn't actually mean irrational -- even if they often go together.
In itself, the root squarno only means immovable, intransigent, -- stubborn.
But -- he wasn't talking about me--
[uncertain, to the Sindarin warrior]
[he nods apologetically]
Youngest Ranger: [quickly]
And Beren. And the Hound.
[she still looks hurt, though Huan only grins; earnestly:]
Everyone says we're swarn too, my Lady.
Or they would, if they knew the word.
Luthien, if there's anybody in our family who isn't swarn -- I've yet
to meet them.
[Eol nudges his wife with a sly grin]
Oh, you're just as much included -- he's talking about your connections,
if you hadn't noticed. She's related to us through Elwe, remember?
You started it, you shut up.
Apprentice: [nodding towards them, wickedly]
Youngest Ranger: [solemn]
Aye, for sure, no questions there.
[this undoes Luthien's mood, and she giggles;
her elder cousin, not willing
to try conclusions with her again, directs his lethal stare at his younger
compatriot, who gazes back at him unfazed]
You're not so fell as
hell-fire, my lord Smith. --Nor so daunting as
[the Youngest Ranger ignores him, but the Sea-Elf
glares and frowns in
Ambassador: [to no one in particular]
Some persons think far more highly of themselves than any circumstances
would seem to justify.
Oh, be quiet -- you're nobody here. Not that you ever were, Thirdling.
[the Teler Maid, almost managing to look nonchalant,
tosses something rounded
but not quite spherical over her shoulder quickly, folding her hands again as
it bounces into the contentious couple of ghosts]
Where would a chestnut
gall come from? --Which one of your loons is shying
conkers about now, Ingold? --Or was it you?
No, it's a snail-shell. Ah!
[he exclaims sharply in dismay and drops it]
Rather, I should say,
one of those monstrous byproducts of Melian's meddling
-- a demon-spiderling disguised as such. --The infernal creature bit me.
[its devisor smirks behind her braids]
Don't be stupid -- it's only an ordinary hermit crab.
[she picks the semblance of an arthropod up and
flings it longhand into the
waterfall while her husband's icy glare defies anyone to be amused]
--Who did that?
[her eyes narrow at the Elf-maid and she snaps at Finarfin]
Uncle, tell that brat to behave!
My jurisdiction extendeth not so far--
--and most glad I am of't! --
--beneath the fields
and roads of Valinor, my kingship hath no sway, no
more than in the upper airs. Moreover, my lady's servant oweth no obeisance
to a Noldor lord, when she dwelleth not under's roof. Thou hadst more fitly
made complaint unto thine aunt Earwen -- saving that thine and thy friends'
your deeds of blood hath set such hap beyond thy reach.
[eyes flashing, she turns angrily to his eldest son for recourse instead]
Cousin, you told her she had to behave -- so, are you going to ignore her
rudeness when it suits you?
Finrod: [sighing tolerantly]
Oh, well -- very well.
[he puts on a severe expression, and says sternly]
--That was not a very grown-up thing to be doing, Maiwe.
Teler Maid: [reasonable]
But I am not a very grown-up Elf, Lord Ingold.
[as he loses the battle to keep a straight face -- blandly]
But still, 'tis less so, to do as those two have done, is that not so?
Don't you mock me or mine, you imp, I'm the High King's daughter and you're--
Elenwe: [cutting her off]
Nay, thou art unhoused, here, even the same as we -- though something more
fey, I deem, than many another present.
Aredhel: [not missing a beat]
I don't know why my brother chose someone as utterly useless as you. It's
a good thing you died before we reached the other side -- you'd never have
managed in the Old Country without someone to look after you.
'Tis well thou art immaterial spirit, girl, else I had rattled thy teeth
well for so heartless a word!
Nay, wherefore surprise, that Kinslayer should speak even so coldly of
kindred death? --No less than fate should bear her Doom upon consort's
hands -- twain better matched were not, I think, e'er found beneath the
[as the White Lady and the Dark Elf get ready
to argue (this time on the same
side) Luthien interrupts]
Can you please not do this? I'm not Mom and I haven't her patience or
talent for peaceweaving
[although she doesn't raise her voice, the reminder
is enough to quell
disturbance for the moment]
Finrod: [humorous aside]
No, but your own talent seems to work well enough.
[looking around, daring anyone to challenge him]
Please do go on -- if
no one has any objections? No? No one? What a pity
-- I was looking forward to seeing how you go about evicting someone again.
[Luthien gives him a quelling Look]
I'm not doing it for your amusement or edification.
Luthien: [with another Look]
You're doing it again.
Oh, I'm so sorry -- I keep forgetting somehow.
But if I'm only succeeding in annoying you, then it doesn't count.
[she gives him what Beren has described, speaking
of her father, as "the
Don't forget I can See your intentions pretty clearly, little cousin.
[their dry banter leaves most of their near relations
(living or ghostly)
rather disquieted, though not all]
Teler Maid: [amazed aside]
They are even sillier than I!
In truth, an one had undertake any thing, 'twere better still to do it
full well. No less, then, in jesting, nay?
[she smirks again at his gentle teasing, then
freezes, remembering to look
to the Steward, and his opinion -- but as before he is distracted and oblivious,
leaving her frowning uncertainly, as she leans against Elenwe's shoulder for
a little mothering -- then, equally suddenly, she looks over to where the
Ex-Thrall is still trying to be as invisible as possible and still present.
Her expression goes serious, but in a much more certain and thoughtful way . . .]
Well, Huan explained his plan to Beren, after laying out the alternatives,
and then he scowled for a bit until I pointed out that it wasn't getting
any safer the longer we stood there, and he agreed to go along with it.
Not that he really had any alternative, except trying to hike across the
Anfauglith without any disguises or defenses, and that was only acceptable
so long as it was him doing it, not me.
--Dare one ask what the revised plan for ah, getting the Silmaril finally was?
Probably one ought not, given the way this has been going!
There wasn't anything very complicated about it. It was pretty simple, really,
the way we planned it.
The way grabbing the enemy and beating him up was "simple"?
Well, that one actually went the way it was supposed to, pretty much.
This one . . . did for a while.
So what was it?
You'll call me crazy again.
I pledge you I'll not.
Why? It was.
[at the resulting askance Looks, defensive]
--Well, it was.
No, no, the crazy plan -- using the second word very loosely -- was Beren's
thinking he could make it across the desert on foot, with just a sword and
a knife to defend himself with, and then get into the mountain without any
disguises or anything. That isn't only my opinion, that was Huan's considered
judgment as well.
Huan's plan -- which really did work quite well, in spite of all the
unforeseen circumstances -- was for us to pretend to be Enemy minions
again, to slip past the defenses unawares--
--just like you, only
more thoroughly disguised because it wasn't any of
it illusion. Only he didn't have another wolfskin for himself, and it would
have been highly suspicious for him to have been there with us--
--it isn't as if we could
have pretended we were arresting him, because
there's no way he would have let himself be captured and herded in like
an ox, especially by just Draugluin and me--
[there is a sudden exchange of shocked Looks
among the Ten and their leader
as comprehension sets in, hard; Finrod starts to speak, but doesn't get the
--Wait. Wait, wait, wait -- you were Wargs?!
But -- Beren was?
Of course. How else could we have sneaked in past the guards?
But . . .
[he breaks off, shaking his head]
That explains some things that I was wondering about, actually.
It does, doesn't it?
The whole business of hiding under Morgoth's chair -- and wanting to go for
his ankle -- makes a lot more sense now.
[nods all around]
I guess we didn't need to worry about teaching him about mental reservation
Why would he have left that out?
[his eldest brother only turns and gives him
a level Look until he gets it
and hides his face in mortification]
--Right. Forget that I asked that.
Finrod: [to Luthien, in amazement]
How did he go through that and manage to stay sane?
[Luthien stares at him]
You think Beren's sane?
[long pause; even the Lord Warden pulls himself
out of his gloom to stare at
her with the rest]
Finrod: [carefully, slowly]
You don't think he is?
I love Beren more than life itself, but I would never, ever call anyone
who thinks "I have to go to Angband and get killed because otherwise your
father will never approve of me" is a reasonable argument, sane.
Amarie: [exclaiming involuntarily]
Yet thou didst join thy life with him the same?
Of course I married him. He's still Beren.
Forgive my impertinence, my Lady, but -- are you sure you're not somewhat
oversimplifying the argument? Surely it was not quite so illogical.
Luthien: [shaking her head]
No, I'm just leaving out about an hour or two's worth of getting from the
first premise to the second. Believe me, you wouldn't want me to go through
I didn't want
to, the first twenty-four times myself. Star and Water! the
things he said. I -- oh!
[getting more and more exasperated at the recollection]
It got to the point where
I just had to stop arguing with him, because to
do so was to begin to admit that there was enough sense in the things he
was saying to warrant a response.
[Nerdanel nods in unconscious assent]
I was getting pulled
right into the insanity of it with him, by trying
to refute them. The stuff he came up with--!
--Like how he should have been killed and buried with his family?
Oh, you heard that one? That actually made more sense than some of the
others -- I mean, apart from how he could have made his own grave, but at
least the point was that we'd never have met, but what about him telling
me that it would have been better for me if my father had had him killed
right then and there in Menegroth when he first saw him? As if that wouldn't
have traumatized me for all time! What do you say to something like that?
So. Anyhow, we start
out through the desert, and at first it isn't too bad,
and it doesn't look so far, really, and we're thinking, "This is going to
be workable" -- at least I was. I was imagining something along the lines
of there being such a crowd there that we'd be able to blend in and not be
noticed this time.
[silence -- mistaking the cause]
Look, I know it
was silly. I know that calling it a plan is an exaggeration,
and that if I'd had any real idea of Angband beyond trying to put together
the things people had told me, I wouldn't have been able to even try to pull
it off. And then where would we be? Dead a lot sooner, I guess.
[shaking her head]
I learned when we got there, were all along the lines of,
"We're doomed, this is hopeless, we're both going to die," and variants
thereof. I had my own problems though, which ended up taking his mind off
the generalized anxieties and back to worrying about the specifics. When
the sun came up, I couldn't fly any more. I tried. I thought -- silly me --
that I'd be immune to her power because I wasn't really a vampire, and my
real self could see and walk in daylight, so I'd surely be able to manage
all right. Guess what -- it doesn't work that way. You take on the strengths
of a bat-demon, you take on her weaknesses, too. I might have been able to
keep flying by sheer willpower, for a little while, but I had no sense of
direction and the pain in my eyes was much worse than just blindness. I
had to come down, and I didn't dare change back -- it had taken so long
to manage it the first time, I had no idea if I could control it out there,
after all that, a second time. So he carried me.
I wasn't exactly walking
straight, in all that baking sunlight, either.
Or crawling, rather.
Hold, pray -- thou didst in truth fly upon the airs and winds?
[from the expressions of most of those present,
she is only giving voice to
what they are all thinking]
Of course. There wouldn't have been much point in changing into a vampire
Beren really didn't tell you any of this?
I've been going hither and yon, annoying sundry gods-and-relations, and
I've only caught bits and pieces, not in order, up to now.
[he glances around inquiringly at his command]
Captain: [raising his hands]
I suppose it was there in his story by implication -- if you already
knew it was there.
This tale groweth ever stranger in the telling!
And ever more horrific.
Yet for that, the more admirable.
[he alone is listening with the detatched appreciation
of a connoisseur,
someone who is not personally emotionally involved in the events of the
narrative -- or, perhaps, the attentive critique of someone who has
attempted the same adventure . . .]
So let me get this quite clear -- you disguised yourself as minions of
the Dark Lord by actually becoming minions of the Dark Lord, using
werehides, so the illusion couldn't be pierced because there wasn't any
illusion involved, at all. And Beren was Draugluin's fetch, and you were
one of the winged Messengers'.
[nodding, Luthien makes a face of amused revulsion at the recollection]
She had ticks--!
I know that seems like a silly thing to care about, but--
Heh. That's really quite brilliant.
[Huan grins, panting, and wallops several people
with his tail before
I don't think anyone else has ever done that before.
--or lived to tell about it, at least!
Who would want to?
[it's hard to tell if the Princes are more disgusted
or appalled by the
danger of it]
You dressed up in the skins of dead demons--!?
Cousin, that's disgusting!
[clearly he isn't the only one to share such sentiments]
Luthien: [sniffing haughtily]
You sound like my parents. That's what they were thinking.
Angrod: [trying not to offend worse]
You must admit, it is . . . a bit . . .
Aegnor: [not caring]
--Much more than a bit.
It's little different from what I did to disguise us, after all.
[both of his siblings give him the same askance Look]
We're not thrilled about that, either.
We try not to think about it, actually.
Finrod: [mock chagrin, to Luthien]
--Stars, all those yeni and I still can't get it right. Do you think I'll
ever figure out how to behave like proper royalty and not disgrace my
[the relatives in question look away in exasperated disgust]
Not hanging around me, you won't. Us. --Huan's the bad example, in this.
I'll bet there's an excuse no one's tried on Lord Namo before -- blaming
it on the dog instead of my uncle.
