(Part IV)

SCENE V.xvii

    [the Hall]

    [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]


    [she nods]

        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!?

Captain: [serious]
        Perhaps there has been some misunderstanding, gentles. Are you quite sure
        that her Highness is speaking of the same individual?

Steward: [aside]
        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?

Luthien: [shrugging]
        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.

    [to Fingolfin]

        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.

Elenwe: [admiring]
        Tis deftly done, is't not?

Amarie: [harsh]
        --What, pray?

        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.

    [to Finrod]

        -- 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.

Amarie: [coldly]
        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 world 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]

Elenwe: [musing]
        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.

    [Fingolfin winces]

        Daughter, daughter, have mercy -- I rue thy losses, and I obey thy
        bidding now.

Nerdanel: [wryly]
        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.

Teler Maid
        This Telumnar, he is a great fool, I dare to say? For I cannot place him
        in memory.

Steward: [bleak]
        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.

Apprentice: [aside]
        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]

Luthien: [correcting]
        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--

    [breaking off]

        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,
        isn't it--

    [she is shaking her head]

        I heard about it from Dad--

    [he looks relieved at her words]

        --after Mom told him.

        Ah. Right.

        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.

    [quickly reassuring]

        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.

Finrod: [mild]
        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--

Aegnor: [cutting]
        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]

Teler Maid:
        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]

Apprentice: [tolerant]
        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.

Teler Maid:
        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]


Third Guard:
        Beren told us, Sir -- oh, that's right, you weren't here then. It was--

Finrod: [flatly]
        --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?

Ambassador: [nods]

    [he checks, then goes on with some reluctance at her Look]

        That was in part -- in part, 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
    with Nerdanel]

        I do apologize, my lady.

    [she makes a dismissive gesture with her hand, unable or unwilling to speak
    just then]

        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]

Warrior: [stricken]
        The Greycloak invaded Nargothrond?

Fourth Guard:
        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.

Finrod: [frowning]
        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]

Ranger: [earnestly]
        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?

Captain: [muffled]
        Professional humiliation.

    [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.

Steward: [quietly]
        You're forgetting another factor, as you judge them -- and yourself --
        too harshly.

Captain: [scornful]

        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,
        too, and--

    [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.]

Apprentice: [reasonable]
        But you can't do anything to affect what happens there now.

Captain: [bleak]
        I know. --I know.

    [he rests his forehead on his arms, closing his eyes]

        [thin whine]

    [the Hound licks the side of his face without getting any response. The Elf
    of Alqualonde regards her friend with a concerned expression.]

Teler Maid:
        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
        from you.

    [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.]

Captain: [sighing]
        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]

Finrod: [neutral]
        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.

    [aside, seething:]

        Invading. My City. --Those bloody fools!

First Guard: [frowning, to his companions]
        I'm surprised Beren mentioned nothing of this when he talked about
        the letter.

Luthien: [carefully]
        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.

Fingolfin: [indignant]
        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]

Teler Maid:
        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]

Teler Maid:
        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
        other birds.

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.

        That's disgusting.


        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]

Luthien: [forlorn]
        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.

Luthien: [unhappily]
        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]

Teler Maid:
        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]

Finrod: [lecturing]
        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.

    [heavy silence]

Soldier: [somewhat shyly]
        My Lady--

    [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?

        Of course--


        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
        than naught--

    [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]

Luthien: [short]
        Why not?

        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.

        Yes, but--

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]
        I am.

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.

Fingolfin: [grimly]

        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]

Fingolfin: [offhand]
        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.

Captain: [innocent]
        I beg your pardon, Sire, but surely you're not referring to any of the
        present company?

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.]

SCENE V.xviii

    [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.

Beren: [surprised]
        I was talking about -- myself. About us.

    [smaller voice]

        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?

Yavanna: [amused]
        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.

Yavanna: [shrugging]
        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?

    [she nods]

        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.

Beren: [noncommittally]
        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.

Beren: [neutral]
        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
        else then.

    [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.

    [she nods]

        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.

Yavanna: [meaningfully]
        You do understand.

Beren: [wistful]
        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]


    [she shrugs]

        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.
        Sort of.

    [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
        the holes.

    [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.


        [The Hall]

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 . . .

    [looks around]

        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.
        --Shut up.


        --It means nothing--

        --It doesn't mean anything--

    [they stop and glare briefly (but curiously) at each other, then look
    determinedly away]

        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.]

Aredhel: [amused]
        So . . . that's what you really want--

Eol: [interrupting, through clenched teeth]
        --Shut up.

    [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 . . . ?

Luthien: [frowning]
        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?

Luthien: [worried]
        I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're asking, Finrod.

Finrod: [flatly]
        You and Huan were discussing things.

    [she nods]

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
    whines sadly]

Luthien: [shrugging]
        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 . . .

        Are you--

    [closes his eyes, starts over again. Carefully:]

        Has anyone besides yourself heard him?

Luthien: [straightfaced]
        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]

Finrod: [blankly]
        All right.

