Part V of Act IV is dedicated equally
to the authors of
ACT IV. BELOVED FOOL:
BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA
retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script
(with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare)
- Part V -
[the Hall -- there is a general air of bewilderment among Luthien's audience, not unlike that sometimes to be seen in college lecture halls, usually accompanied by a blackboard completely covered in chalk equations and a professor who has quite forgotten that there are students present]
You were right -- I think I'd have to be you to understand what it was you were doing. -- Or perhaps Nessa. You're working completely outside any paradigm I know.
Sorry, I tried.
It was when you started talking about realigning potentialities as if they were axes of crystallization that you lost me.
Luthien: [lecturing again]
Well, music already does operate in the planes of space and time, invisibly, so really I'm only adding a visible four-dimensional element to the Work --
Finrod: [laughing helplessly]
I understand the general theory -- very generally. It's the application of it that leaves me baffled. Somehow you're dragging the Circles along with you, when you do what ever it is you were doing, instead of simply moving in them -- with or against their motion -- the way ordinary people do. I can See what you're doing while you're describing it, but I can't hold onto it.
Now you know how the rest of us feel most of the time, Sire, when you get theoretical.
Oh, I'm not that bad, am I?
Sometimes I understand you, my lord. And -- I believe -- your sister does as well, usually.
I see that your Working, my Princess, has much in common with the girdling Labyrinth of our own defenses that your mother made, with its narrowness of range and duration increasing its intensity correspondingly.
-- Of course, I know nothing of how she made her Great Work, either.
Finrod: [struck with a sudden distracting idea]
You know, what I'd like to do, Luthien, is take a look at the astrographic projections of that time sequence and see if there were any confluences among the Constellations that might have worked in your favour as well --
Yes, well, that's not going to happen any more than my father's lunatic element are going to get themselves a working chronometer synchronized to Outside, I'm afraid. I don't get the impression that the Weaver is so happy with you right now that she'd fetch you some star charts if you only asked nicely.
I thought I'd just have some smuggled in. I figure I can suborn the help into bringing them, in exchange for new riddles from Overseas that no one's heard here yet.
[he manages to keep up the innocent look for a moment longer while his Lawful relatives just stare at him, and Luthien puts her head down on her knees to hide her laughter]
Sorry, Father, Aunt 'Danel,
I just couldn't resist. The look on your faces --
[wiping his eyes]
-- almost worth the look she's giving me now.
[Amarie's expression would go very well with Huan's earlier growling]
Could you even use an astrographic projector? That's a bit different from blasting holes in the floor, isn't it?
[his oldest brother shrugs]
It would be an interesting challenge, in all respects. -- Sorry.
Elenwe: [trying not to smile too obviously]
Nay, is't so, Ingold? I do misdoubt thee somewise.
I've got my doubts too.
Nerdanel: [to Finarfin, blandly]
Am I much mistook, brother? for I had thought me sure in recollection, that this thine eldest, even as most wise, of thine offspring present was.
[Finarfin struggles to keep a solemn countenance -- but loses out when one of the Ten whispers loudly from the ranks:]
-- It's all Beren's fault.
[none of this diverts Amarie at all]
Ah well -- time for my lady to scold me for impiety.
[he assumes a solemn expression which only gets a more steely-eyed glare as its reward]
Naught have I to say unto thee, my lord, presently; for ne'er have I held skill at the making of japeries, no more will I contend thee thy mastery thereto.
But I do wonder that thou hadst such opportune moment and golden within thy grasp and didst not strive for it thine own self.
I beg your pardon?
Wherefore, thou alone might wield such power, even as thou alone might enter there, -- and yet --
-- thou madest no use of place nor power to amend the ruin of fell Morgoth's spirit, that thou hast most piercingly and thoroughgoing e'en now described.
Did anything I said give any indication that Morgoth wants to be healed? Healing isn't just a matter of power, any more than the extent of injuries -- particularly when they're self-inflicted, let alone continually. It's like trying to stop someone from fading -- I could barely get him to accept an hour's respite from his pain.
Why didn't you at least kill him?
[Luthien is not the only one who finds this suggestion a bit incredible]
Um. Because we're not Tulkas and Tavros?
[raising her hands in frustration]
If your father couldn't do it, do you really think we could've managed to defeat him, even if he was -- temporarily -- asleep? Besides, even if we had damaged his house beyond repair, what would have happened then? I've no idea. But I'm fairly sure we wouldn't have gotten out alive, because there'd still be an army alive there -- which was the whole point of the endeavor.
Warden of Aglon: [half to himself, taut]
But you didn't even free a single slave.
[Luthien gives him a sad, understanding glance, and does not argue with him]
Ex-Thrall: [calmly -- too calmly]
You don't know what you're talking about.
[after one glare, he deliberately ignores her -- but she doesn't ignore his comment. Addressing the company at large:]
There's no realistic way that any one individual -- or two -- or twenty -- might find their way through the warrens of Angband to its mines and smithies, unguided, and there where all are sleeping as well as guarded, waken only those guarded -- and not their guards! -- unchain them -- still without waking those guards, and lead them out, without again, arousing their guards -- thralls who would barely be possessed of enough wits to comprehend were they full awake, and whose fear should make them unwilling to believe enough to aid themselves, rather than raise the alarm themselves for mere confusion --
Warden of Aglon: [hoarse]
Ex-Thrall: [still disregarding him]
-- and who have enough reason to think it but another game of the King's devising, or his Commander's, to taunt them with phantom rescuers?
-- It could not be done. Better give them an hour's true dreaming, than a half-hour's false hopes with more punishment at the end.
[the Warden of Aglon has risen and now strides across the dais to stand over her, burning with rage]
Warden of Aglon:
Silence, you --
Ex-Thrall: [flinging out her hands]
Say it, all of it -- I welcome it, all of it, as no more than truth --
Warden of Aglon:
[she nods, grinning madly]
-- True, true --
[pained yelping whines]
[he continues making unhappy noises through the following fight]
Angrod: [embarrassed as much as distressed]
Oh, for Pity's sake!
Aredhel: [looking around exaggeratedly]
I don't see her about, do you?
Warden of Aglon:
Death is far too kind a fate for you!
[the Ex-Thrall grovels before him, half laughing, half crying, at his insults]
Aye, my son, canst thou do naught to cease this spectacle of misery?
I could probably break it up -- for the moment. She doesn't wish me to, though, he doesn't answer to me at all, and it won't resolve a thing, any more than exiling Feanor did.
Aren't you going to do something about them, O my powerful cousin?
When I figure out what would be best, yes.
Aredhel: [bitter smile]
Well, the half-divine ancestry's not in question: all talk and favoritism.
Warden of Aglon:
To think I once considered you a friend! You --
You're not worthyto be named Eldar --
[the former Healer bows her head in acceptance, while her most recent companion looks for reinforcements]
You're more truly Dark than he is --
[pointing to Eol]
-- his crime was only passion, only one accidental blow, but yours --
Don't patronize me -- it wasn't an accident, I knew what I was --
So you were trying to hit me?
[the Teler Maid scrambles over to the Captain, tugging at his arm]
Teler Maid: [urgent]
Will you not speak for her? You, her friend?
[as she gives him a Look of outrage -- grimly intense:]
I haven't the right.
[she freezes at his words]
Warden of Aglon:
You spider, to wind your webs of deceit around those who trusted you, and feed upon their lives!
Warden of Aglon:
Ah, yes --
I don't know -- do you?