[he scratches the ears of said dog enthusiastically]
Hm . . . I'll have to check, but I don't think so.
[entirely failing to repress a mischievous grin]
I'd like to be there for that, when it happens . . . !
[the Captain gives him a sidelong glance]
Better you than me.
Oh, come on -- where's your sense of adventure?
I may be crazy, but I'm not insane. --Or vice versa, if you'd rather.
Huan hasn't encouraged anyone to do anything wrong, though--
[the Hound gives him a reproachful Look]
[sharp scolding bark]
[coming to some personal decision, the Sea-elf
stops looking across at
where the former Healer is lurking and leaving Elenwe's side, edges quietly
over the dais to crouch beside the Ex-Thrall instead; after only a momentary
hesitation she reaches out and pushes back the concealing hood, looking
soberly at the other Elf's face as the latter flinches, recoiling from being
seen, and grabbing too late at the slipping material.]
Ex-Thrall: [through clenched teeth]
What do you want of me -- else? I have no more to give.
Teler Maid: [reasonable]
Your King did mind me that, what one would do, do well, even in making
Ex-Thrall: [cutting her off]
My King is -- not here.
Hush! I have been kind to you but by half-measures, and I mean to make
[she takes a small ornamental comb from her sashes
and starts to untangle the
Noldor lady's matted hair. The other woman pulls the lent cloak even tighter
around her, bending her head so that her face is hidden against her knees,
but does not resist nor vanish. Her shoulders begin to shake, though if she
is crying it is too quiet to be heard. The Teler Maid does not either notice,
or look for, the approving expressions directed her way by those who notice
Methinks the airs of this chill hall are grown something less in coldness.
Luthien: [taking her literally]
Really? I can't tell. It doesn't bother me. --Which wasn't the case on
that trek. Morgoth's creatures are hardy, but still -- bats aren't meant
to be alone when they sleep, not even giant blood-drinking monster bats.
Nor stuck on the ground. I was freezing, and terrified, and I think I
might be a little bit agoraphobic, anyway -- it felt so wrong, with so
much open around me, and no trees, no shade nor rocks nor even dells of
any significance to make the land more homely. It felt like I was being
watched all the time.
Well, that's reasonable -- Thangorodrim looming over the horizon and all.
You probably were.
Yes, but I don't like being in the middle of flat empty spaces, with no
cover, I've decided. Some of that might have been the bat, though.
Cover . . . can be deceptive.
[the Steward makes a short sound of amusement,
showing that he is paying some
attention despite his distracted air]
But that's an entirely
normal feeling in the middle of a war zone. And
you probably are somewhat of an agoraphobe, given that you've spent in
the wooded hills of Beleriand longer than I've been alive. --Was alive.
--Sorry, Father. I'm not trying to make anyone presently-incarnate
Even thus I ken: thou hadst been far more skillful to it, were't so.
[they share a swift, intimate smile, like a secret
joke between them; the
Princes' expression is both jealous and yearning, and tinged with resigned
comprehension, as they watch the interplay between father and eldest son]
Elenwe: [trying to gently steer the discussion back on topic]
Thou didst 'gin to speak of thy sojourn upon the cold and welcomeless
[she shivers unconsciously as she says the word
"cold" and her lightweight
dress is replaced again by the heavy furs of the Helcaraxe]
Youngest Ranger: [puzzled aside]
Isn't it rude for her to use Beren's name for the Princess without asking
No, it's all right -- she's Vanyar.
I don't follow.
Don't you know, little Avar? The Deep-elves can do no wrong.
Youngest Ranger: [ignoring her]
Or is that something else done different here, is all?
No, it's all right, I don't mind -- I wanted people to recognize that
we were for real, while we were alive.
[the Youngest Ranger thinks about it for a second -- then shakes his head]
For my folk, a certain gift of perceiving, rather than of devising, is
most commonly held, and in such wise I did discern her will, and wish,
and 'tis less light a matter here to conceal aught one kenneth, that in
the world Without might elsewise secret rest in mind -- e'en thou hast
belike remarked ere now.
--Else haply not,
for thine unshadowed purity, nor soughtest yet thine
own self's thought for to belie.
[this polite explanation, being direct address,
leaves its recipient speechless,
and mortified at the attention he has drawn on himself]
Alas, I fear I shall have robbed thee of thy words.
Not your fault, milady -- Valinoreans daunt him.
[casting a wry sympathetic glance at his friend]
Elenwe: [frowning, bemused]
Even unto myself?
Warrior: [shoving him gently on the shoulder]
--At least he hasn't vanished yet of pure mortification.
[the Sindarin youth hunkers down, glowering at
his comrades with that degree
of exasperation reserved expressly for teasing-by-nearest-and-dearest, -- and
then gives up, and gives Turgon's consort a dazzling smile, laughing at himself
Aye, lady most deep-minded -- for what could I say that hasn't been said
before? I see now that mine elders' word was but a Foretelling, that's now
shown forth in this our time, all of the beauty that you so well-named do
[he bows his head to her]
[putting the emphasis on the first two syllables.
There is a murmur of impressed
approval from his companions, and the Vanyar shade puts her fingers against her
So much as I had whelmed thee, thou hast doubly 'turned upon myself!
[holding out her empty hand, then closing it as if over a jewel]
Thy benison I'll treasure, gentle heart, in memory for aye.
Truly, 'tis most worthy of it; I could have crafted no fairer of a
compliment, upon such notice.
[though still a little embarrassed, the Youngest
Ranger reconciles himself
to being occasionally of interest to other persons, without his prior crippling
We spake of winter -- but lo, 'tis fair summer now!--
[as she speaks, still smiling in a somewhat flustered
way, her arctic furs
shift back to the filmy Valinorean styles]
--and how didst
thou endure thine own hardship, or needst but to endure,
or madst recourse upon thy greater powers?
No, I wasn't sure how, and I didn't really dare try, not in the middle of
Morgoth's dancing-lawn, so to speak.
Beren was so sweet, curling
up around me to keep me warm whenever we rested
and letting me ride on his back when it was still too bright out for me to
move on my own.
--Which can't have been
very comfortable for him, with those wretched iron
If he'd really cared about you, he wouldn't have proceeded onward at all.
Luthien: [ignoring his comment]
[the living High King interrupts, too intrigued
by something she just
said to be formal about it]
Iron claws, thou didst say -- else iron-hard, surely?
Nope, definitely metal.
[crooking her fingers in a reminiscent gesture]
Yet how might such a being fashion arms nor armour unto itself? Or were
they but given by the Dark Lord, so to be taken by good Huan in his turn
N--no, just -- claws. Grown claws.
[Finarfin still looks dubious]
I confess no more might I comprehend the how of it.
. . .
The winged messengers of the Enemy aren't just scaled-up bat bodies
infused with rogue Ainur, any more than his Wolves are just wolves.
They've all been considerably enhanced in terms of intelligence,
sensory perception, endurance and defenses.
[the Elves of Aman look doubtful, not quite disbelieving,
credibility definitely strained, while those of Beleriand look a bit taken
aback at having to think about something so long taken for granted]
They're not something you want to tangle with on a midnight patrol,
nor encounter if you're a lone sentry, that's certain.
Though it might be partly explainable, without shedding any light on
the actual process, by the fact that he's made them haemophagic. The
concentration of iron might be necessary to support whatever system
it is that rebuilds the chitin-equivalent and what better way to supply
it? Most efficient, at least.
--I wonder if they could eat red clay, in a pinch . . .
Ingold, that's really disgusting. Even for you.
What? I didn't invent them. It only makes sense that--
[the Ex-Thrall rouses from her unmoving submission
to the Sea-elf's
ministrations enough to clamp her hands over her ears]
Yes, but most people don't talk about such monstrosities in public.
Like your ideas about his other minions--!
What? I only said--
Someone civilized wouldn't.
Teler Maid: [loudly and impatiently saying what his living
relatives are wondering]
What is disgusting? What do you speak of amongst yourselves?
Bloodthirsty cannibalistic mutants of various sorts.
Teler Maid: [bemused and impatient]
But of course they are.
[shaking her head]
And who is making interruption in the story-telling now, I do wonder?
[she goes back to braiding the other woman's
hair, her expression smug, while
her friends and acquaintances react to her set-down, variously amused or annoyed.
Finrod bows a little to Luthien, gesturing for her to resume]
Anyway, it went on and on -- it seemed so much farther than it really was,
as if we were trying to get through the Enemy's version of Mom's labyrinth,
and the peaks never getting any closer. At least when it was dark I could
circle overhead and look for the best routes and watch for any dangers . . .
though everything was so quiet it seemed unnatural at the time -- less natural,
though it made sense later -- at least until we hit the road--
[this last word creates almost as much surprise
among the royal veterans of
the Leaguer as all previous -- Finrod interrupts with a puzzled looks]
Luthien: [equally confused]
The road going into Angband?
[clearly this isn't clarifying anything]
The raised path sort-of-a-thing
that goes over the rough bits leading up
to the gates of the Hells of Iron?
[looking around at them for reassurance]
All piled-up blocks of
black rock and rubble scraped together and packed
down for leagues out into the desert?
That wasn't there before, I assure you.
Fourth Guard: [quiet aside]
Beren mentioned it in passing, Sir, while you were elsewhere.
He's been a busy god of late.
Ten years is plenty of time to build a causeway.
Oh no, surely not.
[ticking off on his fingers]
There's the surveying,
the digging-out and levelling, the rough cutting
and transport of the blocks, the crushing and tamping of fill, the
calculation of camber on-site after settling and the fine-cutting--
Moreover, you must reckon in at least half the year as unsuitable time
for the work, between the winter, the spring sowing, and the fall reaping.
Soldier: [humorous aside]
Don't forget the spring mud.
And the autumn mud, too.
And the consequent need to engineer diversionary drainage on a temporary basis.
You see, there's this
little problem called "weather" that one has to
deal with aboveground. All that's going to add up,--
Aredhel: [interrupting, officious]
What my brother did in Gondolin was--
--no matter how efficiently one organizes the processes into overlapping
[as they are all talking at once]
It wasn't a very good road, though, not in my admittedly-uninformed judgment.
--They're not listening to me.
Well, depending on whether it's basalt or tufa, volcanic rock . . .
[Finrod's living relatives and those of the Ten
not involved in the building
discussion share sympathetic, but knowing, Looks with Luthien. The Teler Maid
only rolls her eyes.]
It's the Mad Architects Counsel -- and convened here they needn't even
break for meals. They might recess next Great Year, unless you cut them
[Luthien sighs, smiling]
You wouldn't waste so much time if you'd do all the cutting in one stage,
at the quarry, instead of breaking it into two operations.
[Fingolfin gives him a cold look, but does not
deign to speak to his uxoricidal
That doesn't work, the way it does in Belegost, because of the uncontrolled
freeze-thaw conditions and saturation levels aboveground. If you try to
calculate expansion joints and levels exactly before you bring the stone
to the site, you're going to end up doing an awful lot of work over again.
I suspect it's a matter of not calculating carefully enough.
So tell me -- kinsman -- how do you calculate chaos to the precise degree?
Of course, you're all forgetting the most important factor -- how long is
this road to be?
Nay, and I thought that was what we were speaking of.
No -- the point you're forgetting is that the Lord of Fetters doesn't need
to worry about his workers having to get back to their own lives seasonally.
--As I was saying, it was mostly a built-up path going through the rougher
terrain the closer you get to Thangorodrim. It wasn't like the roads you've
described back home in Tirion at all. Beren found us a nice hole in amongst
the foundations where we could den, and we tried to think about other things,
which you wouldn't have thought possible, out in that wasteland, but somehow
it was easy to think about Neldoreth and the moonlight on the leaves there
and how perfect everything was . . .
Even if perhaps it wasn't
really as quite as perfect as we remembered it,
because nothing could be that perfect. And it turned out to be lucky for
us that we had given in and taken a break from traveling, even if Beren
didn't really want to, because we were woken up by what we thought was an
earthquake, only it didn't feel right, and it didn't stop. The vibrations
got louder and louder, and then we realized that it was coming closer,
instead, and we had to just lurk there, absolutely terrified, while what
turned out to be a small army marched past just above us, really, and we
had to wait there in the clouds of dust they raised, not moving while the
ground shook and little rocks rolled down and fiery whips cracked not a
bowshot from us, praying that no one would notice us and trying not to
move, or even sneeze, lest some enemy hear it. And then eventually it all
rolled away like a thunderstorm, only more nerve-wracking of course, and
we finally got up the courage to crawl out and go the opposite way from
the way they were going.
To make havoc for my eldest, undoubtedly.
[trying to cheer himself up]
Still, we built our defenses
to withstand any horde of rabble, and Fingon
surely has the skill and power alike to handle whatever casts our foe
should toss at him.
Luthien: [being tactful]
Well, he has managed to do quite well so far, we hear.
Second Guard: [bleak aside]
It isn't just a matter of walls.