    [leaning back to look at the Captain]

        You weren't making a joke about it, then, earlier.

        No, Sir.

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.

Huan: [grinning]
        [happy tail thumps]

        Ow! --Huan!!

Aredhel: [very aside]
        What utter rot.

Eol: [just as obviously not intended to be heard by Luthien]
        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
        is over--!

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.

    [aside, aghast]

        --And completely insane--!!

Luthien: [crossly]
        Well, I challenge you to come up with a better one on short notice--

    [breaking off]

        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
    people about]

        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.

    [melancholy whine]

Luthien: [concerned]
        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.

Finarfin: [resolutely]
        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.]

Youngest Ranger:
        Rains jewelry here, eh?

Teler Maid:

    [she does not sound particularly contrite, though -- he smiles at her, and
    she giggles]

Youngest Ranger: [straight-faced]
        What are these?

Teler Maid:
        Those are pearls, which come of oysters, which are akin to snails, though
        they do not look it. One finds them underwater.

Youngest Ranger:
        Are you sure? They look like polished white glass to me.

Teler Maid:
        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.

Youngest Ranger:
        How do beads come from snails?


Teler Maid:
        I am not quite sure.

Youngest Ranger: [still deadpan]
        Are you sure you're not making fun of me?

Teler Maid:
        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!

Youngest Ranger:
        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]

Teler Maid:
        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]

Teler Maid:
        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?


Youngest Ranger:
        I think when you and I look at things, we see them differently.

Teler Maid:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        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?

Youngest Ranger:
        That wasn't what I said.

Teler Maid:
        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!

Youngest Ranger:
        But I didn't know it. Not until I was willing to ask Them and risk the answer.

Teler Maid:
        Are you afraid of Nienna, too?

Youngest Ranger: [surprised tone]

Teler Maid:
        Why? Or not, as it rather were.


Youngest Ranger:



    [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
        hurt people.

        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?

Yavanna: [sadly]
        I'm afraid I can't tell you.

Beren: [nodding]
        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
        about spiders.

        Yes, you do -- that's what they are, all of them. And others as well. It
        means the ones with hooves, not paws.

Beren: [embarrassed]

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
        guessed at.


        --Huan, too.

        You mean the Song.

Yavanna: [nodding]
        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.

Beren: [hopefully]
        But -- not that tall, right?

        Oh yes. Easily.


Beren: [apprehensive]

        With their foreheads.

    [longer pause]

        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]

Beren: [flustered]
        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?

Yavanna: [sad]
        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.


Beren: [wide-eyed]
        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.

Finrod: [pointing]
        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.

Aegnor: [fatalistic]

        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?

    [Luthien nods]

        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--

Luthien: [meaningfully]
        Watch it, all right, you hear?

    [the living High King turns to the Doriathrin lord, as the latter winces
    yet again]

Finarfin: [fascinated]
        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--

    [Finrod shrugs]

        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?

    [Luthien nods]

        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?

    [Luthien shrugs]

        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.

        Precisely so.

    [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?

        [mournful whine]

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]

Finrod: [firmly]
        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
        Morgoth's defenses.


        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)]

Steward: [austerely]
        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.

Warrior:  [wry]
        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.

Finrod: [grim]
        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]

Elenwe: [bemused]
        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.

Steward: [appreciative]
        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?

        [questioning whines]

        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.

        Quite so.


        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--

    [she shudders]

        --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
        moral support.

        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.


Luthien: [wry]
        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?


Finrod: [stifled]
        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]

Finrod: [didactic]
        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.

Finrod: [countering]
        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
        pretty badly.

Elenwe: [frowning]
        "Stomped"--? "Rattled"--? How mean ye?

        More mortal perversions of our speech, gentle lady.

Finrod: [edged]
        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]

Aglon: [hollowly]
        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?

Eol: [glaring]
        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)]

Eol: [aside]
        --Spoiled brat.

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.

Finarfin: [startled]
        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

Aredhel: [impatient]
        Father, he lost.

        --As did I, 'Feiniel.

        You lost against the most powerful Vala ever to walk the earth.
        While he--

    [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

Finarfin: [softly]
        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]

Aglon: [aside]
        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--
        Very likely--

    [they both stop and look at each other apologetically, waiting]

        You were there -- I'm just speculating.

        Yes, but you're the genius.

    [to Fingolfin]

        --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]

Third Guard:
        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]

Luthien: [tense]

    [he shakes his head, not meeting her eyes -- with an echo of power:]


Ambassador: [struggling against himself, still not looking at her]
        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--


Luthien: [cold]
        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
        his henceforth.

        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.

    [she grimaces]

        Those words left such a foul taste behind.

        Highness, however did you manage to bring down an entire citadel of
        your own power, unassisted?

Luthien: [shrugging]
        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.

Luthien: [rueful]
        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]

Aegnor: [roughly]
        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.

Captain: [reasonable]
        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.

Luthien: [patiently]
        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.

Finrod: [wry]
        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--

Finrod: [sighing]
        '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.