Do not be cryptic with me!
Captain: [sad smile]
I'm not, Osprey.
[in the midst of her distress, something changes in the Sea-Elf's face and she stiffens]
[she gets up and stalks back to the two Noldor ghosts, her arms akimbo]
[they don't notice her. Getting in between them:]
It is enough, I tell you! You hunt her so you need not hear yourself, see yourself in the midst of all that baying racket. You have not the right -- you are not one of them from yon darkened Tower nor the Dark Lord's hells -- no more you are your brother, to ask for vengeance of suffering.
[the Ex-Thrall starts beating her head on the floor; the Lord Warden stares at his contradictor in amazement, and disdain]
Warden of Aglon:
Hold your tongue, infant.
Nor will I. Until you shall.
Warden of Aglon: [passionate]
She is evil. She has murdered her own people, helped the Dark Lord in his tyranny, and freely, for only her own cowardice and gain -- !
Teler Maid: [calmly reasonable]
And so have you the same. Thus you are without right to judge her, being full well as bad.
Warden of Aglon: [eyes blazing]
I am not Dark!
[he leans over her menacingly]
Take it back, Latecomer, or --
Teler Maid: [not budging]
Shove me yet again, will you not?
[folding her arms and giving him the full glare]
Aye, smite me even -- how can I stop you? None but you can do it. But I will speak you true, even as our dear lord Olwe spoke to yours, whether you heed my words as little as yours heeded his!
[the Warden makes a sweeping gesture with his arm]
Warden of Aglon: [weary and frustrated]
You have no part in this. Go, get out.
Should law submit to fear?
Warden of Aglon: [exasperated righteousness]
I won't hurt you, girl.
Nor will you her.
Maiwe, leave me -- I deserve nothing better.
You cannot see the North Star in your mirk and so are drifting without course or bearing. You are no fit judge of your own self. -- Or do you think you are a better judge of your deeds and worth than Lord Namo, Lady Vaire, and the Lady Nia all together? Hold you now they are wrong, for not saying those same terrible things to you?
[turning back to the Lord Warden]
I know you would say so, just as I know you think you are ill-used -- but, well --
-- you are a fool.
[too angry for further speech, the Warden of Aglon strikes her hard across the face, knocking her backwards -- the Captain grits his teeth, but gestures his command to stay put, watching his friend for her response to guide his own. Shocked and ashamed at his own actions, the Feanorian lord stands nevertheless defiant, as the Princes move to deal with him -- but the Sea-Elf gets up first. Rubbing her cheek, blinking away tears, she still faces him down unafraid. There is in her voice the same cold tone heard before in Luthien's, when giving judgment -- and echoing that of the Star-Queen . . .]
Your answer is the same as ever was, to them that refuse your tyranny -- hard word, and harder hand.
[tilting her head on one side, looking him up and down]
-- Was that not how it befell your own King at high Formenos, my kinsman?
[the Lord Warden flinches as if struck in return, and draws back, recoiling, shaking his head in denial, but she does not retract or ameliorate her words, or her icy -- and triumphant -- Look]
Warden of Aglon:
I -- I am not --
[he chokes up, unable to continue, panting and wild-eyed, clutches tearingly at his hair for a moment, and suddenly crumples to the dais in a shuddering heap before her feet, as if struck by the arrow that killed him. (Huan howls once, and tries to hide by jamming his head under Luthien's elbow.)]
See? You cannot say it, can you?
[she goes and sits down again, with the tired air of someone who has proven a point but wishes it hadn't been necessary, utterly blasé, to the astonishment of most of the onlookers. Glancing around at the Captain and the rest of Finrod's partisans:]
Thank you -- for not rescuing me then.
[people are trying not to stare at the tormented Warden, huddled grimacing on the stones with the agonized expression of one trying heroically not to break down and cry, almost the mirror image of his victim . . .]
That was . . . brutal.
[it isn't clear which action he's referring to, as he looks from the Kinslayers to his mother's former assistant with a taken-aback expression. The Sea-Ef shrugs carelessly]
Teler Maid: [to the Ex-Thrall]
I did mean what I said to you, no less.
[continuing as the former Healer raises her head]
You would do better to wash your face than bruise it on these stones.
[she nods pointedly towards the Waterfall, but does not get up to help her -- or make her -- follow the recommendation, and after a moment the other woman rises unsteadily and makes her own rather shaky way over to the pool, where she kneels down, silhouetted in the shifting lights; the Alqualonder has no words, however, for the Lord Warden]
You do not care about his pain?
Teler Maid: [shaking her head]
Not so much.
[she plays with her bracelets for a moment before explaining]
I had much pain when I did live, from the thoughtlessness of such as he, and when the terrible Dark descended on us by our waters, he and his lords came not to us to offer any heartening word nor consolation, but only took thought of how we might serve them, and they to use us and -- I did not much care for dying.
[tossing back her braids]
His pain moves me not so great that I would suffer me to end it, when all that does concern him is to 'scape it, not to mend what makes it.
Angrod [looking between his former acquaintances of House Feanor]:
You have pity to spare for her, but -- none for him?
[again the Elf of Alqualonde shakes her head]
She does not lie to herself any longer.
Hm. So your mercy is purely conditional -- you save it for the ones who yield to you, just like Manwe and the rest of them.
Teler Maid: [shrugging]
It would not do him any good. He only hurts because he will not give up the Darkness that is in him, and when he is reminded of it, it pains him, but he will not bear to have it out. Once a fishhook is in you, it must hurt to get it out, for either you must drive it through if it is little, or cut free the barb if it is great, but if you leave it in -- there is less pain but never shall it heal, and 'twill be far worse of injury after.
He might be free, had he only courage for it as much as he wishes it.
[the Feanorian lord convulses, his hands clawing at the floor, but will not look up -- or vanish]
Ambassador: [frowning in distress at an erstwhile enemy's suffering]
-- Much truth, but little kindness.
Teler Maid: [impatient]
Why do you look for it in me? The sea is salt, not sweet.
Many grains . . .
Finrod: [sad smile]
How wise you've grown, Maiwe -- and how much Insight you've gained.
Teler Maid: [still impatient]
I have been dead longer than any else of you -- longer than one here has been alive!
[she nods towards the Youngest Ranger]
-- and things I have learned here -- though I would not heed the lesson.
[she gives Nienna's student a Look half-sulky, half self-amused]
How might I not know these things?
I cannot tell myself any longer that 'twas all others' doing that I was wretched in Tirion -- though no more was it mostly mine the blame of it.
[scowling at the Lord Warden again]
I would like to kick him -- but that would not help him any either, I think.
Oh, you never know.
[defensive, at various Looks from apparent elders]
Well, it might --
Luthien: [very dry]
No, I really don't think so.
Apprentice: [pleased aside]
But it did help what it was meant to --
[glancing at the Teler Maid, who is smirking in spite of trying to look serious]
-- it made her smile again . . .
[The Ex-Thrall returns, still looking somewhat in shock and haggard, but remarkably calm and sane, if gloomy. Part of this, no doubt, is due to the fact that not only has she washed the tearstains from her face, but her collection of rags and cast-offs appropriated from deceased owners has been replaced (as we see when the cloak slips back when she sits down) by a different garb: now she is arrayed in the semblance of light & rather ornate armour with an embroidered surcoat, though without sword or bow -- the sort of thing a Noldorin Healer might wear when riding out through disputed territory . . .]
I . . . think so.
[she makes a vague gesture with her fingers]
But . . . hollow. And empty.