It was already starting to get late -- not dark, but dark enough for me
to fly, and we made pretty good time along that nice flat pathway, but
the last bit, when it really was Thangorodrim, right there, looming over
us like a stand of trees, was harder to cross than all the rest of it
together. Walking up to the gateway, through that fore-court area, with
the cliffs leaning in on either side and vultures looking down on us from
And then there were all
holes sort of randomly all over the ground
-- they didn't look deep enough or -- purposeful enough, really -- to be
any sort of a mine, I thought, but I'm not sure what they did look like.
I can't think of anything to compare them to, and . . .
[doubtfully, looking at Fingolfin]
Beren said, after it
was all over -- well not completely after, because
we were still alive then -- that they were left over from your battle
with Morgoth, Sire -- but I didn't see how that could be, because of the
size of them --
[not really hopeful]
He wasn't just -- guessing, was he?
[the late High King shakes his head. His brother
looks at him worriedly, but
Finwe's second son does not seem particularly troubled by the reminder of his
duel. Luthien sighs.]
I was afraid he wasn't. --We never saw Grond, in our visit.
Be grateful for that, Highness.
Oh, I am. What we did see was bad enough. We were expecting to see guards
at the exit, maybe changing guard, maybe moving prisoners, so that we could
slip in in all that busyness -- but there were no Orcs there at all. There
was just a big shadow in the middle of all the shadows. It looked like
someone just shoveled up a hill of gray ash into the middle of the gate,
like that story of Beren's about the family in one village that kept dumping
their barn shovelings out into the common paths, less for laziness than sheer
orneryness, but I could sense mind in it all, though that didn't seem possible
-- and then it moved, and stretched and looked at us and we saw these eyes
glowing like coals in the shadows of the arch, and we could tell it was a
Warg of some sort, lying there with its head down before.
And Beren says, "What
the hell's that?! We're doomed--" And then he gives
himself a little shake and says, in this weird almost-cheerful way, "But,
hey, -- we knew that already." So we go on up, figuring we'll try to brazen
it through the way we planned when we figured it would just be Orcs on guard,
and they wouldn't dare to interfere with an Elite commander or a special
courier . . . though Beren did point out helpfully that that hadn't gone
very well last time, either.
Fourth Guard: [shaking his head]
Now we have to think about this part all over again -- none of it was the
way we envisioned it at all.
It wasn't how we'd envisioned it, either. The closer we got, the more
frightened I got -- he was so . . . so . . .
[she shakes her head, at a loss for words]
That part Beren managed to convey pretty vividly. He called the
That's the abridged translation of his name from Old High Demonic --
what he thought of himself as. The whole of it would go something like
"I Of The Blood-Stained Jaws, Whose Teeth Are As Knives, Eater of Elves
And Men, Terror Of Orcs, Biter Of Balrogs, Who Fears Not The Sun, Who
Guards The Great King's Gate By Day And By Night"--
So says the "Fair-Haired Hero."
That wasn't my fault.
[Luthien tugs on one of his braids, smiling.
His Western relatives give him
curious Looks, and he sighs]
That's how they heard my name Overseas.
You didn't try very hard to very hard to correct that mistake.
[the Princes give their cousin a chill Look,
but choose the better part
of valor for the present]
Finrod: [not upset]
It . . . wasn't really possible.
[with a wry look at his elders]
We didn't at first realize
the difference of ideas went further than
mere pronunciation. And then -- it was -- difficult, or rather impossible,
for most people to hear my name -- or say, Fingon's name, and--
It ended up going in
circles, trying to explain that I heard my name as
"he of Finwe's heirs who strives to excel" when on the other side of the
tangle, there were those who had gleaned some of our language and assumed
it meant "artisan in metals" and instead I tell them that our fathers had
named us in honour of qualities we had, or they hoped we'd have, and
everyone says, "Well, yes, of course" --
[with a quirk of a smile]
I couldn't very well
deny that I was a decent smith, nor that it was
something highly valued among my people, and then . . . there's this
little problem that "arato" and "arod" are two of those words that
haven't diverged much since the Departure, and well, when I tried to
correct them on the other part people just asked me if my grandfather
hadn't had beautiful hair himself. Or Fingon trying to sort people out
on what the difference is between "leader" and "that chap shouting orders"
-- it gets very abstruse very quickly, and at the end one is even less
sure that the equation is wrong, exactly. --It's like one of those woven
designs that turns out to be all one line, or where it's two isn't where
you expect it to be broken.
As long as the people
trying to get my attention know which one of us
they're looking for, and I know whose attention they're trying to get
by it, the construction they and I place, or which of several possible
connotations might be intended, doesn't seem to make much of a difference
in practical terms. Though "Hey you!" works pretty well in the short term
-- far better in some situations than "Your Majesty," I've got to say.
[he and his father share another quick grin,
while Amarie deliberately closes
her eyes and turns her face away from their camaraderie.]
It seemeth a most slovenly heedlessness ye have fallen upon, concerning
so great a matter as names.
--"Bunch of slackers, that's us."
I never did understand
that jest of my own Men, as it seemed so --
unmeaning, -- but it does make sense, in a very contextual way, as
I now perceive.
Perchance to thee, sir.
Luthien: [to Finrod]
People just called you names wherever you went, anyhow. --That didn't
Hanging around Barahirion too long does that, I'm afraid, my Lady.
Eventually, no one will understand a word you say, and they'll be
offended by them all.
--That does sound rather like Dad and Beren, come to think of it.
[shaking her head resignedly]
So. I was terrified, and it wasn't just me, it was the fiend I'd been --
--no, that isn't right --
--close enough, I guess
she didn't like this at all, even though
Thuringwethil didn't have any memories of this particular Warg, it was
more a general thing, that they were all hulking oafs who despised
vampires as sneaking cowards -- never mind how we could win an open
fight with our claws on our wings and not able to move quickly once
out of the air -- and went out of their way to crowd us and tear our
membranes, or even kill us if they were bad-humoured enough -- even
if they did get in trouble for wasting a body and the cost of replacing
it was usually taken out of their hide. But this one was clearly too
big to care much about being punished, and as for bad-temper--!
[she shudders, her expression both of remembered fear and resentment]
For Beren, however, there
recognition, because Draugluin had known
all the packs and their litters and which were promising and which
should be killed as runts, in the old days. --Of a sort. This individual
was just a little bit larger than last time the Wolf-Commander had seen
him. But he just kept on plowing straight through, even though I was
only going on because he was, and if I hadn't I'd have been left out in
the open, with this ears-back attitude of being tired and frustrated and
angry with everything and not something any sane being would want to mess
around with, -- which wasn't an act at all, and trots straight on up as
though he expected it to be open for him and any idiots to get out of his
way, quickly. And when Carcharoth doesn't move, Beren stops, and gives
him this Look--
[leaning forward in an ominous pose, jaw squared,
her expression steely
and contemptuous in recollection]
--and he's a most unhappy
wolf, is our boy Carcharoth, he's not at all
pleased at the thought of being Second now, you could just see it all in
his hackles and his ears, and he snarls, "Well, Granddad, you're looking
pretty mangy these days. But I guess that's not so bad -- considering
you're supposed to be dead! Didn't the Hound tear your throat out? Or did
you turn tail and run and let everyone think you'd met a true warrior's
fate -- just like your boss ran for it, so we heard. What's the real
story, old wolf?"
And Beren just shows
him a fang or two and snarls, "You stupid overfed
puppy! What are they doing, putting a wet-eared cub like you on duty?
I've got fresh news from the Terrible and you're going to keep me here
'till it rots, are you? Right. --You get out of my way now and let me
deliver it, or else get your tail downslope and do it instead, whelp."
And they just stand
there, fur all on end, glaring at each other with
teeth just barely open, and Carcharoth's trying to make himself look
bigger by leaning over -- not that he needed to! and Beren keeps looking
at him as if he's the most pathetic excuse for a Werewolf he's ever seen,
and really now! not moving a muscle, not saying anything, just waiting --
and then Carcharoth looks away.
Ambassador: [aside, shaking his head]
No, I cannot believe this. Nothing could have been able to intimidate
that beast, certainly not a--
[catches himself guiltily]
[his Princess gives him a chilly Look -- she isn't fooled by his save]
Beren was very intimidating right then. I fully understood the stories
about the search parties sent out to arrest him going the other way rather
than risk finding him.
So . . . it wasn't all the Wolf getting in Beren's face and terrorizing
him while he cast about for an escape?
Oh no. He was magnificent, playing the part of the senior Werewolf
officer to the hilt, all stillness and menace like a sheathed sword,
as though he didn't need to brag about his strength, he knew he was
the best, in spite of the dust on his coat and the tiredness showing
in his tail -- as if he regularly ripped out idiots' throats and chewed
up half-grown cubs for breakfast, all the time.
Which might not have
been acting, completely, either, I guess. Since
that is what he did, in his own way, fighting the Wolflord's squadrons.
[the Ten share knowing glances and nods]
Why? Did he make it sound as though he was just sort, oh, of happening by?
[she gives an exasperated smile]
I shouldn't be surprised,
the way he was so effacing about his victories
in Dorthonion. No, he was wonderful. I was so scared I couldn't even click.
[this gets some bemused glances]
--That's how bats express
hostility. It sounds a bit like hissing, only
different. I was just trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, and blend
into the shadows, while Beren did all the talking. Unfortunately it didn't
work, because when he backed down from confronting Beren he needed some
way of feeling like he was still a big, tough Werewolf, not a jumped-up
little punk who hadn't earned his scars -- so he started in on me instead.
"Oh, what's that, scuttling
by your paw -- a bug? No, it's a flying rat!"
Then he circles closer, panting at me, "I hate you nasty little creepers!
What are you doing here, spy? Give me your report, and maybe I'll just
break your back instead of breaking your wings and let you crawl--"
[she pokes Huan to make him stop growling]
By that point I was scooting
all the way under to Beren's other side,
trying to keep his foreleg between us, trying to not start screaming
like a fool at the Dark aura of this stupid, stupid, stupid bully, who
didn't know or care what I was, just ready to kill me because I was there,
and he was irritated, and I was weak -- wondering what I could possibly
do to escape if he did attack me, with these silly little pins that
wouldn't even have scratched him more than a gadfly's bite--
[shrinking back in a dramatic reenactment]
--and then he stops and
tilts his head, and starts sniffing, and
growling, and his hackles went up again and I knew that somehow,
even though it shouldn't have been possible, he'd recognized me.
Or at least recognized something not-vampire. He looks at me, and
then at Beren, wrinkling up his forehead, and he snarls, "Who are
you people? Something's not right!" and he tries to sidestep Beren
and get at me again.
[with a defensive motion of her arm]
And Beren pushes his
way forward, blocking Carcharoth with his
shoulders, his ears laid all the way back, all his teeth showing,
and his eyes blazing like green torches -- no half-serious shoving
for precedence going on now, they're getting ready to fight, and the
only reason he hasn't charged the brute is that he knows he's only
going to get one chance, and the only reason Carcharoth hasn't attacked
is that he's worried enough to think that he might be wrong, and also
that not-Draugluin might have a chance, even if it seems absurd, because
he's acting so confident.
So there's Beren, like
a silver blade leveled at the throat of this
mountain of a Wolf, and all the Bat could think was -- he's going to
get killed, and then it'll be my turn, and death! --death! --cold!
--death! in this mindless frenzy, while the two of them are nose to
nose circling around like wrestlers waiting for the other to feint
or slip before rushing in. And some part of -- me -- was saying it's
all my fault, and I deserved to die here, and there never was any hope
and if I'd only been sensible and accepted that from the beginning,
none of this would have happened, if I'd never been stupid enough to
think that I could escape, if I hadn't looked down from my window and
seen the trunk of Hirilorn shining like a straight, open road to
freedom in the moonlight--
And then out of nowhere
it came to me -- You're not Thuringwethil.
You're you-- and without even stopping to worry about it I threw off
her and then I could See properly again.
[shaking her head sadly]
He was so miserable.
There was absolutely nothing about his life that
wasn't horrible, and nothing he could control, except by hurting someone
else. And he didn't understand what had been done to him enough that he
could break free of it -- he was proud of having been Chosen to be this
monster, he'd been told that it was a great honor and how much better
it made him than all his pack-members, and he had no way of knowing that
he'd been fed lies, too, lies that twisted him up as much as the sorcery
Morgoth fed him. There was just one little place in his soul that wasn't
all pain and confusion and hate, the memory of running, being free, after
a fashion, just being a normal animal coursing through the forests after
deer when he was half-grown. So I sent him there.
And you weren't terrified?
It was all over so fast I didn't have time -- and there wasn't really
room for being afraid with the horror of that misery in front of me. It
was just so sad--
You feel sorry for a demon?
I couldn't help it. I --
I still do, a little,
in spite of -- of everything. It's faded because
he killed us three--
[she bows her head over Huan's, stroking the Hound's neck]
--but he really couldn't
help being what he was, he didn't know what it
was he was choosing, when he chose to follow Morgoth, and mostly he was
guilty of stupidity, more than wickedness. He really wanted to be a wild
creature enjoying a body of flesh, more than he wanted to be a warrior
bullying others. That's how he was caught. So he had to be a warrior,
but he hated it, and he hated hating it, and it made him crazy.
So I set him free, for a little while.