Nerdanel: [dry]
        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]

Fourth Guard:
        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.

Apprentice: [incredulous]
        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?

Amarie: [coldly]
        His own fate, he did him choose.

        Thou answerest not. --Why?

Amarie: [sharp]
        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.

Steward: [grim]
        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
        to pass.

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.]

Aredhel: [frowning]
        Who's that?

        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 --
    and gratitude]

        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]

Amarie: [desperately]
        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.


Finrod: [airily]
        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?

Aegnor: [aside]
        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
        my place--

Finarfin: [fond]
        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]

Angrod: [ice]
        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--

    [Finrod winces]

        --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]

Angrod: [choked]
        You left us at Araman.

Finarfin: [dispassionate]
        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.


Aegnor: [hoarse]
        What can we say to her, after abandoning her for Cel and Cur's
        friendship? Even before they killed Ingold. Even -- even leaving
        aside myself--

    [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.

Angrod: [hurt]
        We're not--

    [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
    at himself]


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]

Finarfin: [patient]
        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
    lord intently]

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]

Finrod: [silken]
        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.

    [fond exasperation]

        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]

Finrod: [dry]
        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]

        --Resent him, 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]

Aegnor: [whispering]
        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.

        [loud growl]

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?

Finrod: [brittle]
        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.

Aegnor: [incredulous]
        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]

Amarie: [edged]
        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.

Finrod: [blunt]
        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,
        however violent.

    [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]

Fingolfin: [mild]
        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.

Finrod: [terse]
        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
    his distress]

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:]

Aredhel: [incredulous]
        What?! They thought you were a god?!?

    [she laughs out loud]

Eol: [grinning]
        They're even stupider than my relatives. At least Melian was one.

Finrod: [to his brother, through clenched teeth]
        That's why.

    [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.

Aredhel: [condescending]
        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
        say anything:]

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.

Finrod: [stern]
        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]

        Yes, Father?

        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?

Finrod: [conceding]
        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..

Finrod: [acerbic]
        Along with being far too nice for my own good?

Aredhel: [mischievous]
        I would have let them think I was Varda -- for a bit, at least.

Angrod: [not-quite-aside]
        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 explaining 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
        technical perspective.

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,
        this time.

        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 . . .

Finrod: [defensive]
        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.

Fingolfin: [innocent]
        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.


        Obviously all 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 underway, requiring
    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--!

Ambassador: [quietly]
        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.

Captain: [snorting]
        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.

Captain: [modestly]
        We tried.

    [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
        the subject?

        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.

Captain: [flatly]
        Guessing games aren't really my style, though I like a good riddle as
        much as the next soul. What are you getting at?

Aglon: [harsh]
        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?

    [more silence]

        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]

        "--Manifestly," 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--

Apprentice: [interrupting]
        When you all decided that enough was enough and to act as though
        everything between Tirion and then hadn't really happened?

Captain: [nodding]
        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
        and watered.

        You just did what he said? Without saying anything to him?

Captain: [shrugging]
        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--

Apprentice: [disbelieving]
        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--

Apprentice: [irrepressible]
        --Long story?

        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 . . . ?

Captain: [shrugs]
        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]

Apprentice: [glumly]
        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
        of late.

    [there is a slight tension in his expression and voice at the last]

Apprentice: [frowning]
        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
        his horse?

        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.

Aglon: [aside]
        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
        fourth commander--

    [Angrod ducks his head down to hide his expression]

Ranger: [aside]
        That pun got old very fast.

        I don't understand -- why is that funny?

Steward: [grimly]
        It wasn't.

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.

Aglon: [aside]
        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.

Aglon: [caustic]
        I was Doorwarden -- which is a post of no small responsibility, involving
        dealings with multiple strangers.

Captain: [innocent]
        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
        than that.

Captain: [noncommittal]
        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?

Captain: [bemused]
        Don't you remember it yourself?

Aglon: [awkwardly]
        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,
        but here.



        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]

Apprentice: [intense]
        What does?

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.

Aglon: [haughty]
        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.

    [longer pause]

        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.

Aglon: [fierce]
        We're not--

    [breaks off abruptly, unable to go on; the Captain turns a flashing Look
    upon the Feanorian partisan.]

Captain: [ice]
        Not what?

    [waits for answer, but none forthcoming goes on:]

        --Kinslayers? Murderers? 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.

Captain: [coolly]
        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]

SCENE V.xxii

    [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.

Yavanna: [nodding]
        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.

Beren: [dry]
        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.

SCENE V.xxiii
    [the Hall]

        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.

Finrod: [carefully]
        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 he was 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.

Apprentice: [troubled]
        I'm afraid I don't understand.

    [Luthien shrugs]

        I don't suppose you do. I didn't, either.

Finrod: [surprised]
        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!"

    [melancholy smile]

        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.

    [rueful aside]

        --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
        in Doriath.

        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]

Steward: [cold]
        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?

Ambassador: [stiffly]
        I cannot.