So is a hull, before 'tis planked and loaded.
[the Noldor shade gives a faint half-smile]
I . . . there is not much left of me, now, having given up my shame.
You know about that, from our vocation. It takes time to restore flesh, and spirit, too.
I know. But I do not know . . . I am worn out with battering against my cage, and now that the bars are gone . . .
[she shakes her head again, looking lost]
Youngest Ranger: [earnest]
It's all right. You've time. -- You're not so plainly crazy now.
[he shakes his head in answer]
No more than the rest of us.
That might not be much of a comfort, though.
[she smiles at him, an exhausted but genuine smile]
I can live with that.
[she exchanges a meaningful Look with Finrod]
-- Perhaps . . . someday. Perhaps.
[his confidence makes her smile again for a moment, before turning a sympathetic eye to the one who has moved into the state she has finally vacated.]
Oh my friend . . .
Too strong to seek oblivion, yet too fearful to bear justice, -- and too proud to admit error. I hope you are not held in such chains for so long as I.
[slowly the Lord Warden straightens into a crouch to snarl at her, baring his teeth in fury, -- then flinches aside, squinting as if blinded by the sight of her. As he trembles there, whatever harsh response he was about to make forgotten, she holds out her hands to him]
Will you let me help you? Or will you scorn the pity of one such as I?
[still flinching, lifting a hand to shield his eyes, the Warden of Aglon looks at her, and is amazed to see that she is crying for him. With a visible struggle, he reaches to her in turn, still fighting against his own inclinations]
Warden of Aglon:
Please -- help me, my Lady --
[the Healer's ghost crawls over the step to him, catching his arm and letting him fall against her shoulder as he breaks down at last in unresisting tears. She holds him quietly throughout as he cries, unstrung as someone pulled out of the water after a shipwreck, her eyes closed, saying nothing. The Captain looks at Aredhel.]
You're wrong, Highness. She's here.
[the Exiled princess shivers, and looks away with a petulant frown]
Our good Lady, of course.
[Nienna's Apprentice looks about, baffled]
No she isn't.
Unless you're being all weird and dead and mystical about it.
Captain: [raising an eyebrow]
Apprentice: [forced lightness]
You're not making any sense -- still.
There but for Doom, you?
Apprentice: [through his teeth]
What are you talking about?
[his former adversary gives him an askance Look of renewed wariness, while the living Eldar struggle for self-possession following the recent events, and Luthien and the Steward together attempt to comfort the giant Hound, who is still whining and trembling like a puppy in a thunderstorm]
Amarie: [shaken, but controlling it well]
Is't ever thus, such woe and even such searing of remorse its pangs, amongst the houseless held herein?
I fear me so. 'Tis far pleasanter in veriest truth to bide upon Taniquetil's airy foot, amid Valimar's fair harmonies, than under the mountain-roots, where lamentations do rarely stir the silence that here prevaileth.
Amarie: [sharply biting off each word]
I am here, as I am bid, but for duty, nor for any pleasure of mine own, thou mayest well of that assure thyself.
I always wondered that he never tried to lure in any -- Vanyar -- at all. You sure the Lord of Paranoids didn't try recruiting you?
[the Apprentice glares at him]
-- Not interested.
I'm afraid all of us have gone through something of the sort -- or shall, eventually, or at least so one hopes. -- Self knowledge hurts.
Ingold -- be thou aught more gentle. 'Tis an ill place for we that live, thou must comprehend.
What, you, or him?
[he shuts down, glowering at the floor, while the Captain watches him with a mix of concern and professional curiosity]
As long as they don't have to know about it, it won't bother them, and we wouldn't want anything troubling their precious peace-of-mind now, would we?
Niece, 'tis not that we would not to contemplate, but rather --
Oh yes it is, you know I'm right --
Aegnor: [interrupting her interruption]
Morgoth's mercy, can't you just shut up?
[rolling his eyes]
Hey, maybe Turgon threw you out -- is that it?
Luthien: [looking up]
You shut up, Aegnor, you're just making it worse.
There's a certain measure of truth in what 'Feiniel says, you know.
Oh, thank you so much, Father!
Eol: [nudging her meaningfully]
I'm right about you not being able to stand your own people, aren't I?
Huan's having a nervous breakdown and none of you are helping.
Teler Maid: [frowning, annoyed]
Why must they all fight like children? There's no point in this.
[she frowns at the low-grade snarling among the Noldor royals which continues in the background, while the rest of the Ten exchange here-we-go-again Looks . . .]
He didn't even bother.
[in an indignant rush]
-- Other people besides Finwe's scions have glamorous older siblings besides whose accomplishments yours pale into nothing too, you know.
I suppose it's all for the best, really.
-- "Suppose" . . . ?
[raising his eyebrows]
I think maybe I understand why you're assigned here a little bit better.
No, I didn't mean it that --
Captain: [with a friendly shove]
I'm teasing you.
[shaking his head]
You're far too good-natured. You'd make as bad a -- minion -- as Himself did. Or me.
Steward: [to his ex, quietly]
Because of fear, and witness of suffering that one is helpless to end, and all the old unrest, the unhealed injuries we gave each other before some left this shore.
He might care for being brushed, do you think, my Lady?
Perhaps. I think it's more the discord that's getting to him, though.
-- Does anyone mind if I keep going?
[but she is only looking for one person's response. The Ex-Thrall does not look up or leave off consoling her compatriot, but nods, raising her hand to continue]
All right, then. So anyway, as I was saying -- as soon as my Working was damaged, we forgot all about everything except getting out of there before it unraveled completely and just fled -- I wouldn't have thought I had the strength left for it, one moment I was wobbling like a newborn fawn, trying not to black out from overexertion -- I was shakier than I was right after Huan caught me --
[the Lord of Dogs paws at her knee plaintively]
It's okay, you know it is -- I was just using it as an example --
[scratching his ears]
-- but when Morgoth started stirring, I was up and running as fast as anything, dragging Beren along behind me -- except when he was dragging me, careening into corners and columns and jumping over sleeping snakes as if we were doing one of those warriors' competitions, only not carrying spears -- trying not to get disoriented and go down a side hallway. It was all empty and quiet and the silence itself was just terrifying.
Because it was quiet?
Before there was so much noise -- vibrations and thumpings and screeching like branches in a storm, and shouting; and hissing sounds like giant snakes, or when you pour water over a fire -- or quench a sword, probably that's what it was, tempering, only much, much louder -- and now it was just us, the only noise was ours, and we kept panicking and grabbing each other and turning around because it sounded like we were being chased, but --
[with a self-mocking smile]
-- it was only us, each time, our echoes chasing after. And then we saw the light up at the tunnel's end, where the Gate opened, and it hurt so badly, the terror of hope, that it almost seemed we could make it, and then a darkness rises up and covers it like a thundercloud, -- only one with red glowing eyes -- and we stopped all in a tangle.
[very loud snarl]
Carcharoth. -- The part you told me, in very brief, earlier.
Yes. He'd wakened, and gotten up and turned around at our approach, staring at us with this crazed,blank, expression, sniffing and growling, looking like he was completely terrified and angry and ready to fly at us for both reasons, the way dogs get sometimes around strangers. I knew we were doomed because I'd used all my strength in quelling his Master, and I didn't know how I could bind him again -- but I had to try. And then --
He had naught of gratitude for thy prior mercy?
Why should he?
For that thou hadst released him from his pain, nor wrought harm nor sought ye thus, against him?