[in the following pause, Finrod takes her hand and looks at her in awe]
Had we all a sliver of your courage -- who knows what might be accomplished?
To look upon the maw of hell, and feel not fear nor horror nor hate -- but
It was my Power. I gave him dreams of the peace he wanted so desperately.
It wasn't very hard. Then we went on inside.
Openly? or yet disguised, your Highness?
Oh, yes. It was easy this time. There wasn't anything confusing about
which was the Bat and which was me after that. We sneaked around through
the tunnels for a while, listening to the -- gossip, though it was pretty
gruesome to be called something so innocent -- of the guards.
[with a sidelong look at Finrod]
It turns out that the
reason neither of us had ever heard of a giant Wolf
greater than Draugluin was because there wasn't one, up until a few weeks
previously. It seems that rumour had recently come to the Lord of Fetters
of an Elvish plot to strike back directly, instead of this containment-
resistance business, with targeted commando raids coming unsuspected right
where he and his officers thought themselves most secure. Everyone was a
little vague on the details, because there weren't many witnesses forthcoming,
but it was very definite that the Hound of Valinor was a major part of the
effort, almost a secret weapon, and between his having made mincemeat of
the Lord of Wolves and his elite guard, and the prophecy, Bauglir cooked up
this idea of making a superwolf that would would so far outdo all the others
that there wouldn't be any question this was the one to destroy Huan.
Where do you fit into this story?
Not at all? None of the escaping minions reported your presence at the
No. Either they didn't know what was really going on that night, or they
didn't want to say--
Very probably both. That is, likely they weren't sure, and were afraid to
speculate because of the improbability.
I should hazard, my lord, that even such speculation as doubtless winged
wide upon the Tower's fall, should have flown far from the mark: for who
would ever have connected the lovely Princess of the Hidden Kingdom with
-- I conjecture here -- the mysterious Western warrior -- fully twelve
foot tall, and commanding the very lightnings, if not wielding a blazing
sword to boot -- who ensorcelled the most powerful hench-demons of Sauron's
company and laid their master and his stronghold low with a word before
vanishing, having scorned even to kill a vanquished foe?
That isn't me.
I'll wager it's the Elf in the story, though. There's a warrior-Luthien,
too, of the Noldor, or used to be, in Middle-earth --
--he's not presented
himself, has he? I thought not, probably still alive
-- one of my uncle's staff officers, so if your name did somehow get picked
up in all the reverberations, they'd naturally associate with the other one
Possibly. Though I'd suspect they thought I was you, before anyone else.
Or maybe Galadriel. Or maybe even Beren.
I heard what you just said, but I'm afraid I'm not making any sense of it.
Well, what ultimately petrified Bauglir was the fact that he now couldn't
trust any of his Orc-guards to be who -- or what -- he thought they were.
You see, news had come through in some confused manner to the effect that
Tol-in-Gaurhoth had been infiltrated and destroyed from within by a suicide
squad of Noldor champions who had managed to so totally subvert the defenses
as to gain access to Sauron's inmost chambers in an assassination ploy --
sort of a reverse of his own favorite strategy, pretending to be a friend
or ally and then betraying his victims.
That isn't us, either.
Luthien: [raising an eyebrow]
Well, that's how the story goes, at least in Angband. Apparently, the
Terrible hasn't dared to show his face there since -- at least he hadn't
then, and I doubt he'd want to after if he's gotten wind of what's
happened since. All he did was send reports to Morgoth from a safe
distance while he stayed holed up in the heart of the Nightshade and
tried to recoup some of his powers. Apparently . . . there was some,
er, creative reworking of his source materials, is how I think you'd put
it, and certain details suppressed as well. So there was an awful lot of
terror and uncertainty beneath Thangorodrim, centering on you, and
everyone there was jumpy as field mice, waiting for something to happen
next. --Which was usually a more-than-normally-paranoid Dark Lord grabbing
and soul-scouring one or more of his own minions just to be sure that
everyone was really who they were supposed to be. That was another good
thing -- from his point of view -- about Carcharoth: he couldn't possibly
be an Elf-lord in disguise, you see.
But we were dead.
So rumor had it. Some rumors. Definitely you were involved somehow, since
it was your fortress and your cousin's Hound. Beyond that -- and the fact
that whatever happened, didn't take any prisoners or leave much left to
look at, and wasn't something that any sane minion wanted to mess around
with -- was anybody's guess. Guesses. Because Sauron didn't want to talk
about it from within striking distance. So that was the plan's first snag:
a giant insane wolf-demon filling up the main doorway.
I . . . see. What -- what a muddle.
[as he is contemplating this with an abstracted
frown, someone else is having
a very different reaction.]
[the Captain shakes his head: he is laughing
silently, but that only with great
effort, so hard that he is nearly crying, and it is only getting worse. If he
were not already sitting on the steps he would have had to. Nienna's student's
efforts to hush him have predictably the effect of attracting more attention
rather than forestalling it, as he hisses:]
[this is clearly one of those episodes where
trying to do so, like certain
hiccoughs, only makes it worse]
Now why doesn't he get in trouble for doing exactly what he's so violently
set against anyone else doing?
I don't think it's directed at me particularly.
[the Captain shakes his head without looking
up or trying to explain
himself (which would be futile at the moment)]
Fingolfin: [curious frown]
What are you laughing at, sir?
[this only gets another headshake, and more snickers]
There is nothing, nothing at all that's an occasion of levity in this
See? I told you. It's not funny.
[the offending Elf raises his head]
Captain: [managing to speak finally]
Yes it is.
[lifting one hand]
So it didn't work and
we all died horribly. --Isn't it still funny that
we managed to give Morgoth Bauglir nightmares by it?
[as all of the assembled company look at him,
some dubiously, others with
the accepting confidence of friendship, he gestures emphatically]
Think of it, all
that frenzy and dread, the walls, the wards, the terrible
warlords with their blazing whips, the Worm himself too, all helpless to
keep off old Fetters' terror, the throngs of battle-hardened minions given
constant conniptions lest one of them be one of us, or just be suspected
of it -- all the running about and spies spying on spies, the flurry of
activity and effort to circumvent any possible repeat of the Gaurhoth,
and all of it after we're dead, with us knowing nothing of it -- and all
of it as wrong as can be, because of one missing bit of information. The
jaws of the Iron Hell caught us, chewed us up -- and choked.
It's a glorious muddle.
[as this new perspective is (by some reluctantly)
considered in the following
silence, another person reacts with a short, but genuine, chuckle and an almost
[Elsewhere: the Corollaire. The Earth-queen is
(still) listening attentively
to Beren as he declaims:]
. . . and this other time, I saw the female come back and the tiercel
wouldn't get off the nest, I guess he wasn't that hungry yet, and he just
liked being the da so much, like my cousin with holding his baby, and
being so proud of how good he was at it, and the mother hawk finally had
to chase him off the eggs to make him go hunt, hissing at him and bating
and all ruffled up like a wet cat when she started brooding. --You know,
the babies didn't look anything like hawks -- they look like some sort
of deformed chicken covered in lambswool, they don't even look like
something that's gonna be a bird of prey some day, either.
[pause -- he looks at her with his head on one side, ruefully]
I don't need to tell you all this.
No. But it's so nice to hear one's Work praised by someone who appreciates
[he gives her a thoughtful glance]
Y'know . . . Tulkas said something about helping us . . . Do you know
if it's true?
I've never known him to dissemble about anything -- he's rather painfully
open about his likes and dislikes, in fact.
Why? Did you have any reason to think he was lying?
No, I -- didn't mean it that way . . . I meant more like could it . . .?
Hm. Well. My brother-in-love is very partial to true friends, faithful
lovers, and those who fight wholeheartedly for Good -- in other words,
you're exactly his sort of people. If he could, I'm certain he'd have
done his best to lend you assistance.
I guess I meant -- I just find it a little hard to believe that you --
each of you -- all of you -- don't know everything, not even about each
other. And I know what you said, but still . . . it's hard to think of
you . . . as just people like us, too, only not. --That didn't sound
right. You know what I mean.
[he grins, not embarrassed any more]
I guess we could have done worse -- a lot worse.
[a little hesitantly]
--All of us.
[she nods, smiling in a pained way, but his attention
is caught momentarily
by something skimming over the grass:]
Hey, dragonfly! --It's
a good thing it doesn't -- the real one. Or that
these guys don't spit fire.
[looking back to her, with a touch of uncertainty again]
I know this is going
to sound strange, after what all I just said, but
-- it doesn't seem right that I got so much help.
Not only stubborn, but contrary, too.
I'm not contrary--
[realizing, he can't help grinning at himself]
You've got that right.
But it doesn't seem fair. Why did you choose me, and not someone else?
Why did you give me the gifts that let me survive, and not everyone?
I know it seems like I'm being contrary, first complaining that you
didn't do enough for me, and now that you did too much -- but it bothers
me. Why should I get helped and saved, and not other people?
--Why couldn't you have chosen Da instead?
Well, it isn't as if your life has been nothing but soft earth and warm
rain and sunny days, now, has it, my Champion? As you yourself said only
now, your life wasn't always made any easier, only possible -- and death
would have been much less trouble. But . . .
[lifting her hand in appeal]
Do you think that you are the only one I've given my gifts to? Really?
Do you think, too, that every Man wants them?
[as he looks at her questioningly]
Are not the woods free
to all good walkers? and are not the green days
of leafshine bright for all that have eyes to see? Tell me, do all your
kind reach out to the unfurling buds, before they have words to name them,
and see the curl of beech-bark and bole as fairer-than-silver? Moss is
everywhere, oldest of my makings, sheened and soft -- but who other than
you would spend so long upon it, seeing how each least strand was like
the whole with its own branchings, or how from above the radiate stems
look like stars? You called to me, as surely as ever I called you.
[lifting her hands]
--Do you recall how your
playfellows jested with you, when you were so
young that you did not know what a joke was, and pretended that a trickle
of pine-sap was spilt honey, to trick you -- and were disappointed,
because you didn't gag or spit it out, but seriously told them only No,
it was not, for this was strong, not sweet . . .? Such a willingness --
such welcome -- was ever yours, for all the gifts of my making, from the
first moment you drank in air and tasted earth and wood in the dust of
that breath, the first moment your father's hounds were introduced to
you and you reached out to that furred warmth, the first time you were
silent under the Moon, your tears ended by wonder, before you ever had
words to name what gave you joy?
[she reaches up and strokes his face]
I did not compel you
to see the world through my eyes: you seized
triumphantly upon whatever I offered up for all, and demanded ever
more -- and with such an attentive hearer, how could I refuse? And
each note was for you a key to yet another aspect of my realm, where
fearless you wandered, claiming it all for your own, my hunter, who
took pheasant in flight as deft and clean as any falcon, and spread
its fallen wings gladly to see the green fire shimmering there, and
mourned the stilling of that small song even as you gave your prey
with such pride to your mother, and never upon your comings and goings
trod down deliberately even so much as a puffball with your heel,
"--because it was there," -- as others did. --What else could I do,
save lavish my gifts upon you?
[shaking her head]
How could I not choose you?
But why me?
Why was I born to be
the one who could get safely through the Ered
Gorgoroth and into Doriath, and to meet Tinuviel, and Huan to follow,
and everything that made it possible for me to get to the Iron Crown?
Why was that my destiny?
So . . . you think that we arranged things so that war broke out and
destroyed so many of the Children, of both your peoples, just at the
right time to sever you from your kin, and coordinated your actions
so that Melian's family would be traumatized and your friends' lives
ruined and your enemies led into temptation and you yourself dragged
through seven kinds of hell, for the express purpose of getting you
inside Angband with that knife of yours?
If that were the case, then you'd be right to hate us, not thank us -- but--
[giving him a questioning Look]
Do you really
think that all of Arda centers on you? That all of it, from
your people's wanderings to the Firstborns' insults to the plots and outrages
of Melkor and his partner in crime, came about solely for the purpose of
causing you to be born in the right place and the right time -- that we had
our Trees killed and Feanor's gems stolen for the express purpose of having
you get one away from Melkor?
That isn't what I --
I guess that is, if you follow it out.
[his expression closes down, discontent, still
baffled, because the answers
aren't what he expected]
We would have to be utterly insane, to compose it that way. But . . .
[looking up innocently at the sky]
--if you really want
Everything in the world to be your personal fault,
you're certainly free to think so. There was no other purpose, no reason
for the Song -- and thus no reason for our existence either -- than the
creation of one human male named Beren who's talking to me right now.
All the rest -- this Ea business, the throngs of spirits inside its
circles and out, the tens of thousands of square leagues of living earth
and air and ocean -- all just byproducts of that project. Melkor himself
was obliged to rebel, just so that there would be an occasion for the
Third Theme. It's all because of you -- the Singing, the Marring, the
whole space-time-life business.
I'm glad I don't have your responsibilities.
[this is too much -- he starts snickering and shakes his head]
Okay, okay, there's more going on than just the universe being out to get
one Beren Barahirion. --But what else would you need me as your Champion
for, if it wasn't to get the Silmarils? I'm just a Man.
And I'm sure someone else could've done a better job.