    [to Luthien]

        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
        before her?

    [his counterpart from Thingol's court draws himself up to retort, but then
    his shoulders slump and he does not answer]

Finrod: [gently]
        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
    the waterfall]

        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.

    [Luthien frowns]

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]

Amarie: [passionately]
        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.

Angrod: [aside]
        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 tone]
        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 thyself first in thine own regard -- yet the same
        didst demand of her!

Aredhel: [taunting]
        Isn't it against some rule for the gracious Vanyar to argue with us
        lesser Elves?

        For shame, child, you mock your very grandmother in such wise!

Aredhel: [resentful]
        She didn't approve of me, anyhow.

Aegnor: [dry]
        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]

Steward: [serious]
        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
        both sides.

Nerdanel: [dismayed]
        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]

Steward: [mild]
        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]

Steward: [warmly]
        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
        possible, while--

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.

Amarie: [slowly]
        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.

Apprentice: [aside]

Captain: [quietly]
        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.

    [she grimaces]

        --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
        of me?

Soldier: [aside]
        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
        the ash.

    [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--

Aredhel: [piqued]
        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?

    [long pause]

        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.

Finrod: [pleasantly]

Finarfin: [wry aside]
        In truth, there's one fashion of far-off words I care little enow for
        its taste.

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?

Finrod: [innocent]
        Well, he's certainly a force to be reckoned with.

    [the Lord of Dogs gives a playful tug on his sleeve]

        Oh, come on!

Angrod: [frowning]
        But wouldn't that make all of the Hunter's dogs the same?

Finrod: [shrugging]
        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]

Luthien: [austere]
        I was born.

Angrod: [placating/defensive]
        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]

Fingolfin: [gesturing]
        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]

Luthien: [aside]
        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.


Fingolfin: [tolerant]
        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?

Finrod: [shrugging]
        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]

Finrod: [diffident]
        It opens up other possibilities as well--

Aegnor: [barely controlled]
        Don't. Say. It.

    [his eldest sibling does not look round at him]

        I haven't.

        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?

Elenwe: [wry]
        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]

Steward: [musing]
        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--

Warrior: [earnest]
        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.]

SCENE V.xxiv

    [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]

        You can't.

        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
        normal life.

    [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
        we lost?

       "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?

Beren: [confused]
       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?

    [long pause]

        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.

Yavanna: [calm]
       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
        digesting it!

    [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.


Beren: [stricken]
        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.

Yavanna: [shrugs]
       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
        in Hithlum--

        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.

Yavanna: [patiently]
        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.

    [Beren snorts]

        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--

Beren: [dry]
       --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]

Yavanna: [sighing]
         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.

    [humorless laugh]

       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.

Beren: [choked]
        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

Yavanna: [softly]

        You would have given them to me, had I asked you.

    [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?!

Teler Maid:
        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.

Youngest Ranger:


        But now that you know that none of your friends were part of the
        Kinslaying, why not still?

    [longer pause]

Teler Maid:
        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--

    [stops suddenly]

Youngest Ranger: [anxious]
        You do believe that Lord Edrahil is innocent, don't you?

    [she nods, disconsolate]

Teler Maid:
        He has truly changed, then?

    [he shakes his head]

Youngest Ranger:
        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?

Youngest Ranger:
        When I went to the City at last, against my elders' wishes, it was--

Teler Maid:
        Why did they not wish it? Or wish it not?

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        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--

Teler Maid:
        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.


Teler Maid:
        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.]

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        That was not very kind to say.

Youngest Ranger:
        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
        me some.

        "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
        perfectly acceptable."

        "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.

Teler Maid:
        Understand which?

Youngest Ranger:
        Why he said for me to go boss people around in his name.


Teler Maid:
        So wherefore did he?

Youngest Ranger:
        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
        so minded.

Teler Maid:

    [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,
        I'm guessing.

Teler Maid:
        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
        you about?

Teler Maid:

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        Oh. --What is cirth?

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        That same Daeron who hated Beren, or another?

Youngest Ranger:
        The same.


Teler Maid: [acerbic]
        I think you are right in the matter of your skill at recounting stories.

Youngest Ranger: [shrugging]

Teler Maid:
        It is a very plain story, notwithstanding your plain telling of it.

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

    [brief pause]

        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.

Teler Maid:
        Why not then ask him?

    [he shrugs noncommittally]

        --It is not a very good story.

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        You mean--

    [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.

Teler Maid:
        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--

Teler Maid:
        And that was help?!

Youngest Ranger:
        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]

Teler Maid:
        But then what?

Youngest Ranger:
        I don't think you want to know about this.

    [this provokes a strong outburst]

Teler Maid:
        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]

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        Of what fashion was it?

Youngest Ranger:
        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

Teler Maid:
        But that is here -- I know that garden.


        Not here. I mean at home. --At the House.

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        There's naught amusing in it -- at all.

    [he ducks his head a little]

Youngest Ranger:
        You had to have been there, I guess.

    [very serious]

        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.