I tricked him and humiliated him and made him a slave to my power. -- That's how he saw it. No, he wasn't grateful. Why? Did you think he would have recognized me as a friend, and let us go, or even helped us, let me ride him like Huan, or fought against his pack-mates to defend us? He was a Hellhound. That was the life he knew. You didn't really think that the fact that I was able to pity him, would make him able to reciprocate, or change all that?
Still the same naive impractical idealist, Amarie. The world's a harsh and bloody place, I'm sorry to have to tell you.
[Amarie only looks at Luthien, ignoring the insult]
In a perfect world, perhaps. But we haven't got one.
Teler Maid: [completely wrapped up in the story -- and her hair -- again]
What did happen then?
[she stops again and takes a deep breath; Huan looks up at her worriedly, whining]
Are you going to be all right?
Oh yes. I can think about it if I sort of shut my mind against it, like the gates of Menegroth, and tell it without dreaming it. That's how I managed to describe it to Mom and Dad and everyone.
[she braces herself and goes on:]
I was standing there, staring at him and then he pulled himself together, and sprang at us -- and as I was trying to pull together enough semblance of rationality and courage to fake my way through dealing with him again, Beren pushes me out of the way and storms past me with the jewel held up -- and you have to remember that it was getting brighter all the time, they all had been, from the moment Morgoth lost consciousness, as though they didn't dare to shine around him, or refused like songbirds in a cage.
[gesturing, holding up her right hand]
And Carcharoth halts, like an ordinary Warg confronted with a torch, but Beren doesn't -- he caught him by the scruff of his neck, as if he was just a bad dog, and Commanded him in this voice that didn't even sound like him, to yield to the Light that was the Doom of all fell creatures, and brings it up towards his eyes, blazing like all the lights in the sky at once, stars and moon and sun and the aurora in one fierce point, and the Wolf cringes away for an instant, and then in reaction, flips his head back and strikes like a fish taking bait, and --
[abruptly she clenches her fist]
-- his teeth took Beren's hand off, and he bolted it all down --
[she flinches, wrapping her arms tightly around herself and rocking a little. Finarfin unconsciously reaches out towards her before recollecting himself. General reactions among those who haven't already heard the story of awe and horror]
It wasn't supposed to be him.
[he looks stricken and anguished]
It should have been me. There are ways to take light that's stored in crystal and use it for other things than simply more light, later on. In Healing, to remove Dark influences, or in other Arts, to cut very fine lines --
I remember Galadriel talking about that, sometimes, showing Mom how it worked, and about getting some sort of array made in Belegost to amplify it, she said, but -- frankly I was bored by it, and I didn't see much point -- it seemed like so much extra work, but --
Aye, my Lady, but we poor Noldor, that have not the perfect and absolute pitch of your folk and blood, find such devices of easier use -- and more certain -- than the sung note, betimes.
[the Teler Maid gives him a very suspicious Look]
Ideally it all works together, thought, device, and voice. But regardless --
[closing his eyes]
If I had been the one there, with the Stone, I could have turned the power of it into a weapon, to blast the minion of the Dark senseless, blind him where he stood, and clear our path to safety, from safety. Beren -- had no chance. None at all.
Why do you think it would have answered you? You've no more right to it than the mortal, -- or anyone else except our cousins.
Didn't you hear? It came to his hand like a tame bird -- they wanted to be free. It tried -- it spoke to him, but being human he had no more hope of comprehending how to wield it than of channeling its power against the Wolf. He was like a child using a longbow to strike at an attacker, with neither the full understanding nor the strength to apply such knowledge as it should be.
Sire -- I believe it has been definitely and unquestionably established that neither you nor we are guilty of anything but bad luck for having been betrayed to our deaths. And as Edrahil will point out if I don't, so I'll be quick -- with regards to fortune, guilty is not the appropriate word, any more than guilt is to the situation.
Heed thee thy friend, Ingold.
[sounding as if she's picking up an older argument]
'Twould help thee perventure more, an thou didst more time devote unto quiet, even as contemplation, thereby to find thee rest; nor seek thee ever all things unto thy will ordaining most restive to go.
[Luthien puts her hand on Finrod's cheek and turns his face towards hers]
She's right, -- at least about not blaming yourself. I'm afraid I can't imagine you not trying to manage everything.
[he manages a wan smile and busies himself comforting Huan with nose-scratches]
And what did ye then?
Luthien: [with a bitter laugh]
I fell apart. It was just -- too much, to have come so far and tried so hard, and fail at the last moment like this. I just screamed and collapsed on the floor and started crying. But he didn't. He pushed off the wall as he fell and staggered over to fend off the Wolf from me with his left hand --
What good did that do?
Luthien: [shrugging wryly]
Angrod: [indignant on Beren's behalf, now . . .]
It was a selfless and courageous gesture --
Ah yes, so she could watch him get eaten, but he wouldn't have to witness her fate. -- Realistically, now --
Aredhel: [taut -- not ironic at all now]
-- Eol, you soulless rock -- at least he got between her and harm.
[she is rubbing unconsciously at her shoulder]
Oh, come -- you never wanted me to protect you, as if you were some frail, sniveling child-woman. Try for a little consistency, dear, if you please --
Aegnor: [aside, through clenched teeth]
-- Finrod, make them be quiet before I kill them both.
[simultaneously Elenwe taps Fingolfin on the arm, but is only anticipating by a moment, as he is already preparing to overcome his revulsion and talk to his son-in-law]
Master of Nan Elmoth. Mark my words very well. -- Show our kinswoman and her story due respect, because I enjoy chopping you into pieces far too much for my own good.
[they enter into a staring war, neither one willing (or able) to back down]
Aredhel: [poisonously sweet]
Darling, no one will think the worse of you for not facing the High King of the Noldor in single combat, again.
[Nerdanel shares a wry Look with her (living) brother-in-law]
Finarfin: [with a very familiar rueful smile]
-- Of certitude.
Eol: [calmly, (& sounding like he probably did in Turgon's hall)]
I'm not afraid of your father.
[she gives an exaggerated sigh]
Why must you insist on reinforcing everyone's impression that you're insane? I have a hard enough time as it is.
It's your curse, my love -- as you are mine.
[her father stands up, slow, deliberate, and yes, majestic]
Fingolfin: [not breaking his stare with Eol]
Aegnor. Arm me, if it please you, in Fingon's place -- but I will not need you to stand as second.
[his nephew gets up very quickly and enthusiastically]
Doth he not perceive how thy daughter hath ensnared him in yon challenge to thy wrath, Fingolfin?
[indeed, the White Lady is looking very smug]
Apprentice: [happy to be of use]
It's very difficult to tell, your Majesty. He's perverse enough to not care whether or not she thinks she's manipulating him successfully, because then he can look down on her for thinking him stupid. And there's a level on which he doesn't mind getting hurt because he's proud of his hardiness, and another which he doesn't like to admit, where he partly thinks he deserves it because --
Eol: [interrupting loudly]
Luthien, my sweet little cousin, I do apologize for troubling you with our unseemly backwoods squabbles, so far unlike the graciousness of your noble father's court, and I pray you continue with your fascinating narrative, I pledge uninterrupted henceforth, for all of me.
[Luthien closes her eyes in exasperation at his words, but nods in acceptance, and Fingolfin kneels down again in the circle of listeners; Aegnor following suit a little more reluctantly]
What an apology!
What? An apology? From Eol -- and I missed it?