Could? Perhaps. But no one else did. You're looking at it all backwards,
and from an extremely limited perspective.
[brushing his cheek with her fingers again]
Ask yourself instead,
else your life might have been, had Morgoth
not burned your world instead -- and what help you could have given me,
on any of those paths. You were no simple woodsman, serving your folk
without consideration of loftier matters, nor withholding your judgment,
despite your youth. What about the time when your skills were sought
after, to save a settlement from--"
"--a dreadful plague
of foxes," taking all their chickens, that they
could not seem to drive off or kill off -- and you refused, after you'd
spent a fortnight watching in the woods thereabouts, and told them that
the problem was of their own beginning, and sloth, and greed, and must
be of their own ending too: that they must cease from wasting so much of
each bird, and not leave their carrion lazily at the edge of their fields
rather than have the trouble of burying it, and clear more land around
those fields than they could plough and reap, for all that did was invite
the mice and hare and quail -- and their red hunters -- to a banquet, and
being foxes, they could not know that this fowl was different from that,
when all smelled the same, that those were Men's, not mine -- nor was it
fair to punish them for mistaking quail for hen. And didn't your uncle
uphold your judgment, when complaint was made against your youthful folly?
[he nods, soberly]
Do you really think you
couldn't have served me well as a leader's
nephew, holding no small authority among his people, holding both the
needs of the wild and the needs of the tame in his heart, and weighing
the rights of each before acting, rather than letting partiality for his
own kind rule his every choice?
Is that what would have happened, if it wasn't for the Sudden Flame?
Possibly. Or -- you might have gone with your kinsmen to the battle,
and done great deeds there, with your greater understanding of my realm,
against our Enemy. You'd have met your Firstborn viceroys, and perhaps
stayed among their people as so many others of your House have done, and
gone in time to your King's service, and learned there all the lore of
the world and our Arts that they and he could teach you, and and returned
perhaps in time your turn to teach other sons and daughters of your people
all that wisdom and knowledge, and the echoes of our Song made a little
stronger in the world.
[Beren looks at the mountains, troubled again]
But I still wouldn't ever have met her.
No. Most likely not.
Did . . . Did you have anything to do with me drawing the lot that sent
me out on the mission the day that Sauron's strike team hit our base?
Because I know that probably almost certainly my friends are right, and
that I'd just have been killed if I'd been there instead of someone else,
but I'm still not completely sure that would have been a bad thing, and
I still wonder if it was just coincidence that I got it, or . . .
If I say yes, you will be angry with me -- even if you don't admit it,
even to yourself. But if I say no, will you believe me, or will you still
doubt and and resent me for it? And if you do believe me, are you sure
that you might not also be angered by that, contrariwise?
[he just looks at her gravely, waiting for her answer, and she sighs.]
Many things are within
my power -- and many more things are not. Those
which are the affairs of Men only are beyond my ability to control,
directly or indirectly: if any force did sway that choosing, it was not
[she leans closer, very serious]
But if I had been
able to exert any of my might to save your life, I would
have. Good enough?
Yeah. But a little scary . . . I'm not sure I want to follow that through
to the end of what you didn't say, which was that there could have been
some kind of influence at work that day.
Surely you don't think Melkor would have spent his Power to try to save
you from his own Servant's efforts to destroy you?
Well, if he could see the future then yeah, I bet he might've, because
maybe he would think that killing -- killing Finrod and breaking into
Menegroth and maybe capturing their Princess was worth the risk of maybe
losing one Silmaril.
Yavanna: [shaking her head]
No one sees the future that clearly. Not even Manwe and Varda. Nor
I didn't really think that, by the way. But I -- it sounds like you're
saying -- I'm not even sure I can say this -- because if it wasn't you,
then -- but -- I don't want to even think about it, because of what it
means or might mean and why me, for pity's sake, there's lots more people
who deserved it more than me and why would the universe care about me--?
[after this torrent of words he looks away, abashed,
but she touches his cheek
and turns his face towards her again, smiling with a wry expression]
That a great many people, some your birth-kin, most not, some whom you've
never met and likely never will, have wished you well and tried to keep
you alive in spite of yourself over the years, because they believe in
what you stand for, or are grateful for what you've done, or love you,
or all of those things -- you'd rather not think about that?
Well, when you put it that way--
[he smiles crookedly back at her]
I guess it's not so
First Guard: [earnestly explaining]
It's funny the way that it would be if you were killed in battle but then
your opponent tripped over you and stabbed himself by accident with his
And that -- thou deemst diversion?
[Nerdanel doesn't comment, but looks rather nauseated]
Er . . . well, it wouldn't make up for being sent here, but -- it would be
sort of ironic justice, Sir.
[another long pause]
One more thing to make a mental note of, Edrahil -- battlefield humour
doesn't go over well at all, at home.
[his friend shakes his head in grave agreement]
Teler Maid: [thoughtful frown]
It would be amusing, if only no one died.
[she has finished braiding the Ex-Thrall's hair
into a style very similar to
her own, and is now sitting next to her with a somewhat proprietary air, as
if the latter were an adopted stray dog; while the older Elf still remains
with bowed head and withdrawn posture -- but not quite so tense and obviously
Our own Captains, that are no rash youths, nor indifferent to danger,
nonetheless find that risk does not take away all levity in their
I don't think that people in Aman would very much appreciate Mablung and
Beleg comparing kills or the number of times they've saved each other's
lives. Not the way we do, at least.
--But then, we're gods-forsaking barbarians, so what do you expect?
[Finrod elbows her gently]
Sounds like Measse and Alatar swapping stories of The Old Times -- "I
disintegrated more rebel partisans than you did--"
"--Hah, that's only because they were too scared to come near me" -- Those
two still get into drinking contests that end up as arm-wrestling matches?
--Discord, yes. You'd think he'd learn not to challenge Tulkas' own cupbearer,
but no. -- Tavros threw him out along with her the last time they smashed up
the hall, even though Vana was cheering them both on, so it hardly seemed
fair . . .
[he trails off as he realizes that their anecdote-swapping
is now the focus of
Sorry -- do go on, please.
You know, I got in trouble not long ago for having gossiped about the affairs
of deities when all I'd been doing was clarifying some key points of history.
I suppose it's different if you're Vanyar.
Amarie: [icy tolerance]
Such a cross-grained wretch, that doth yet wonder at my temper's fraying.
Cross-grained? I'm "cross-grained" --?
[deep rumbling "hruf!"]
Er -- you don't happen to know what he just said, Luthien?
No, but I'm sure that your guess is quite as good as mine.
Finrod: [to the Hound]
I promise I'll be civil from hereon out.
[he cannot help putting emphasis on "I'll" though]
Amarie: [to Elenwe]
And art fallen so far, my cousin, that thou findest such bloody jests
a jesting matter, then?
Nay, but I do find the wide world a stranger place by far than e'er we
dreamt in golden Valmar -- for I have heard tell of one that even did
beg his friend to slay him, for mercy's sake, and fellowship--
[she glances at her father-in-law, who nods somberly;
Amarie does not say
anything further just then]
There is, I must yet declare, one reason for tempering of mirth: for this
ignorant cunning of Bauglir's device did have the unfortunate consequence
of said Wolf, whose presence I gather from her Highness' words and dark
hints -- and logical inference -- caused more trouble for their beleaguered
efforts than otherwise would have befallen.
[Luthien shakes her head quickly]
No I'm not sure that made any difference -- for the worse-- really. Because
it became pretty clear pretty quickly that trying to bluff our way around
Angband wasn't going to work -- right there at the Gates, as it happened --
and it doesn't seem likely that we could have fooled the regular guards even
as long as we fooled the inexperienced one, and I don't know that I could
have dealt with many troops all at once, still less with Orcs.
We might have been taken
prisoners right then and there, and Beren might have
been killed even, and even if he wasn't, still none of it going according to
our will at all, but Morgoth calling all the tune. And maybe I could have
still managed to do what I did, but I don't know. It might have gone much
worse, hard as that is to conceive.
[scratching the Hound's ears]
Huan had some sort of
premonition about Carcharoth and didn't say anything
specific at the time, but he knew something and still told us it was possible,
so that makes it seem likely as well. If it were going to make any difference
for the worst, you would have said something, wouldn't you, boy?
[the Hound only answers by a canine display of affection, whuffling in her ear]
It sounds like you got rather better at taking decisive action under pressure,
I must say.
[she shrugs, a little embarrassed]
I had to.
[a more or less discreet conversation is going on meanwhile among the ranks]
Warrior: [curious aside]
You don't really think Lady Elenwe is the most beautiful woman in Aman,
Youngest Ranger: [shrugging]
That I've seen.
So you have beheld the inside of the Enemy stronghold, Highness, and ventured
it freely, and with your consort alone have returned to speak of it with
unturned mind. --What lies beyond those gates, that I twice essayed but never
Unturned? Mind, perhaps -- but definitely not stomach. It's very strange,
nothing like Menegroth or Nargothrond, none of the architecture seems
designed with people in mind at all. Except backwards, to not seem homely.
What of its arrangements, its ordering of defenses and the fashion of
Deep. And -- angled.
[as this gets her stares]
And rough. Very rough, with some flat bits.
[this isn't helping, clearly]
I'm sorry. I -- was a
Bat. It doesn't look the same way at all. Everything's
about clearances and perches and directions aren't the same, either.
[she raises her hand in a gesture evocative of
an arched roof sweeping close
It's very odd, not thinking
of all directions as equal, but "down" as very
definitely dangerous and unwelcoming, and "up" being the only safe place to be.
[the Warrior, still unsatisfied, nudges his companion again]
She's bright but clear, like water -- it doesn't burn to look at her, not like--
[he glances at Aredhel, grimacing]
Uncle, you know I'm right about this -- that the best method is to combine
all the reports and descriptions and look for discrepancies--
Fingolfin: [shaking his head]
[the Ex-Thrall makes a sudden abrupt movement,
and the Sea-Elf gives her a
What are you talking about? What is "this"?
More of what our Eastern cousin there would call a pointless waste of time:
the continuation of intelligence efforts -- and an insoluble intelligence
problem -- with regards to Angband. We've only the vaguest descriptions of
it to go on, from the time of the Enemy's capture and imprisonment, and we
know he's changed it significantly since then. The problem is that the only
people who have been inside so far have been . . . gravely affected, and the
likelihood of memories being altered is very great. So the basing of any
plans on such reports is extremely fraught--
[figuring it out, the Teler Maid puts her arm
protectively around the other
woman's shoulders in a consoling gesture]
Plans for what?
A hypothetical continuation of a previous simulated assault on Morgoth.
What would happen if we actually managed to get an army inside. We speculate
about this from time to time.
Yes, I know: we're dead and it isn't going to happen, hence the aforementioned
pointless waste of time.
At least when they're arguing about imaginary maps of Thangorodrim, nobody's
being forced to play chess.
Lady Amarie's Vanyar, too.
Yes, but the King's lady is broken inside and the edges are scraping together
and making her dangerous.
[there is a brief moment of general embarrassment
as those around try to pretend
they didn't notice this, and not look at Amarie. The Sindarin warrior's hearers
are puzzling this over, and don't notice the Captain's attempt at cutting them
off with a discreet warning in the hand-signal code]
What is this game the which ye hold such in such regard, this "chess" that
holdeth ye in such rapt enthrallment?
[he winces at the bad word choice, catching himself
too late, but goes on in
--Or be it some new devising
of ye yourselves, or be it some far-off rarity
that hath accompanied this second Return? Wouldst care to make plain the
matter to me, good my brother?
[before Fingolfin can answer - simultaneous,
voicing the sentiment of all the
residents of the Halls present]
[embarrassed silence -- overlapping]
If you don't mind--
--Doing anything else ever.
Finrod: [to the late High King]
Finarfin: [also to Fingolfin]
And thou hadst charge of all these our young, in the Lands Beyond? I commend
thy fortitude, all these many days.
Nominally, at least. --When it inconvenienced them little.
[Luthien hides her laughter behind her hands]
People don't have fault lines.
Yes, we do, you just can't see them so well.
No, that's stone.
--That too. Now shhh! I'm trying to hear what's different in the story.
Luthien: [being wicked]
I don't mind waiting a little while, if my cousins and their liege and
kinsman want to explain how the board is set and played. --I enjoy the
Finrod: [giving her a Look now in turn]
Yes, but it wouldn't be a little while.
[Fingolfin is taking all the teasing with a very good grace]
Only now I seem to remember you complaining about being interrupted . . . ?
Oh, all right. I sneaked in and found a nook on a pier in the vaulting, where
nobody else was perching, and tried to blend into the stonework so I could spy
out the environs and just get an idea of how things worked there.
It was good I was a demon
then, because otherwise I might not have been able
to cope. It's one thing to know that the Enemy engages in abominable recreations,
and quite another thing to see them putting back buckets of blood as if it was
wine, and eating people, and using furniture made out of bones.
[glancing at Aredhel and Eol]
I thought I was just being weak about it, not being a warrior, but--
My Lady, Beren said it gave him nightmares as well, which argues against
it, I'd say.