Teler Maid:
        Then for what does he call himself a coward, when that is not at all
        the way of it?

    [he shrugs again]

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        Why did he deceive you?

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        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?

Youngest Ranger:

    [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--

Teler Maid:
        Then for what hold you it to his credit?

Youngest Ranger:
        --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?

    [she shivers]

Teler Maid:
        That is too cold and tangled for me by far.

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        But all ye do make sport of him with light words and many.

Youngest Ranger:
        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?

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        If you are like the Vanyar then how can you fear the gods?

Youngest Ranger:
        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.

Teler Maid:
        But that means you are saying the Noldor -- some of them! -- are like the
        Powers to you!

Youngest Ranger:
        That's right.


        I guess Beren was right after all when we were fooling about.

Teler Maid:
        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?

Youngest Ranger:
        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
        among them.

    [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]

        Tell me.

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.

    [narrow Look]

        Are you afraid of them as well?

    [he shakes his head]

Youngest Ranger:
        No more than of Lady Nia.

Teler Maid:
        Oh. --Oh.

    [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.

Teler Maid:
        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]

Teler Maid:
        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.


Teler Maid:
        Does -- does he know?

Youngest Ranger:
        Of course.

Teler Maid:
        What does he about it?

Youngest Ranger:
        Nothing. --It's my problem, not his. He . . . he treats me the same
        as he always did. It's only I did change.


Teler Maid:
        That is so very sad.

Youngest Ranger: [shrugging]
        Not so very.

Teler Maid:
        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?

Youngest Ranger:
        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
    more pensive]

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]

Teler Maid:
        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
        with you.

Finrod: [quizzical]
        All right.

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]

Finrod: [seriously]
        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.

Steward: [quickly]
        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.

Teler Maid:

    [somewhat abashed]

        I meant about my friends, for that is what mostly does concern me.

Luthien: [wry]
        That's true for everyone, isn't it?

Finarfin: [shortly]
        There is no more to be recounted of mine eldest nor of his vassals in
        this tale, Maiwe.

Teler Maid:

    [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]

Youngest Ranger:
        Don't go poking people with that, all right?

    [she does not even smile or really notice his words, but stares at him very

Teler Maid:
        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.]

Teler Maid:
        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]

Finrod: [reflective]
        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.

    [to Amarie]

        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]

Teler Maid:
        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?

Teler Maid:
        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,
        is all.

    [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 --

Finrod: [straightfaced]
        You only said you might wear it.

Teler Maid:

    [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--]

Steward: [grave]
        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 . . .]

SCENE V.xxvi

    [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]

        Me neither.


        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 . . .


        It's different, 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 . . .

    [she sighs]

        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
        were born?

    [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]

Yavanna: [thoughtfully]
        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.

Beren: [dry]
        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.

    [lurking mischief]

        You've just caught him at a bad time, I'm afraid.


Beren: [wary & confused]

Yavanna: [shrugging]
        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.



        That's why.


        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.

Yavanna: [wry]
        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.


Beren: [flatly]
        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?

Yavanna: [coolly]
        Why, indeed?


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]

Beren: [softly]
        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]

        --"move on."

    [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]

        Thank you.


        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.

        . . .

        Would you?

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?

Beren: [frowning]
        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.

Beren: [dubious]
        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 . . .

    [definitely embarrassed]

        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,
        at least.

Yavanna: [incredulous]
        Did you just apologize to me for having gotten killed?


        Ah. --Sorry.

    [she reaches over and gives his shoulder a little shake, then ruffles his
    hair, smiling crookedly at his shy grin]

SCENE V.xxvii

    [the Hall. Luthien is looking rather dauntingly irascible at her present
    episode of reminiscing]

Finrod: [soothingly]
        Well, of course you wouldn't leave him after that.

Luthien: [caustic]
        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?

Warrior: [frowns]
        Um. --Her Highness got lost in the City too, only nobody helped her get

Youngest Ranger: [grimacing]
        Poor thing.

Teler Maid: [a little subdued]
        "Someone" -- do you by that mean Beren?

Luthien: [sighing]
        Unfortunately, yes.

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.

Teler Maid:


        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]

Fingolfin: [bland]
        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?

Finrod: [dry]
        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]

Angrod: [plaintive]
        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!

Luthien [aside]
        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 crying]
        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.

Finrod: [fascinated]

        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
        you was.

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.

Captain: [aside]
        That's an interesting way of putting it.

Angrod: [horrified]
        Cousin, did you think you were invincible?

Luthien: [simply]
        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
        any chances.

        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.

Luthien: [curious]
        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--

    [slyly offhand]

        --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
        embarrassingly-diffident manner--

    [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]

Finrod: [calm]
        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!?

Fingolfin: [straight-faced]
        To the Edain, your Highness?

    [Luthien grimaces]

        Are they all that stubborn, then?

        Mm, not . . . quite.

        Well, I can be stubborn too, at times.

    [the Apprentice coughs suspiciously]

Finrod: [deadpan]
        No, really?