I must apologize, gentles -- 'twas but a false alarm.
[the Sea-Elf (who in the latest semi-fracas has once again migrated over to Elenwe's protection) clamps her hands over her mouth to prevent an inappropriate giggle]
Now I'm going to kill them.
[Finarfin gives his younger son a baffled, disappointed Look]
No you're not, and you're going to stop joking about killing people, too -- it's upsetting Father.
I'm afraid I've lost my place.
Thou hadst e'en now told how thy wounded love did yet strive for to shield thee 'gainst thy red-jawed foe.
Yes, thanks -- Carcharoth wasn't even trying to attack us, then, he was just standing there, with a puzzled expression in his stance, still growling with his hackles up, but not really even paying attention to us. And then he flung back his head and started howling, as if he was being beaten, yelping almost, and all the Wolves in Angband must have wakened at his cries, because the echoes just didn't stop --
[her cousin from Beleriand looks extremely disgruntled]
There's a lot more.
? ? ?
And you promised you'd be quiet!
[she laughs delightedly]
Not that much more. He started bucking like a fractious colt, or like a young deer, flinging himself about as if he were trying to shake off embers in his coat, but couldn't, and after crashing up against the walls on either side -- blindly, not looking for us, he turned and bolted out through the archway into the open, still howling as he went, leaving the path completely unguarded for us.
[Huan wags his tail]
-- It was almost too late, other echoes were coming up from the depths, the Glamhoth's shouting and a deep bellowing like a wild bull -- and the floor started to shake, well, everything did, including the ground. Beren was in a very bad way, not much use at all --
[suddenly very fierce and daunting]
-- and don't anyone go saying anything about that being nothing new, or the like, understand?
[not even the least prudent is moved to levity]
-- but I was able to get him up again and on his feet for a bit, and we stumbled out of there like blind little puppies creeping out of their den, making as much regress as we did progress, I'm afraid, going this way and that.
[shaking her head]
I don't know how I did it. Each time, it seemed as though I'd come to the end of my strength, as if all I could do was curl up in a corner and wait for the end, and . . . somehow, from somewhere, I found just enough more to get up and keep going for as long as it took, after I'd given up. Well, you know about that from the War, I don't need to tell you --
But do you need to talk about it?
[she starts to answer, then stops, temporarily unable to speak; he puts his arm around her shoulders]
I know. -- I know.
We went as far as we could go, and then I couldn't even carry him any longer, and it seemed like I was wearing more of his blood than could be left in him, and it was obviously silly to think that we might get away, now, it didn't make any difference if we gave up here or a few paces farther, so I found some shelter and started working on his arm while everything fell apart behind us, and there was so much noise I could hardly hear myself singing, and I knew it wouldn't be long before they found a way around the landslide, but I couldn't just let him die like that, without doing anything --
[the Healer nods understandingly, from where she is holding the Lord Warden in his grieving]
Finrod: [reluctant to interrupt]
[Luthien wipes hard at her eyes]
I'm sorry. I'm getting this all out of order again. I forgot you didn't already know all this.
We heard about it from Beren -- except he didn't remember most of it.
Luthien: [ragged laughter]
I wish I didn't. I was beside myself trying to think what to do, because on the one hand I needed to get the poison out, but he couldn't stand much more blood loss, and he was so cold already from shock that I couldn't tell if I'd put the tourniquet on tight enough, or too tight, and I could hardly find enough edges on either of our clothes that weren't already soaked to start ripping bandages from --
[shaking her head]
But I was going to tell you about the situation. Morgoth lost his temper and with it his control over Thangorodrim -- I don't mean in the sense of not being in charge of it, but of what it all was doing. He's got his power spread all through it the way mushrooms spread all through the leaf-mould in a forest, whether you can see them growing or whether they're just an invisible web throughout the soil. When he realized what had happened, he was even more furious than Carcharoth and that anger rippled out into the rock and all the formations he's made, and the front part of the peaks fell down and caved in the gate arch behind us, and fire and fumes came spilling out of the mountain, just like during the Bragollach.
That must have been terrifying beyond belief for you!
I hardly noticed it. I finally did when I started wondering why no Wolf-Riders were galloping up to arrest us. But I was too busy being worried for Beren, then and after. The lightning was a more immediate worry, anyway.
Finrod: [biting his lip]
Sorry. He started trying to blast us from inside. Bolts were stabbing down all over the place, knocking down yet more rockfalls from the cliffs, and scaring all the vultures from their haunts -- it was all incredibly noisy and disorienting.
Fingolfin: [dark amusement]
His mark is not that good, it seems, for all that you were at his gates, and no moving target.
Lightning isn't as easy to aim as people think. It isn't like an arrow, a straight path from here to there, at all -- it has to grow. That's why it so often looks like a tree.
Nor doth King Manwe lightly brook such presumptuous meddling in his own consecrate element, nay, so little as Lord Ulmo amid the waters. 'Twould be a struggle counter to the very airs that bear that power, who may doubt, that his fell brother must wage to wry from them the thundery fireslash.
Finrod: [to Luthien]
You don't think it was your cloak helping to protect you?
It's not really a physical shield at all -- it's primarily camouflage, and a focusing device. The only thing it blocks is light, and I doubt that it would stand up to lightning, any more than I could.
But mightn't it have been preventing him from seeing you clearly enough to aim?
Maybe. But I think they're probably closer to the way of it. Anyway, it wasn't a -- a meaningful danger, it wasn't something that I could do anything about or that we could avoid, and there was so much danger all around, with the fires belching out and hordes of minions on the way and all of it that the only danger that mattered any more, was that of Beren dying from exsanguination or shock. -- At least I knew from having treated him earlier how much more careful and thorough I had to be, and I did manage to stop most of the venom from moving up his arm and minimize the damage as well as accelerate the normal recovery processes, but other than that there wasn't much I could do except hold him.
He -- he kept trying to smile at me, the whole time I was working on him, and after, when I made my own death-song telling him that I loved him and that I wouldn't have it any other way, if that meant never knowing him, and he kept just kept whispering "I'm sorry," until he lost consciousness.
Ambassador: [aside, in a tone of calm realization]
More than the curt word of revelation, in my Lady's anger, that this Man did for rash impulse or arrant pride or mad anger choose to set himself in my lord's defense -- and died for it! -- these glimpses of endless defeat upon defeat, and vain hopes dashed from triumph, and still to strive bravely without hope, but always, always love -- my resentful disdain and blame have entirely shattered. Should we indeed meet again -- I must hold him no more a stranger, far less enemy! -- but as an Elf, and brother to me upon our Earth, for all that reachless gulf between us.
I just wish -- that -- somehow -- it hadn't taken that for people to finally appreciate him.
[Huan licks her face]
I know, you always did. -- Good boy.
I would this might be apprehended in spirit of the utterance, than in seeming, but no matter --
Good my kinswoman, I do admit of curiosity, that did befall the Silmaril ye twain did seize, and was so swiftly rapt from ye in's turn, or did the Dark King recall and tear it from his servant's flesh, else hath the monster borne it afar to undiscernéd loss?
Luthien: [pulling herself together]
That's right, you left before -- it comes later in the story, though, we didn't find out until quite a long whiles after.
Your misadventure came not to its ending there, Highness?
It gets worse, Sire.
I keep hearing . . . odd rumours, about this next part.