Yes. There was nothing there that wasn't horrible, even worse than in
Carcharoth's soul. And they weren't even happy doing it. I always thought
that -- that -- well, that the Enemy minions enjoyed themselves, and that
was the worst thing about them, but--
They don't. Not really.
have to shout and laugh and roar so loudly
because they daren't listen to the silence. They can't stand to be themselves,
and so they have to distract themselves from the pain by hurting others, and
themselves. In other ways. I never -- I never thought I could pity Orcs, but--
Even the Balrogs are hurting inside.
Thou meanst those fallen spirits of the fiery element that did by report
there slay mine own lord, I mistake thee not?
[Luthien nods; the Apprentice shifts uncomfortably,
looking troubled -- noticing,
the Captain glances over at the flames still decorating the fountain, briefly
draws his restored bootknife and frowns thoughtfully at the disguised Maia -- but
Yes . . . his cohort of the most powerful of the whole crew, the elite of
[with a quick glance of acknowledgment at the Youngest Ranger]
Their fault lines
are the worst of all because they know what they're missing
the way the younger incarnates don't. If I hadn't been detached from myself,
not Eldar then, I think I would have been too personally afraid, and too
personally outraged, to feel sorry for anything that was eating tortured
And yet you have not pity to spare for Elu, nor the Lady Melian.
Luthien: [as if apropos of nothing]
I thought it very ironic that I was there on purpose, considering that Morgoth
and his people had been trying to catch me and bring me there as a hostage all
along. --Beren too, of course. But it is rather funny when you think of how
many people have tried to keep me locked up like some bit of treasure that they
can't bear to share even the sight of with anyone else.
Dad, Mom, Curufin, Celegorm, Sauron, sundry Orc-chieftans at Bauglir's behest--
--and I'm getting the
definite feeling of the same sort of thing here. A
familiar sensation, as it were.
Your parents only restrained you because they cared for you--
So did Celegorm, in his own way.
My lady, you said no less did Beren strive to keep you safe against your will--
He stopped. And he was trying to make me give him up -- not keep me for himself
alone. --Slight difference, what?
Still, some variance there may haply be, betwixt love's confining and aught
that's born but of use only.
It doesn't feel any different to the ones locked up.
Nay, and at end they oft do come to one and same.
But what did happen next?
[primly, as people look at her:]
Someone must say so, and it had as well to be me again.
What happened next was I managed to scare all the assembled hordes there,
just by my presence.
Forgive me, Princess Luthien, but I thought you said . . . you frightened
the Fiend's champions . . .?
Captain: [broad grin]
Oh it gets even better, Sire--
Well, it does.
Yes, but don't go spoiling it for them.
Might one inquire as to how?
Apparently they could sense my aura just the way we can sense theirs, and
it gave them the creeps. First one, and then another would shiver and go
quiet, or suddenly jump and clutch at a knife-hilt, and then claw his
benchmate for laughing at him -- but then another one would do it, and the
Balrogs were looking around swinging their horns like aurochs when they
hear a wolf-howl, and the Wargs kept lifting up their heads and sniffing
like hounds, and then growling. I thought it couldn't be me, where I was,
I was terrified that they'd scented Beren somehow, but little by little
every creature there fell silent and either looked up at the arches or
kept its head down resolutely pretending there was nothing to be afraid of.
[shushing Huan again]
--And then Morgoth pulled
himself out of the distracted, I'm-really-too-
grand-for-all-this air he was affecting as he sat there watching the chaos
with this cynical smile, and looks up straight at where I'm hanging on to
the vaults, and shouts at me to come down, not even think of trying to hide
or dodge out of sight, and to do it fast before he got angry and blasted
my wings off.
Finrod: [glances around at the Captain]
I want to know where you came up with that usage of "better." It's a new
one to me.
Probably from Beren. Like when he says, "Oh, this is good," or "Well,
that's just grand," meaning exactly the opposite. --That used to confuse
me a bit.
Or else "better you than me" -- which, though I hate to admit it, is true
in every sense that I could conceivably mean it. What did you do then?
The best bat imitation I could, disturbed-bat-flutters-around-squeaking,
making distressed noises and circling overhead the way I'd seen the others
doing at the Tower and the way real ones do in the unused caverns back
home. But I had to come down, before he got too impatient, and there I was
crouching on the floor, while minions gathered in around me to cut off any
dashes for the exit.
It doesn't get much worse
than that, in terms of being scared out of one's
wits, watching what was left of the plan wither up and blow away like so
many dead leaves. The one thing that didn't occur to me at the moment was
that Morgoth had to be feeling the same way, right then. He had no idea who
or what I was, after all.
So he knew you weren't what you were pretending to be, right from the start.
So it seemed.
[she hunches forward, her posture evoking a cringing
minion trying to grovel
I said I was there on
a legitimate mission, and that I had come straight
from the Nightshade with a special message just for him from the Terrible One.
He didn't buy it, I gather.
Luthien: [resentfully amused]
He called me a "screeching loser" and said that the courier had just been
and gone, with news from Sauron.
Yes. You're not the only one to miscall the situation of Enemy affairs,
don't worry. --He got rather sarcastic.
"What does he want now, and why would he send you? What's your name?"
I tried to keep bluffing
-- I told him I was Thuringwethil, the Shadow Of
The Moonlit Sky.
"No, you're not, you
can't fool me," he retorted. "Now get out of that
disguise and give yourself up, now."
So I pulled off the skin
again, as slowly as I could manage -- or dared! --
trying to think of what I could do to bluff next, and my mind was a complete
blank -- and then I was myself again, and that was all I was, and -- it was
very strange: I felt as though I were galloping in the chase, riding headlong
over the game trails, flying over fallen logs and streamlets -- and at the
same time as though I were the Sickle's hilt, and everything else was turning
around me in the heavens, and I remaining perfectly still. --Is that what it's
like when you're in battle, and everything seems to slow down -- is that what
people are talking about?
Either that, or very, very drunk.
Luthien: [same wry humour]
Well, it wasn't that. --There was a moment where Morgoth just stared at me,
quite taken aback, obviously not expecting to see an unarmed woman standing
there. The Werewolves were edging in closer, snuffling and drooling all around
me -- so were the soldiers, as it happened -- the way you sometimes see spiders
crawling towards a lantern outside--
[the mention of spiders gets an involuntary reaction
of disgust from all her
audience, alive or not]
--and so long as all
that attention was on me, no one was going to notice
Beren slinking under cover of the throne at all.
In all that, still you took thought for him, thought of concern?
Luthien: [slightly bewildered]
Of course. That's why I was there. The Lord of Fetters was frowning down at
me from his high seat, as if this were a chess match and I'd just taken his
"Who are you?"
he says. "Nobody comes in here that I didn't send for," and
then he chuckled, and added, "and nobody gets out that I don't send out,
[the Sea-elf pats her shuddering companion on
the head, like a child sitting next
to a large, sad dog]
"But you did send
for me," I said, "I'm Luthien of Doriath." And then I tried
to weave a binding over the hall, and it was starting to work, -- but then he
laughed at me, very cold and without any humour at all, and I lost the train
of my song then.
[Finrod winces sympathetically, then looks at her in astonishment]
You told him who you were?
How could I hope to deceive the First Deceiver? He'd know if I was lying
-- at least, it certainly seemed like he did.
But -- you gave him your name--
There couldn't be any false pretenses in this battle. If I'd been trying to
keep up one layer of deception and then another and then another -- I'd have
gotten tangled in them myself. He was too strong for that. It would have been
like trying to fight him hand-to-hand--
[checks, looking at Fingolfin]
Sorry. For me, at least.
For myself, too, gentle lady, as it proved.
Teler Maid: [completely unself-conscious]
Were you not terrified? I should have been.
Angrod: [caustic aside]
You, -- and every other sane person in Arda.
No. And yes. And no. I just -- was. As if that was where I was supposed
to be, and what I was meant to be doing, and always had been, just us,
myself and Melkor, from the beginning of Ea, facing each other, and none
of his minions mattering at all -- only it wasn't just me, because I wasn't
alone either, I had help--
Beren. Yes. He was there, invisible in my shadows, the darkness that I'd
made out of our Enemy's, and mine -- believing in me, trusting me enough
to let me fight my own battle, because he loved me. And the Enemy couldn't
even imagine that, couldn't break that bond of strength, because he couldn't
conceive that so much love existed, that anyone could dare to assault him
not for revenge nor greed for his power, but only for another.
Fingolfin: [sardonic smile]
What's he like, these days? We didn't talk much, I fear, at our last
encounter, beyond a few social formalities.
[his nephews snort appreciatively]
Finarfin: [aside to his brother]
"Come forth, you cowardly wretch and fight me if you dare, you king of
slaves and shadows" -- that sort of thing.
Angry at the universe in general and my father in specific. He thinks your
rivalries are just funny.
You know, I wonder
if he pursued Mom, too, way back when. That might explain
some of his behaviour and the things he said. And his obsession with Doriath.
It might not just be political.
'Tis a matter most commonly averred, that the Dark Foe hath ever feared e'en
so he be drawn to puissant women and preeminent of his race.
Oh, it's obvious he's got lots of issues. In his mind he's the victim of, on
the one hand, jealousy and constant plots against him by everybody, and on the
other hand of the fact that nobody cares enough about him to pay attention to
him, and just goes off and does their own thing in Valinor and forgets about
him. How both of those can be true, and why one wouldn't rule out the other,
never seems to cross his mind when he's ranting. He doesn't seem to remember
either that he started all his own problems along with everybody else's, by
trying to grab everything and shut everyone else up -- and out -- of the Song.
It was really gruesome, him still wanting me to feel sorry for him and take
his side, even while he was threatening me, because "nobody likes him."
Did it work?
Yes. But not the way he intended. It's sad that he's wasted all his talents
and powers -- and chances, by being so aggressive and controlling, and even
sadder that he refuses to even admit to himself what he's doing and what's
wrong with it -- how he twists up everything so that no matter what he does,
no matter who he does it to, it's still justified in his mind, because he's
the only person in the World who matters.
Alas -- too familiar by far that terrain!
Aglon: [passionate again]
No. You cannot compare Lord Feanor to the Lord of Fetters -- they are
light and dark opposéd, there is nothing in common between them, and
only a fool would say otherwise!
[Feanor's consort only Looks at him, and he falters. In a smaller voice:]
--Milady. I -- I do understand
your grievances, and I can . . . feel some
pity, for your resentment, that I am sure seems justified, but -- you do
not know Morgoth as we do, that have fought him and seen the bloody ravages
of his reign in the North all these Great Years. If you did, you could not
compare him to our noble leader -- that you once did love.
Nay, but him that we now name not I had some acquaintance with, for aye
longsome whiles ere ever thou wert begotten, youngling. I remember well
how all manner of thing seemed reasonable and fair, the whiles he did
utter it, that in cold considering and apart from's presence, did clot
to ash upon the wit, and leave but foul taste behind. --For some of us,
at the least.
We are not -- we were not -- not misled, not--
[shaking his head violently]
We are not like Balrogs, like Wargs, as you imply!
[Luthien turns her head and looks at him, silently,
with a distant, considering
expression, and he recoils a little. Raising a hand in defensive gesture,
Don't -- don't tell me what you See--
The fires had all gone
out as I'd intended, and the quiet that I was trying
to lay down was mostly in effect, so I wasn't having to contend with lots
of distractions, but even though every thing there was somewhat subdued,
they were all awake, and it was all rolling right off Morgoth himself. The
only light left was from the glow of eyes, and from the Silmarils themselves.
[a ripple goes through her listeners at the mention of the jewels]
When he stopped laughing,
he asked me what crazy plan my father was up to,
using me as a spy -- actually, he said something like, "Has that lurking
rodent Thingol finally slipped his last cog?" which I assumed meant lost
his wits, and really that's hardly fair for the most paranoid ruler in the
World to say about anyone else--
[tossing her head]
--and he called me "a
liar, just like all the Children" -- hypocrite! -- and
he said I was welcome nonetheless, because he could always find a use for a
[the Ranger leans forward and starts to say something
to his younger superior,
then changes his mind and signs a message instead. The Sindarin Ranger shakes
his head, fighting to keep a straight face.]
Well, you did tell him you were someone else. If you're going to be picky
about such things, then you've got to be consistent, girl.
Oh, come on!
Certain deceptions are not merely permissible, but even required, when the
ill of neglecting them outweighs the ill of falsehood, and the asker has
no right to the information sought for. It is not as though it were the
case -- to make a hypothetical example -- that her Highness had lied to
those who came to her in good faith, seeking her aid as kinsmen, from whom
she had no justifiable fears that would indicate silence or dissembling.
[the parent and friends of Curufin and Celegorm wince a little at his example]
I deem not Lord Namo's own self would e'er condemn such dissembling in such
cause and wise.
I didn't feel guilty about it at all, any more than I would have tricking
Sauron -- it just wasn't working, was all. I stuck with the absolute truth
from then on, because I felt that he would know if I was misleading him,
the way Mom does--
[she gives Eol a Look]
--but if I didn't give
him any opening, I didn't think he could take anything
I didn't reveal.