    [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
        past century.

Luthien: [serious]
        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.

    [Huan whines]

        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.

    [increasingly agitated]

        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]

Finrod: [calmingly]
        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,
        sudden action--

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.

Luthien: [coolly]
        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.

    [ignoring her]

        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]

Ambassador: [carefully]
        But -- it was real, Highness.


        --Was it not?

Luthien: [matter-of-fact]
        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.

Finrod: [troubled]
        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.

Finrod: [awkward]
        Oh. That.


        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
        its end.

    [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
        with Morgoth.

        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.

Luthien: [sharply]
        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
        Tulkas' logic.

Fingolfin: [darkly]
        No High Elf has ever killed -- or sought to kill -- one of the Secondborn,
        our lessers and our lieges. Such unchivalry is beyond thought.

Nerdanel: [brittle]
        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]
        I know.

        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]

Aglon: [shouting]

    [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
    rushes on:]

        --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]

Aglon: [stifled]
        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]

Aredhel: [harshly]
        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
        fully intentional--?

    [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!

    [longish pause]

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]

Finarfin: [edged]
        '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?


Teler Maid:
        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]

Elenwe: [wistful]
        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.

Luthien: [grimacing]
        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 . . .

    [she shivers]

        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]

Steward: [aside]
        Holy Stars, another one --

    [to Luthien]

        --No, my Lady, 'twould not have been.

Huan: [snuffling Luthien's ear]
        [sympathetic whines]

        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]

Aegnor: [abruptly]
        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]

Aegnor: [shortly]
        That's because our ancestors gave them the same names when they got
        to Valinor, not because they were actually exactly the same--

Ambassador: [silk]
        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--

        [enthusiastic tail-thump]

        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!

Apprentice: [gloomy]
        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,
        all right?

    [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.


        All right.

Luthien: [sharp]
        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,
        you know.

    [in the following pause:]

Apprentice: [quietly to the Nargothronders]
        Another mortal expression?

Youngest Ranger: [same tone]
        No, that's ours.

Apprentice: [aside]
        How very confusing.

Youngest Ranger:
        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]

Luthien: [bemused]
        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.

Finrod: [bland]
        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?

Fingolfin: [glum]
        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.

    [long pause]

        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.

Luthien: [forlorn]
        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.

Aredhel: [harsh]
        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.

Luthien: [bleak]
        That's no good. He's forgotten.

SCENE V.xxviii

    [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
    of Light.]

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.

Yavanna: [fondly]
        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
        the stone?

        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]

        You're upset.

        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
        his own.


        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.

Yavanna: [patiently]


        You know this. You said as much yourself. Before, during, and after
        your Quest.

    [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 . . .

    [trailing off]

        --Dramatic enough?

    [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.


        --Every day?

        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.

Beren: [flustered]
        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]

        Think sometimes.

        Oh. Yeah.

    [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]

Yavanna: [intense]
        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.

Yavanna: [nodding]
        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 it? You think, speak, perceive and do -- how do you
        yourself, or your people, shape the world around you? Can you explain
        the process--

    [with a dry Look]

        --without any 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.

Beren: [stiffly]
        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.


        The hawk.

        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.

Yavanna: [biting]
        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!

Beren: [deadpan]
        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.

Yavanna: [snorting]
        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
        different outside.

    [smiling sadly]

        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.

Beren: [indignant]
        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?

    [very dry]

        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
        or caught?

        Those weren't your only alternatives, though.

    [he ducks his head]

Beren: [gruff]
        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.

Beren: [suspiciously]
        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.

    [he snorts]

        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?

Beren: [disbelieving]
        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
        oyour own.

        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]

Beren: [tight]
        I don't want her to suffer because of me.

        Too late for that.

    [very gently]

        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.

    [still serious]

        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 sound 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
        did it--


        --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. . .]

SCENE V.xxix

    [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
        for you?

        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 loudly, with
    troubled eyebrows]

        --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,
        believe me!

    [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 tolerant disbelief;
    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.

Finrod: [darkly]
        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.

Nerdanel: [ironic]
        Nay, surely belike not

        What words?

    [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--

        [sharp bark]

        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]

Luthien: [sighing]
        Yes, he is that.

        What does that mean?

Youngest Ranger:
        Insanely stubborn.

Apprentice: [dawning enlightenment]
        Oh -- like her.

    [Finrod snorts and turns away hastily]

Luthien: [indignant]
        I'm not swarn!

    [deafening silence]

        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]

        --were you?

    [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?

        Shut up.

        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
        Dark gods.

        Noldor lackey.

    [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!

Finarfin: [mild]
        My jurisdiction extendeth not so far--


        --and most glad I am of't! --

    [to Aredhel]

        --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.


Nerdanel: [tightly]
        '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.



        Oh, well.

Luthien: [with another Look]
        You're doing it again.

        Oh, I'm so sorry -- I keep forgetting somehow.

        Well, stop.

Finrod: [reasonable]
        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
    evil eyebrow"]

        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.