Well, it seemed to come out of nowhere, but afterwards it all made sense. I'd wrapped him up in my cloak to keep him warm, and thinking that it was too bad that we couldn't even see the sun through all the fumes and the heaps of slag everywhere, and the wind kept getting stronger, flinging ashes all around. Then it got even darker, and I looked up, thinking it must be Morgoth come out finally to crush us in person, only it wasn't. It was the Eagle and his thanes, coming through the smoke towards us, dodging through the spires and gorges as if they were chasing down prey, and the closer they got to us, the worse the lightning got -- but it seemed to melt away from them, or they to avoid it without effort, riding the storm as if it was nothing more than a thermal.
The Enemy must have realized this, because pretty soon they started firing arrows from the battlements, not just a few random ones, but volley after volley like hail, as if someone were finally coordinating things. But that didn't stop them, Thorondor just came right in with Landroval and Gwaihir flanking him as outriders -- well, you know what I mean -- and picked us both up as carefully as if he were in his own nest, minding his claws around his babies, and took us all that distance we had taken days to cover before in a matter of heartbeats, not hours.
[with a brittle laugh]
I was crying so much anyone below must have thought we were a very quick-moving rainstorm, because I didn't think he was going to live, and even if he somehow did make it through this, I couldn't see how we would manage past it, how he could go on after a defeat like that, the worst one of them all, and all of it because of me --
[the Ten have been waiting for this -- the Ranger leans over and taps one of the Royal Guards on the arm]
See? I told you what was going to be different: Beren did everything and it was all her fault, not the other way about. -- Pay up.
[as the other Elf-warrior resignedly hands over some trinket]
I told you not to take his bet.
[Finrod closes his eyes]
Oh lads, give it a break.
Teler Maid: [frowning]
So . . . the more one does know, of things, or folk, the less of chance there is.
[she nods to herself, looking narrowly at the Steward]
Logically I know it wasn't, but sometimes . . . believing it is hard. Anyway they carried us, straight south to the borders of Doriath -- That's when I saw Gondolin off in the distance.
But you didn't go there.
Made ye no sojourn in the halls of mine own dear ones?
No. Huan was waiting for us, and they brought us back to him. -- They were very impressed by Huan
[she concentrates on playing with the Hound's collar and petting his ears]
-- as they ought to have been! He'd explained to them what it was we were about, and requested them to keep an eye out for us and do whatever they could to help us. They were very sorry we hadn't managed it -- sorry the way I was sorry, not just that we hadn't got them from Morgoth -- and I'm starting to sound like Beren again, not being very clear about who or what is what or who --
[she's trying to be bright and in control and failing miserably]
Thorondor kept telling me all about it, trying to keep me distracted, on the theory I suppose that one can't very well carry on a conversation and have hysterics at the same time. Though he did seem interested in everything I could remember to tell him about our adventures inside Thangorodrim.
[sniffling, pulling herself together]
He had an awful lot of awful things to say about Morgoth -- apparently, way back in the very old days, he was busy capturing ordinary hawks and eagles and trying to figure out how their wings worked . . . by cutting them off and using them as patterns for machines.
[she shivers, her expression dismayed at the idea -- and shared by everyone else, regardless of political alignment]
They really want him punished quite badly.
Third Guard: [aside to the Youngest Ranger, impressed]
You were exactly right about the Eagles doing their Work on their own.
Youngest Ranger: [nodding]
-- Just like us.
We ended up back where we started. Almost exactly. With Beren wounded and unconscious again, only this time we didn't have Horse, or the Angcrist, or the disguises -- though we wouldn't have been able to try again with them, I know -- or the Silmaril. He should have listened to me the first time.
[softly, as Amarie closes her eyes and laughs quietly, half-crying, in turn]
-- He should have listened.
[Elsewhere -- the Corollaire.]
[A wind sweeps through the grass around them, which has risen to summer height, full of wildflowers, and rustles in a prolonged susurrus like waves on a lakeshore. Butterflies flicker over it like reflected lights from water. They and the bees also feeding there land frequently on the two companions, fearlessly.]
So the King and Queen weren't just being . . . rhetorical? -- rhetorical, when they asked me for my opinions?
Why would you think they were?
Beren: [ironic laugh]
Well -- I'm just a Man. Why would the Powers That Be think I could help them? You wouldn't expect that.
But you're part of the Answer. You're the Third Theme, you Children, and we don't understand the Answer, yet. It was more hopeful, I suspect, than actually thinking you would have a solution, but since you were so adamant that you did understand the problem better than any of us, -- it was worth a try. Manwe's very open to suggestions. He's good at listening, our King.
[he frowns again, resting his chin on his arms]
Besides, it took so long for me to get there, it seemed like they were trying to put me off, like they didn't want to deal with me, like the Doomsman didn't want me to either.
[she gives him a Look of affectionate frustration, as a teacher dealing with a brilliant smart-alec:]
Where are the Halls of Mandos, Beren?
Under the Mountains of the West.
[in a very different tone]
Is that West as in here, west, or West as in west?
Yup. -- Where do Manwe and Varda dwell?
Beren: [not sure where she's leading]
On top of Mount Everwhite.
The highest peak in all the worlds-realm, yes?
Can you step from the roots of the earth to the heights in one stride?
So it was my fault that it took so long. Just like I couldn't see them properly. It was me.
Fault? Say your nature, rather.
Beren: [ironic, but self-deprecating, not angry]
What's the difference?
A matter of perspective. Is it better to see everything from a distance, in relation to each other, or one thing up close, in all its glory?
I think it would be better to see both.
Yes, but we can't. Not at the same time. Can you?
No, but -- I'm not a god, either.
They're right -- that really is annoying.
[he looks at her sidelong, rubbing his chin]
Huh. -- But you can't compare me to the King -- to Finrod.
It -- it just -- I'm not --
Have you not done all that he has done -- loved, cherished, striven against the Dark, suffered for those you love? How are you different, in that, from the Eldar?
Beren: [gesturing vaguely]
Yes, but we don't make things like they do, or know things, we --
The Noldor aren't the only people in the world who matter, dear one. They're not even the wisest, though they'll argue that. You know that the Vanyar consider them flawed, for caring so much about material possessions and the making of them, rather than paying attention to the universe that is all around us, and placing such things as high in their regard or higher, than persons.
Does that make you feel better?
Because that's really daunting, if you guys are taking us seriously and thinking that we're the same as the Elves, really, only not but then yes, really, in terms of what we can do, or maybe could do -- and thinking that we could maybe help Fix the universe, because that means you're thinking that on the level where it really matters, I'm not any different from Feanor. -- Or Finrod. -- Or Tinuviel. And I think about us, and all the stupid stuff that goes on just trying to get through a normal day without killing yourself or somebody else let alone when it all goes to hell, and I think -- Who are they kidding? We're not like that, we can't do that.
[shaking his head]
And then . . . and then I remember: Yeah, but you did. You just fetched the Powers in Beleriand a good one and walked away from it, for a while at least. Morgoth was as scared of you as he was of the High King, for a bit there. And that's just me. Why shouldn't they take us seriously? And that --
[whistling in dismay]
I don't want that kind of responsibility. This is so much bigger than Dorthonion, and I never really saw that when I was alive. It's like -- if you threw a rock in a temper tantrum and found out you'd started an avalanche. That's not right. We shouldn't be able to change the World.
[the Earth-Queen says nothing, but pats his arm with a sympathetic smile as he goes on glumly]
Plus I was rude and insulting. I told off Manwe and Varda like it was a council.