[in re-enactment Luthien clasps her hands together
and looks up from under her
bangs with a combination of lash-fluttering timidity and breathless juvenile
self-assurance, exactly fitting the image of an innocent (read ignorant) spoilt
princess on the loose for the first time (& managing to look disturbingly like
a big-eyed waif painted on black velvet while she's at it)]
I told him my father
had no idea where his rebellious daughter was or what
I was up to -- I wanted to keep his mind off home and the idea of dealing
with my parents for me -- and that it had been a long, crazy journey -- in
case he'd learned anything about Nargothrond, which given that the Terrible
had heard of Celegorm's takeover it seemed not impossible -- but that I'd
finally realized that there was no place else for me to go -- which was true,
given certain prior factors which I neglected to mention -- and that his
domain was the ultimate power in Middle-earth -- which is unfortunately also
true as far as I can tell--
[the Feanorian lord regains some of his slipping
certainties to frown at this
Defeats are only setbacks: we're not losing the War. We can't.
Yes. We are.
And most certainly can, regardless.
--and so I'd decided that I needed to be here -- Angband, I mean, of course.
And that I had lots of talents and experience entertaining kings and other
royalty, with my music and dance, so he would want to keep me around his
court as a minstrel, the way all other rulers did.
[snapping right out of the big-eyed-and-helpless-mode]
--A little bit of flattery and suggestion there--
Not to mention arrogance.
I'm good at what I do with the abilities I was given. I've learned everything
Mom could teach us, plus I've figured out things and invented things that no
one else has ever thought of. That isn't being arrogant, that's just being
You're still boasting about it.
Luthien: [raising an eyebrow at her hostile cousins]
And you're not, when you point out your superior skills with metal and
machines? I'd think boasting depends on the intent as much as the words,
So I told him all that,
and he got very sarcastic then, telling me that
I was going to have to stay there whether I liked it or not -- probably
not. He said that suffering was the universal lot, and why should I think
that I should be spared just because I was small and pretty and weak? Since
he and his followers were miserable and Exiled from Valinor, and obliged to
work hard all the time because of their fate, then shouldn't I be tortured
too? He got almost cheerful then, trying to scare me.
[giving the Hound's collar a shake]
--Huan, be quiet. No one can hear when you do that.
But -- that makes no sense at all. He's appealing to justice as grounds
for inflicting pain on innocent people? Not even revenge on someone else,
like Elu or Melian, nor practicality, as per extorting obedience or
information, but in balance for his own sufferings? --Is he serious?
His logic is -- insane. It makes sense to him, and to his lieges, but
it's like a tangle of threads that don't connect when you try to spread
it all out. But he says things as if they follow and lead to each other,
and his thanes nod and growl in chorus and bang on things as if he'd made
some stunning revelation. Like when he started ranting about how people
like me were simply used by the gods for their own pleasure and then
tossed aside without heed, all the time, as though we were flowers to
pluck and enjoy the scent of and then forget about.
Who could he possibly be talking about?
[he and the others from Aman, living and dead, share looks of utter confusion]
I don't know. --Mom didn't, either, when I asked her afterwards.
Nor I, likewise, to guess.
He did believe it, though, it wasn't just a story he was making up on the
moment for me. He was very upset about it, even though he named no names
-- and was using it as the excuse for his own self-indulgence.
I can't think of anybody who fits that description. There are some people
who thought about pairing up, and then decided they weren't meant for each
other and elected not to, mutually, but I can't name a single being here
who's just gone about breaking hearts and trampling on others' emotions
without so much as a twinge of remorse.
He's got to be projecting, is what it is. What he'd do, if he only could.
[he scowls, clenching his fists as he stares out into the shadows]
Who cares what Morgoth thinks? He's just evil, and that's all there is to it.
And there's pattern for battle endless, and warfare withouten cease.
Better than nonstop talk.
[her sister in law shakes her head pityingly]
It sounds like he's just being resentful over the fact that other individuals
are capable of forming lasting relationships, and he can't even keep friends
-- the only people who want to be around him are the ones he's bribed or
intimidated or who hope to profit from the partnership.
Apprentice: [struck by a sudden thought]
Or -- perhaps it's all that, and his own victim-hero-complex: perhaps he's
thinking of Arien.
The bright Avenger never did encourage him i'the least! No more than did she
the Archer -- save but by being.
In Bauglir's mind that's more than enough. Don't want him declaring himself
your King? You're a traitor! Don't want to give him what you made? You're a
thief! Defend yourself -- and you're a rebel, too.
[she laughs abruptly]
Sorry -- I was just thinking
of him describing himself as a poor blossom
crushed underfoot by selfish fellow-deities trifling with his affections.
It's just barely -- bizarrely -- possible.
[Fingolfin breaks into an edged smile]
He was telling me that
in spite of it being some kind of cosmic duty on him
to inflict pain on me, he'd give me an hour or so to show off my artistic
abilities, and then we'd talk about the payment and what that privilege would
Oh, Luthien . . .
Ambassador: [miserable aside]
Our poor little princess -- to hear this account is more horrible to me than
to think upon my own death at the fangs of the red-jawed monster--
Nerdanel: [coolly analytical]
Still doth he prefer the subtle entwining, than to merely smite at once --
and withouten pretense that his fast-set will to work but strife might but
be softened, by the anneal of reason.
Finrod: [dark humour]
Ah yes, where would the fun be without the games? It isn't anywhere near so
interesting without the element of anticipation and hopes played along like
an angler's dream of a fine trout on a spring morning. It's boring if you end
the game of cat-and-mouse too soon. --How did you answer him?
I played dumb. --I played the helpless, naive ninny that Curufin always
took me for, completely trusting in everyone's good will and my own goodness
to make everything all right. He too saw only what he expected to see.
[with another dry laugh]
I suppose in a way it
was good -- in an extremely limited way, that is --
that so many unpleasant things had happened to me already that I wasn't
able to be surprised any more by them. At least I wasn't scared speechless
at being threatened with violence after what I'd been through before, or
paralyzed with dread when he began getting bored of teasing me and thought
about starting on the breaking he'd been talking about, right then and
there. I skittered right out of the way as he made a grab for me -- I
told him -- "No, no--
[shaking her finger scoldingly]
--that isn't how kings
are supposed to treat petitioners -- everybody's
supposed to get a turn to speak for themselves, and then you decide to
grant their request or not," and while he was laughing at me in the dark
I put on my wings again and took off.
[her braids are all twisted up in her hands again from the suspense]
Most assuredly -- to lure them away and afterwhiles return when they were
all astray and singly dispersed amidst the keep.
Luthien: [shaking her head]
No, to finish my binding.
He let you?
He never recognized my cloak for the weapon it was.
Finrod: [technical fascination]
But how did you manage to work a Song of Change as a Bat? --Or did you
figure out how to wield your power in spite of being a demon?
Um -- I wasn't, exactly.
But . . . you were flying, you said--?
[he misses Amarie's sudden flash of keen attention]
I was only using the wings. I wasn't hiding inside Thuringwethil's identity
any more -- it was more-or-less the other way round.
You were, or you weren't, transformed then?
[at his Look]
Sorry. It was more-or-less. I'm not sure how else to call it.
You -- partly -- became a Vampire?
It wasn't easy.
No, no, no, that's impossible.
Finrod: [looking at the ceiling]
I don't say that very often any more.
Not that I expect you to know very much about this sort of thing -- Elu
never cared a damn for anything but appearances, and all your mother cares
about is control -- but the most basic exercise of logic would reveal that
such a partial transition from one state of being to another -- just as
with any substances or essences, material or not -- is inherently unstable
and cannot be sustained but only on the contrary, continually maintained,
or regenerated, rather.
You must have been hallucinating.
Ambassador: [very serious and drawn]
Highness, I too must object -- for all that mine own emotions have
overwhelmed my reason in hearing your story, a little recollection
cannot help but give one pause. --The employment of such unclean
enchantments -- even in the service of Good -- must be considered
highly suspect. This is in a far different class than the enhancement
or focussing of your own natural abilities, Princess. Your lady mother--
--said it shouldn't have been possible, either, but then again, Ungoliant
shouldn't have been able to drink Light and invert it into concentrated
Shadow, either. All kinds of things seem impossible until somebody actually
goes and does them.
Apprentice: [bemused aside]
Like making a universe.
My objection -- unlike your late unlamented kinsman -- was not as to
the possibility, Highness, but the advisability. What corrupting effect
should such an action have, upon your own unstained purity of heart?
[Amarie nods in agreement, though her expression is wryly bitter]
Well, I kept having these urges to catch and eat small children and good-
looking-but-clueless youths, afterwards . . . but without fangs it was much
too difficult and messy.
[there is a suppressed outburst of surprised laughter among her friends]
That was a judgment call
I had to make. Yes, it was disgusting and highly
dangerous, but it wasn't -- I don't think -- wrong in itself. Not the way--
[with a meaningful Look at Finrod and the Ten]
--cursing the World and
all that is in it, and the Light, would have been.
I'm not sure that one could do that, and not be Changed by it, even if one
didn't mean the words, any more than by participating in torture for a good
[she turns to look at the Ex-Thrall, seriously
-- the Noldor shade doesn't break
the contact, though tears begin to spill down her face]
I don't know what I could
have done in either circumstance. Or any number
of scenarios just as bad.
So I didn't let myself
end up in that corner. This time I didn't just
depend on my voice, I made a three-dimensional weaving that allowed me
to use my cape fully, binding the hordes of minions into a state where
they were lost in pleasant dreams. --Well, pleasant for them, by their
lights, at least.
[she grimaces in disgust]
Fingolfin: [shaking his head]
For my part, I don't dare say which is more impressive, the subduing of
a multitude of foes -- or of a handful of Balrogs.
Oh, the Balrogs weren't the problem. The diffi--
Captain: [to Fingolfin]
How often are you going to hear that, now, Sire? Told you.
[the High King raises an eyebrow in solemn amusement]
--The difficult part was trying to break through the layers of self-involved
certainty to get Morgoth to actually listen. And then to hold his attention
to my song, to keep him from going right back into his patterns of anger and
vindictiveness. There's so little interaction with the real world going on,
everything turned inward and tightening so that nothing can grow or change,
like ground baked so hard by drought that rain just bounces off it and can't
soak in. But I kept my promise to him: I gave him comfort and ease, and rest,
just as I said I would.
How could you do that?
Luthien: [raising her hands]
There was no way I could take on his strengths -- if none of you could match
him in combat, how on earth could I? One thing Beren used to say about his
War was always to match your strengths to the adversary's weaknesses -- not
the other way 'round. Stick with what you know, don't let the enemy draw you
into his plan, by his rules, keep the fight where the terrain is favorable
to you, not him. That's how he managed for so long, in spite of being
Fingolfin: [curious frown]
And what, in the Lord of Beor's experienced opinion, does one do, when one
cannot avoid being compelled to follow the Enemy's lead?
Cheat like crazy. --It's hard to do, though. You have to figure out where
your opponent is going to push hardest, and then not be there, so he
entangles himself and has to recover. You could call it "the art of the
unexpected," I supposed.
--Which, in operation, is difficult to distinguish from the actions of
Particularly if it doesn't work.
Steward: [obliquely commenting]
I believe you mean when: it is eventual, not conditional, that outcome.
Is anyone going to notice that I was polite and restrained and said nothing
to any of that? --Of course not.
Don't tell me that your only reason for acting or refraining from action is
the laudatory comments of your relatives, now -- really, do you think that
that's a worthy motivation?
Aren't you off-duty?
. . .
[he glances guiltily around at the currently darkened palantir]
Not really. --It's something
of a free-form assignment right now. More --
challenging, that way.
You just made that up this instant.
A translation. --Free.
"Try to stay out of trouble for a little bit, would you?"
How does haranguing me about the state of my soul fall under that mandate?
It seems like a certain path to trouble, not away from it.
I'd have to agree, regretfully.
[his brother glares at him]
Huan: [to Aegnor]
[short noisy conversational-dog-complaining barks]
[much general wincing; Nerdanel rolls her eyes]
[the younger Eldar (and apparent Eldar) and Hound stop at once]
Anyway -- at least according to Beren and Dad's own captains, both, knowing
all about your adversary is crucial to being able to carry out any kind of
successful actions. Next to not losing your wits, good intelligence is the
most important thing of all.
--And in notable short supply.
[at her annoyed Look -- all innocence:]
--I'm only saying what
you yourself thought earlier, my cousin most noble
In terms of troop movements and the like -- yes. But in terms of knowing
the Enemy -- I was in a better position than anyone else.
Hah. You hadn't even met him -- we on the other hand, all knew him here,
[various looks are exchanged among the Valinoreans
and some of the Exiles,
fairly sardonic ones at that]
But I'd heard--
[shaking her head impatiently]
--I knew him, from Mom's
perspective, not as someone more ancient than anything,
than Time itself, and too powerful to begin to comprehend, but as an only slightly
older and more talented peer, someone -- accessible, and that basis -- those
stories I'd heard all my life, were more real for me, stronger, because older
-- than the fear of him now, his terrible actions of this Age, which is all that
most of us born in Middle-earth have to work with, thinking of him--
[exchanging quick glances of mutual comprehension
with the Ambassador and the
--and none of the personal
hurt and confusion of those who knew him back in
Aman as a friend, teacher, benefactor--
[exchanging another glance with the dead High King of the Noldor in Beleriand]
--to trip me up. He didn't have any leverage against me -- except sheer power.