Apprentice: [bemused]
        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.

        [forlorn whine]

        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--

    [to Finrod]

        --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?!

        I wasn't.

        But -- Beren was?

Luthien: [shrugging]
        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.

Steward: [meaningfully]
        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]

Captain: [wry]
        I guess we didn't need to worry about teaching him about mental reservation
        after all.

Angrod: [frowning]
        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
        it all.


        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--!

Captain: [rueful]
        --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?

    [angry sigh]

        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]

        Beren's thoughts, 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


Luthien: [bemused]
        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 . . .]

Finrod: [bemused]
        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]

Luthien: [disgusted]
        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
    recollecting himself]

        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--!?

    [Luthien nods]

        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 sighs]

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]

Luthien: [dry]
        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--

Aegnor: [snorting]
        Just dumb.

    [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.

Teler Maid:
        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
    her action.]

Nerdanel: [quietly]
        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
        desert, Nightingale--?

    [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.

Youngest Ranger:
        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?

Luthien: [quickly]
        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]

Elenwe: [simply]
        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.

Second Guard:
        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
    the while:]

Youngest Ranger:
        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
    lips, blinking:]

        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.

    [smiling wistfully]

        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

Aegnor: [taut]
        If he'd really cared about you, he wouldn't have proceeded onward at all.

Luthien: [ignoring his comment]
        It just--

    [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.

        . . .

Finrod: [lecturing]
        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, but scientific
    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.

    [curious aside]

        --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--

Aredhel: [sniffing]
        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]

        What road?

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.

Fingolfin: [snorting]
        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.

Fourth Guard:
        And the autumn mud, too.

        And the consequent need to engineer diversionary drainage on a temporary basis.

    [to Eol]

        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
        short, Highness.

    [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.

Eol: [snide]
        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?

Fingolfin: [bland]
        Nay, and I thought that was what we were speaking of.

Aglon: [loudly]
        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.

    [long silence]

        --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.

Fingolfin: [somber]
        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
        the peaks--

    [she shivers]

        And then there were all these 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.

    [Huan snarls]

        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.

Luthien: [ruefully]
        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]

        [prolonged growls]

        That part Beren managed to convey pretty vividly. He called the
        beast Carcharoth.

        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"--

Finrod: [snorting]
        Humble fellow.

Luthien: [teasingly]
        So says the "Fair-Haired Hero."

Finrod: [dignified]
        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--

    [gesturing frustratedly]

        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.]

Nerdanel: [primly]
        It seemeth a most slovenly heedlessness ye have fallen upon, concerning
        so great a matter as names.

Fingolfin: [genial]
        --"Bunch of slackers, that's us."

    [to Finrod]

        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.

Elenwe: [bemused]
        Perchance to thee, sir.

Luthien: [to Finrod]
        People just called you names wherever you went, anyhow. --That didn't
        sound right.

        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 was 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]

        --single individual.

    [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.

Captain: [cautiously]
        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--

Apprentice: [slowly]
        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
        only pity--?!

Luthien: [simply]
        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?

        I don't.

        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?

Luthien: [blinking]
        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 --

    [to Fingolfin]

        --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.

Finrod: [blankly]
        I . . . see. What -- what a muddle.

    [as he is contemplating this with an abstracted frown, someone else is having
    a very different reaction.]

Apprentice: [urgent]

    [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:]

        --Stop it!

    [this is clearly one of those episodes where trying to do so, like certain
    hiccoughs, only makes it worse]

Aredhel: [peevish]
        Now why doesn't he get in trouble for doing exactly what he's so violently
        set against anyone else doing?

Finrod: [mild]
        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]

Angrod: [pained]
        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
    disbelieving smile]



    [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.

Yavanna: [shrugging]
        No. But it's so nice to hear one's Work praised by someone who appreciates
        it properly.

    [he gives her a thoughtful glance]

        Y'know . . . Tulkas said something about helping us . . . Do you know
        if it's true?

Yavanna: [frowning]
        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 . . .?

Yavanna: [mock-solemn]
        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.

Yavanna: [bland]
        Not only stubborn, but contrary, too.

Beren: [indignant]
        I'm not contrary--

    [realizing, he can't help grinning at himself]

        Just ornery.

        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?

Yavanna: [offhand]
        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]

Beren: [dry]
        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, what 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?

Beren: [wistful]
        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]

Beren: [softly]
        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 . . .


Yavanna: [sadly]
        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
        even Namo.

        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]

Yavanna: [sympathetically]
        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 bad.

SCENE V.xxxi

    [the Hall -- the Ten are mostly being (suspiciously) solemn -- except when
    they can't manage to avoid catching one another's glance and start snickering
    again. (Even the Steward cannot prevent an austere smile.) The ghostly
    descendants of Finwe are mostly looking disapproving, though the living
    Valinorean ones are regarding this regrettably-unseemly display with doubtful
    alarm, as when dealing with amiable lunatics...]

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
        own sword.

    [longish pause]

        And that -- thou deemst diversion?