Oh, don't worry about it -- I do it all the time. As gods go, I'm positively hasty -- though not quite so impetuous as Tulkas! Manwe's used to hearing us rant, Tav' and me; they wouldn't expect anything different from you.
No, I wasn't just obnoxious -- I insulted -- her.
[chagrinned and glum]
Because I couldn't -- she isn't like --
[with an exasperated sound]
I made it sound like I thought she wasn't beautiful, because I couldn't think of Morgoth thinking of her that way. But -- she was just so -- cold and strange, compared to you, or even the Lady of Spring --
[Yavanna giggles, shaking her head]
You poor thing. Don't be embarrassed. You don't think she didn't understand? The Queen of the High Airs isn't shortsighted! You Saw the work of her hands, and loved her through it. Of course you couldn't See her directly -- she's a lot more complex and powerful than I am. It must have been very difficult for them to reveal themselves in a way that you could comprehend. Your folk don't fall in love with Stars, do you? Though of all Men I'd be least surprised at you.
[she winks at him]
Tinuviel isn't --
Actually, if the first time I ever saw her was putting down Carcharoth, I might have just worshipped her and been too overawed to look at her.
And even your own people who know them best, are daunted by the Elves. For the most part.
Yeah, aiming high seems to run in my family -- and so does missing the landing and busting a wing like a hard-luck hatchling on its first flight. What is it with us?
Or -- what is it with them? You're referring to that business with the King's son and your kinswoman, I take it. It's more that the Elves aren't any better at not interfering than we are. People are interesting and fun to be around, as well as dangerous and capable of breaking your heart. We can't stay away from each other.
When you say we, you mean --
[he sighs resignedly]
But was that bad, or not?
It has mixed results. Would you rather they hadn't adopted your family, but left you to your own devices?
No. But . . . I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. -- It just isn't fair.
No, people rarely get what they deserve, good or bad. Why do you think Namo's so gloomy all the time? Enforcing justice after the fact isn't very satisfying. -- Is it?
Uh-uh. But -- that's who he is. He doesn't want his job any more?
Oh no, more that he wishes it was unnecessary, that there were no more incidents of violence and oppression for him to keep track of. But he can't give it up, any more than I can, no matter how much we lose.
I was pretty obnoxious to him, too.
I'm sure he was prepared for it.
-- Yeah. He even told me I was gonna --
[he laughs bitterly, swatting at the stalks of grass and making their tassels swing back and forth]
Yavanna: [putting her hand on his head]
Trust me, you are nowhere near his least favorite person. You've got a very long way to go before you're in Melkor's league. We might be frustrated with you, sometimes, but -- that's because you're so much like us. I'm sure you haven't really hurt anyone's feelings beyond a moment. Not like the Noldor, or that punk loser of a water-elemental --
[he smiles a little, but doesn't say anything. Concerned:]
You do believe me, don't you? You're not agonizing about it again?
[he shakes his head quickly]
I'm still a little . . . croggled . . . at the way you talk about things . . . like . . . well, making the World, or . . . calling another god a loser. -- That wasn't Morgoth, I mean.
Oh, we . . . have words with each other. I've called people far worse things than that. We all have tempers, and some of us don't have much patience to go along with them. But at least -- and it's a good thing for the World -- when we get angry with each other we tend to throw words about, and not thunderbolts, or mountains. No matter how much we annoy each other, we find constructive ways -- or at least fairly harmless ones -- of dealing with it.
[shaking her head]
I can't imagine what agony it must have been for Melkor to go around all those days pretending he was happy and liked people, when all the time he was just plotting his revenge and hiding how much he hated everyone and hadn't recognized the problems with his behaviour after all. No wonder Nia calls him schizophrenic and compartmentalized! Why would you do that to yourself? It's so much easier to just confront somebody when you've got a problem, and get it over with. Or at least make it clear to everyone that boundaries have been overstepped and one is not happy about it. And no, pretty green rocks are not going to make up for it, even if they have been carved to look like new little leaves just opening and they're wearable, because shutting somebody out of a decision that important and treating them with that much disrespect, and it is disrespect even if you didn't think it was, because you ought to have known better and if you didn't think of me at all, well what does that say, hm? and jewelry isn't going to fix anything --
[breaking off mid-rant]
Um. Ah, did you say something?
No ma'am. I wasn't saying anything.
I'm just sitting here listening to you talk to yourself about your husband. And playing with bees.
[holds up one crawling on his knuckles]
Want a bee? They're pretty cute. Would a bee make you feel better?
[biting back a chagrined smile, the Earth-Queen carefully accepts the proffered insect, laughing at herself a little, but with a suspicious blinking, while Beren leans comfortingly against her shoulder. Meaningfully he says:]
Nobody can drive you crazy like the people you love. I know.
[Yavanna nods, sniffing]
Yavanna: [bright, but a little ragged]
-- Bees came out pretty well, didn't they?
[the Hall. The mood of the audience is still tense & strained, though the Lord Warden has calmed down and is sitting up listening, shoulder to shoulder with the Ex-Thrall, who has given him the cloak and is clearly his guide-protector now]
. . . There's only so many times one can say "I told you so," before there really isn't any point in it. Either the person you're saying it to agrees with you, and then there's no more satisfaction in saying it again -- or they won't agree with you, and saying so again just starts a fight. Or else you end up not talking to each other. He just got sadder, and sadder, and he hardly talked, not even to argue with me, and he never sang again.
[she shakes her head, on the verge of breaking down again]
It was just all so wretched and -- and -- I don't want to talk any more right now because I don't think I can.
[she rests her head against her hands, fighting for control, while Finrod sadly consoles her in silence. Huan, his head lying over her feet, sighs deeply, his ears mournful]
Teler Maid: [aside]
Wherefore do them that would love go ever at odds with each other? For I see now it is not we two alone, nor Noldor blood that causes it, as I did think --
[frowning at the floor]
-- unless it be merest difference, that makes us to differ so --
Can there be happiness only between the simple and the same? For it seems unequal must any friendship be that's between kind and kind, no matter what their kinds, and where there's imbalance then it must split, I think, as a flawed spar under sail's weight, for the weight of the world all broken.
[Aegnor closes his eyes, and the Steward looks at her with anguish]
But -- nor can two that are equal in skill and might and worth so easily abide each other without rivalry --
[she looks innocently from Aredhel and Eol to Nerdanel, and then to Finrod and Amarie]
-- no more than kingly brothers, be they Elf or god. Or cousins.
[the representatives of House Finwe shift uneasily]
Nay, for my love as myself did ne'er seek mastery upon each the other's will, but in our agreements as our disagreeing, we did stand as Tree and Tree, that might shine now alternate, now in unison, yet ne'er might one supplant the other, nor strivest the same.
Thou kennst, Maiwe, no more it was the way of it with mine own lady Earwen, that we did make matter of birth eke royal, as of Kindred's precedence, therewith to hold sway anent ourselves.
-- 'Twas graver matter far, when we did in end dispute.
Nor did thy good lady's true-love contend against his kin, nor his brother-prince seek honour over sibling, saving in respect to mine own lord, and that trouble, I confess, e'en as his and mine, was of root far darker e'en so deep, than merest likeness or unlike.
[Fingolfin gives her a grateful Look]
Our own King and Queen are more different than any other couple on this earth -- except --
[looking involuntarily at Luthien, he is suddenly overcome. The Apprentice starts to say something, then pauses and recollects himself.]
The same with the gods -- most of them don't fight all the time. If that's how it is with people, that the only way to interact is in terms of power and control, then --
-- we might as well all pack it up and go home, because the Dark's already won.