Finrod: [incredulous laugh]
[biting his lip, he looks at his uncle, who also looks bemused]
But leverage is of all actions a most critical part, for without it all strength
is worthless, expended without effect, or (if ill-placed) then yielding only
Oh, stop trying to be profound, Enedrion.
You know, we used to
laugh at you, hanging about my cousins as if talent was
something that might catch in you like so much light -- never realizing you
were only a mirror to him and to Maglor, not a crystal.
[Finrod puts a defensive hand on his friend's
shoulder, giving his cousin a warning
Look; the Princes to their credit appear embarrassed, and guilty -- the White Lady's
malicious shot does not, however, seem to have much impact on its intended target]
--Cel used to say that
even a puppy had more dignity than you, begging for scraps
of praise at House Finwe's tables.
[Huan gives an indignant huff and stretches his
neck over to give the Steward
a friendly ear-snuffle]
And after all that effort
to make yourself into someone too refined for the
coarser pursuits of "mere material engineering" or "outdoor hurly-burly"
you ended up running logistics for Ingold's mad dashes through the wilderness.
[it is somewhat unsatisfying that his only reaction to her words is amusement]
Teler Maid: [discontented]
Why does he bear such insult from her?
Captain: [sadly knowing]
You don't think you're the only one his sarcasm ever scorched, do you, Rail?
Aredhel: [smiling beatifically]
I think it's priceless.
[before any of the Steward's friends can retort in his behalf]
Aye, that thou wouldst, none shall deny.
And what do you mean by that?
Hath so much of change wrought upon our speech in passing Age, that thou
comprehendest naught, when I do apprehend thee well enow? I did mean but
the veriest particulars.
Gentle lady, your wit is no more suitable for irony than gold for the
forging of a knife, which simply will not hold an edge.
Aredhel: [abruptly changing attack vectors]
I don't need you to fight my battles for me, Eol! Especially not against her.
Luthien: [smiling through her teeth]
You know, I'm starting to wonder why the gods didn't throw you out long before
you made such a scene about leaving, for general unmannerliness. --Or perhaps
they did, ask you to leave, that is, and we only got another censored version
of your Exile that put a more favorable light on it.
[several people, including the Ambassador, but
not excluding all the Noldor present,
are hard put not to laugh out loud at this]
Aredhel: [indignantly emphatic]
Nobody threw us out, --Princess of Shadows.
Well, that's about to change. --Again.
Finrod: [wryly self-conscious]
Er -- as it happens, Luthien, when I said "how" -- that was all I meant.
You meant "how could you do it" as in how I did it. The technical aspects.
Oh. Well. --That figures.
Let me see if there's any way I can explain it . . .
[Elsewhere -- the Corollaire]
[more clouds are blowing across the blue, creating
patches of shadow and sunlight
with no visible Sun, all moving very quickly over the fields below, in that
disturbing atmospheric effect typical of summer]
Beren: [polite, but very determined]
I still don't really understand why you all can't just make people be good
to start with. Wouldn't that be easier than dealing with them after they
become demons and destroy things?
And how do you go about making people be good?
[his expression becomes a little wary, knowing he's being led]
You tell them what not to do.
Assume they know better and do it anyway. Then what?
Well . . . you make them.
By punishing them. Kick them out if they won't stop. That's a chief's job.
And if they don't care?
You fight them. Kill them, if they're killing other people.
And that makes them be good? --Let alone whether it is good of itself.
. . .
You can tell them what's right and wrong, and you can punish them if they
wrong others, but you can't make people choose to be good.
Besides, we tried all
that. We did throw Melkor and his crew of vandals out.
They came back. We fought them some more. The result -- I can't begin to
describe what it was like, there aren't any words in any language for the
mess it caused, because all the words are so inadequate for the catastrophes
that our War caused. I've tried to tell you, but--
[tilting her head on one side to look at him, wry]
The whole of the island
where you were tortured was a pebble, a small stone
kicked back by Nahar's hooves in trying to get over the ridge flung up by our
Enemy to trip him, understand -- and that is stretching matters very far in
both directions to make truth and words meet. Just saying it is misleading,
because it makes you think that what I'm thinking of is what you're thinking
of, but there isn't any better way to describe it.
[gesturing down herself]
We weren't using these
forms, but our bodies do express something of what we
are, so to call the leverage-contact points of the being whom you and the
Eldar both call Nahar, "hooves," is a not-entirely inadequate comparison.
Just the same as calling the way in which that one and his friend and leader
cooperated to form one battle-unit "riding" is closer than any other state
of being within your comprehension and recollection.
[she grins ironically]
But if you're
thinking that their duels with He Who Arose In Might resembled
the weavings and drawings and so on that the Elves have done of it, with a
big white horse trotting in the air over a mountain, while Tav' -- usually
looking a lot more like Ingwe than himself in them -- calmly sits on his back
blowing a gold bugle with lots of pretty spirals on it . . . you'd be a little
bit right. A very little. For one thing, they're all too static, --
[she traces three vertical lines, two curved,
one straight between them, in the
air (|) leaving a bright green-gold sigil there for a few moments]
--as far as this
is from "leaf" --and for another, we hadn't made horses
yet, only Dreamed them, so Nahar was working from sketches, so to speak,
and besides there wasn't anything alive then with eyes to see as the
Children see, and -- well, the Valaroma isn't like that.
Beren: [a bit stricken]
You mean it isn't a horn?
That weapon of the Hunter's is . . . hm . . . the essence of The Horn,
perhaps? Pure sound, pulled into one smooth, solid arc of channeled power,
cutting through all Melkor's stupid racket and subduing his blatting under
its weight. --You understand that -- you've wielded it yourself, in fragments
-- no, in echoes, rather, when your own bugle-call rang out over the vales
and sent a fear far greater than one note, one Man, ought to have called down
upon so many. It looks like a horn, in this Circle and manifestation, to most
people at least.
My head hurts. Wait -- all you're saying means that when the Myths say things
like "and then they rose and went from the Timeless Halls" -- it's not anything
like halls, like -- halls, which I knew, but also not like getting up from
sitting down like us now, or -- except for it is. Sort of.
[he grimaces, running his hand through his hair]
If you could really imagine it -- you'd be remembering.
[with a shooing gesture]
Not important. What I'm
trying to say is, your ideas aren't bad -- but they
didn't work. And nobody can kill Melkor -- at least, we can't. There's no
way to stop one of us from re-embodying, so long as we have the will for it,
and the strength, and our strength comes from the World. You see the problem?
Yeah, but . . .
[he shakes his hand in a listen-up gesture]
Couldn't you have Seen that he'd go bad again and not let him out?
Foresight doesn't work that way, dear one -- you know that. Not that there's
one way of it, of course, any more than there's one model for physical vision.
? ? ?
Sorry, I'm getting distracted by details. Occupational hazard of Immortality,
I'm afraid. Anyway, there are many different ways of "seeing" the future.
Sometimes it's as clear as in a mirror, which is to say, a glimpse of something
in the distance, otherwise out of sight, crisp but not really in context.
Sometimes it's more like seeing something through mist -- a wider panorama,
but a lot blurrier. And then there's the perfectly natural foresight which
results when you know lots of things -- was there anything supernatural, for
instance, when you watched your enemies and knew what they were going to do,
and made your traps and then they fell into them?
[he shakes his head]
--But sometimes wisdom
fails, and things happen that you don't expect. It
wasn't that Melkor "turned bad again" -- it was that he'd been bad all along,
and only tricked us into thinking that he'd reformed. We forgave him thinking
that he'd finally grown up, not because we thought he was going to do it again.
But people don't turn good. They pretend to, sometimes, but -- look at
those two b-- look at the sons of Feanor. They didn't change.
[she smiles sadly]
Do you know about Osse, Beren?
Um . . . wait a second, he's not one of the Powers we used to call on,
but I think I remember, hold on -- he's one of the gods of the Sea, right?
Or did I mix him up with Eonwe again?
No, you're right. He's one of Ulmo's thanes. He's also married to a friend
of ours. --He's also a lout and a loud-mouthed idiot, in my opinion, but then--
--it takes all sorts
to make a World. --Uinen Sees something in him that
I can't, so it must be there. But long ago, before Time as you know it began,
he was seduced to the Dark by Melkor, who promised him unlimited authority
over the Seas, in return for betraying his Lord. And Osse did it.
But if he was dumb -- I can't believe I just said that -- like you said,
then . . . maybe he didn't realize that was what he was doing?
Oh no, he knew better. He has some significant weaknesses, and those were
what Melkor appealed to -- he didn't resist at all. He likes smashing things,
though to be fair it's more that he likes noise and activity, he just has
far too much energy and far too little intelligence to figure out what to
do with it. And sometimes you need things smashed, to stir up the proper
elements or to move things out of the way, so things don't stagnate, and
he's good at it. But he doesn't know when to stop, and he doesn't like to
hear it from anyone else, either. So he and Ulmo used to lock horns an
awful lot, and Melkor offered him the chance to be his own boss, -- with
the very-quietly-not-emphasized-at-all disclaimer that of course, he'd be
working for him instead. And . . . he ran amok. Our Enemy used him to strike
at both Ulmo and my husband, both of whom give him terrible inferiority
complexes -- Melkor, I mean, Osse doesn't care at all about Aule's Work --
and at me, too.
He ruined some superb
headlands we'd just finished, and a lovely submarine
plateau that Ulmo was particularly happy with, and the fissures he started
caused a chain of eruptions that took us Ages to get under control again.
It looked like it was beat-him-up-and-throw-him-out time, and nobody was
feeling much in the way of regrets for it -- but Uinen came to us in tears
and pleaded with us just to trust her, that she could talk him down and
convince him to turn himself in, that he didn't really understand that
he'd been used, and couldn't we please just give him one more chance? And
Aule did: he went and talked to Ulmo for her, and because he'd been so badly
hurt by Osse, too, Ulmo was willing to listen, and not to dismiss the idea
as well-meant but misguided affection, and to put aside his own hurt feelings
at Osse's betrayal, to let him have that chance. And that's what happened.
And he did see that he'd been wrong, and he did apologize to us, and he's
been good since. --Good for him, that is, at least.
[she picks up a pebble from the ground by her feet and flings it downhill]
I still think
he's a loser, but as long as Uinen keeps him out of my gardens,
I'll put up with him for her sake. --Have I lost you in all the details?
No. You're saying people can change, sometimes, because it's happened before.
The thing is, this is Morgoth we're talking about, not some poor pawn getting
roped into the affairs of kings -- you had to know that he wasn't likely to
have any regrets, right?
Melkor . . . was far more plausible in his repentance than Osse. Osse just
came across at his trial as -- completely lame. He was rude to Manwe, sullen
to Ulmo, indignant to Aule, and acted as though he was more the victim than
anyone else. If I hadn't known his wife since the earliest chords, if we
hadn't been best friends and colleagues since the Beginning, I would have
thought she was just blinded by love, too. And you know, that might have
been the case -- but as it happened it wasn't.
We all know someone
who's been hurt in this mess, who's had friends or
family go over to the Enemy, as well as lost irreplaceable Work in it.
It isn't as simple as "us" and "them" the way it is for you, being new
to the conflict. We're all one people, we Ainur, and Kinstrife is a
terrible, terrible thing. And you want to think well of your family,
and your friends, -- and their friends. It's so much easier to believe
that they didn't really mean it, and they're sorry, than that they're
using you and playing you for a fool.
[shakes her head]
I did tell Uinen,
though, that if he hurt her like that again, I would find
some way to trap him, in mud or maybe sargasso, and make him spend the rest
of Arda giving rides to coots and ducklings, or migratory arthropods. --I was
a little tipsy then, though; we girls had been celebrating his pardon with her
and the end of that offensive, depending on one's perspective, and we were all
a bit out of control. We were going to help her redecorate, but it went . . .
odd, and there were some strange results.
Beren: [disbelieving smile]
You all got drunk and started making things?
So to speak.
[she keeps trying not to grin; he's not quite sure if she's teasing]
There was a lot of free atmospheric energy still left over from the action.
That didn't make any sense.
[she only shrugs, with a rueful smile]
What kind of things?
Yavanna: [virtuously prim]
When I was in Nargothrond, I saw some carvings of things called "squid."
Are those for real, or was that just a joke?
That . . . was pretty early in the evening. --Or would have been, if there
had been evenings then.
You mean there's weirder stuff than that in the great ocean? More weird
than things with their eyes next to their feet and all those stringy legs?
We're still not sure who's responsible for jellyfish. Or pearl-oysters.
Or those fish that turn into hedgehogs, though I'm pretty sure that was
Vana. Melian came up with flying fish and croakers, and I remember thinking
for some reason that barnacles were just hilarious, and then it was too late
to do anything about it, the Ideas were already forming in the World . . .