    [Nerdanel doesn't comment, but looks rather nauseated]

First Guard:
        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
    wild-eyed now]

        Our own Captains, that are no rash youths, nor indifferent to danger,
        nonetheless find that risk does not take away all levity in their
        defensive calling.

Luthien: [rueful]
        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]


Apprentice: [aside]
        Sounds like Measse and Alatar swapping stories of The Old Times -- "I
        disintegrated more rebel partisans than you did--"

Captain: [snorting]
        "--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.

    [wickedly bland]

        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?

Luthien: [dry]
        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]

Finrod: [bland]
        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,
        do you?

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
        its corridors?

        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]

Warrior: [aside]

Youngest Ranger:
        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]
        --Unreliable. Completely.

    [the Ex-Thrall makes a sudden abrupt movement, and the Sea-Elf gives her a
    concerned glance]

        What are you talking about? What is "this"?

Finrod: [flatly]
        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.

Angrod: [dry]
        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.

Aredhel: [sighing]
        At least when they're arguing about imaginary maps of Thangorodrim, nobody's
        being forced to play chess.

Warrior: [aside]
        Lady Amarie's Vanyar, too.

Youngest Ranger:
        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]

Finarfin: [covering]
        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
    resolute diplomacy:]

        --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]

        Only if--

        If you don't mind--

        --Doing anything else ever.

Finrod: [to the late High King]
        Sorry, Sire.

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]

Warrior: [confused]
        People don't have fault lines.

Youngest Ranger:
        Yes, we do, you just can't see them so well.

Second Guard:
        No, that's stone.

Youngest Ranger:
        --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
        game myself.

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. They 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
    says nothing.]

        Yes . . . his cohort of the most powerful of the whole crew, the elite of
    the elite.

    [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

Ambassador: [aside]
        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--

Luthien: [interrupting]
        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.

Nerdanel: [sighing]
        Nay, and at end they oft do come to one and same.

Teler Maid:
        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?

Luthien: [shrugging]
        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.

Luthien: [straight-faced]
        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.

Finrod: [dry]
        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.

Finrod: [grim]
        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.

Finrod: [grimacing]

        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.

Ambassador: [incredulous]
        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
        queen unexpectedly.

        "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.

Fingolfin: [rueful]
        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--

Eol: [disbelieving]
        The mortal?

        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--



Luthien: [sadly]
        All right.

    [going on]

        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
        new slave.

    [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!

Fingolfin: [judicious]
        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.

Warrior: [blunt]
        Yes. We are.

Fingolfin: [grim]
        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--

Eol: [dry]
        Not to mention arrogance.

Luthien: [simply]
        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?

Luthien: [shrugging]
        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]

Luthien: [shrugging]
        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.

Apprentice: [frowning]
        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.

Aegnor: [grimly]
        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]

Aredhel: [matter-of-fact]
        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.

Amarie: [incredulous]
        The bright Avenger never did encourage him i'the least! No more than did she
        the Archer -- save but by being.

Luthien: [ironic]
        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
        cost me.

Angrod: [sighing]
        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.

Teler Maid:

    [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?

Luthien: [shrugging]
        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.

Eol: [incredulous]
        You -- partly -- became a Vampire?

    [she nods]

        That's impossible.

    [Luthien shrugs]

        It wasn't easy.

Eol: [exasperated]
        No, no, no, that's impossible.

Finrod: [looking at the ceiling]
        I don't say that very often any more.

Eol: [lecturing]
        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.

        Well, I--

        You must have been hallucinating.

    [Luthien sighs]

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.

Ambassador: [earnest]
        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]

Luthien: [straight-faced]
        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]

Luthien: [embarrassed]
        --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.

Finrod: [solemnly]
        --Which, in operation, is difficult to distinguish from the actions of
        the insane.

        Particularly if it doesn't work.

Steward: [obliquely commenting]
        I believe you mean when: it is eventual, not conditional, that outcome.

Aegnor: [aside]
        Is anyone going to notice that I was polite and restrained and said nothing
        to any of that? --Of course not.

Apprentice: [lecturing]
        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.

Apprentice: [correcting]
        A translation. --Free.

Finrod: [curious]
        Of what?

        "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.

Eol: [pleasantly]
        --And in notable short supply.

    [at her annoyed Look -- all innocence:]

        --I'm only saying what you yourself thought earlier, my cousin most noble
        and divine.

        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,
        very well.

    [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
    Youngest Ranger]

        --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

Aredhel: [snappish]
        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]

Elenwe: [sniffing]
        Aye, that thou wouldst, none shall deny.

Aredhel: [aggressive]
        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.

Luthien: [brightly]
        Well, that's about to change. --Again.

    [long pause]

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.

    [he nods]

        Oh. Well. --That figures.


        Let me see if there's any way I can explain it . . .

SCENE V.xxxii

    [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?

Yavanna: [bland]
        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.

Yavanna: [serious]
        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?

Beren: [thrown]
        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?

Yavanna: [shrugging]
        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 . . .