[the Captain nudges him warningly, but in the general discomfiture his small slip is not noticed]
Teler Maid: [doubtful]
I do hear ye, and yet . . .
Captain: [loud and definite]
Sameness doesn't make for peace. -- No more than lesser ability makes people content with life.
Do you remember that mortal couple in Dor-lomin, Sire?
Finrod: [a bit dry]
Contrary to popular opinion, I wasn't personally acquainted with every inhabitant of Beleriand during my lifetime. -- Which cou --
[checks, glances involuntarily at the Steward]
Oh. That story. I --
I don't know that it's appropriate, really. Do you think so?
Why? Because it's got an obnoxious mortal in it?
[Luthien flinches, and her shoulders go stiff]
Ah -- yes.
[he gives his friend a pleading, bewildered Look -- the Captain continues in cheerful innocence]
It isn't about Beren, though. -- Or any of his House.
[Aegnor grinds his teeth; his brother disregarding, continues to lock stares with his liege]
Have I failed you, Sir, thus far?
[Finrod ducks his head, conceding this round. To Luthien, who is giving him a melancholy Look not unlike Huan's]
-- You'll like it too, I promise.
Luthien: [sad smile]
Does it have a happy ending, my lord?
[he has to think for a moment]
Not really, I suppose. But it's interesting. And it's got a duel of music in it.
[she perks up a little at this and gives an encouraging nod, as the Steward in turn hunkers down lower, trying to disappear. The Sea-Elf, meanwhile, has begun to give her former co-worker a knowing glare, folding her arms and giving him a Look of combined annoyance and reluctant amusement]
Teler Maid: [tolerant]
Very well. Let us have this story of the Secondborn, which --
[she pauses significantly]
-- shall either show that I am wrong yet again, about the way of things, or else that 'tis worse even than I did say, for that none might bide peaceably and in friendship, high or low degree.
[her defensiveness has an almost playful, sparring tone, however]
Holy Stars, why ever did I ask for help?
[given permission, his friend launches at once into the story]
We were visiting the High King's lands on a horse-trading expedition -- at least, that was part of it, the rest of it's classified, not that it matters any more, I suppose --
'Twould hardly add much of interest, I fear, our private negotiations over the siege garrison duties.
No, it wasn't all that interesting at the time, even -- sorry, your Majesties, but you know I'm right. Not compared to the springtime we were missing for it.
[both Angrod and Aegnor cannot help but chuckle in agreement]
However that was, we ended up staying the night on the way there as guests of a lordling of Men, whose household was most conscious of the honour and prestige it would give them to have King Felagund under their roof. There's a mortal musician there, a harper as it would happen, and his lady as well, who played the flute for his accompanying. He was not kind to her. He spoke sharply to her, without any cause for it, and blamed his mistakes upon her playing, and did not once thank her for her aid, nor smile at her, except to show his contempt at her excuses. -- He was nervous, of course, because he had not thought to entertain a King that night, far less one so far and widely famed, and his playing suffered for it. And none of us had thought the worse of him, at all, if he hadn't taken his temper out on her. And even after, when he had settled his nerves, and his fingers, he still had no apology nor gentleness for her, and she had no hope in her eyes left, that there would be any.
Teler Maid: [terse aside]
I did play the pipe, on a day.
Captain: [as if he hasn't heard her]
We were seething at it, and while some that dwelt there were ashamed for it, none of their folk considered it a harsh enough matter to warrant rebuke. And the feast wore on like a foggy day, and try as we might to dismiss it as but a false note, and their business, nor our own, still the words and silences between them -- that most humans would not even have marked, so privately they carried on their siege and defense -- soured all the viands at the board. And then Edrahil snapped -- I think it was hearing the harper playing a tune -- or a variant of it -- that Himself had composed in Estolad, and gets up and goes over to his place.
"You play an Elvish song, Man," he says to him, "your voice is sweet, and you have skill -- but not the soul for it."
"There is no finer musician in the land than myself," the mortal replies, not thinking at all in whose company he was.
[he looks at Finrod, who is not quite as embarrassed by the story as his chief counselor]
How might he forget mine eldest's presence, else Art?
Mortals get distracted by different things than we. And the King wasn't reminding anyone of it then. I don't think we were quite real to him, either, not the way his own people were -- not mattering in his daily life, at least. Do you like the story so far, my Lady?
Luthien: [faint smile]
Not sure yet -- but it is interesting.
So the Man brags, and his wife winces a little, but doesn't correct him. And all he does is smile, and say, "Indeed?" And the bard's a bit drunk on his own lord's praise and gifts, for he'd been greatly thanked so far that night for being a credit to the hall in that hour, and he avers it so, even though now he's realizing what his consort had already, and had left us out of his considering. Edrahil looks at the heap of gold he's won, and at the Man, and asks him, "Would you care to wager on that?" Then he hesitates. We're all watching, Elves and Men alike, and nobody's interfering because it's too interesting. And the mortal asks him, well, what would he wager? Edrahil sends for his harp.
And when he takes the wrappings off, and it shines there before them like a song caught in wood, the mortal musician is ablaze with envy, and lust for it chokes him at first, and he turns away from the thought of his gold completely, in the hope of winning that harp, and all sense of his flies right out the smoke-hole, so that he would have dared anything to take it.
Teler Maid: [troubled]
Are the arts of the Secondborn so much less than ours?
Edrahil worked on that harp for four dozen years and his rival had not walked the earth as long. They haven't the time for it, Sea-mew, that's a lot of it.
[he continues, matter-of-fact, not caring whether anyone is made uncomfortable by facts]
"Shall we hazard, then, with you to take my harp, if you win?" he asks the Man, and in his longing for it the other never noticed that he hadn't said what the prize would be, if it were the other way about.
He was brave -- though Usurper himself -- to challenge Noldor mastery, in such an unfair contest.
But cruel. Had he been kind, he might have boasted all night long, and none taken offense at his folly. -- And greedy. So the Man accepts -- on the condition that they should each use each other's instruments, for you could see he thought there was something "magical" about his --
Steward: [forced to engage]
Well, there was, as humans understand it: I'd reinforced both the internal grain and the finish against damp and surface damage.
Nothing that would affect its timbre, though.
In fact I've noticed a measurable difference in the tonal brightness of polishes containing finely-ground gems --
-- All right, all right, yours was better and you went along out of fairness. He couldn't wait to get his hands on it, regardless, and he was sure that by using an Elven tool he could add its master's power to his own considerable skill.
Nerdanel: [interrupting in turn]
What stones didst thou employ?
Garnet for warmth, quartz for clarity, beryl for strength, my lady.
And hadst good success of it?
[the Steward nods -- she whips out her notebook and stylus and starts jotting this down]
And in what measure of each --
Captain: [giving them a stern Look]
Nerdanel: [laughing at herself]
Thy pardon, my lord -- though not to all unwelcome was such disjuncture, I deem.
Do go on -- since you'll not stop.
So, at any rate, the mortal bard begins -- and he's good. He's giving it all he's got, and more, and then some. You can see why he's so arrogant, there's definitely command of technique and a sense of the flowingness as well, mood and spirit and more than mere mathematics in his playing, and he starts out with a very simple pattern and a plain rhyme and in every repetition added more harmonies and more beats and more words until it not only became more complicated but an entirely different song by the end of it, and never a false note -- as far as his skill level and invention went, he could almost be Eldar, but the overall feeling was quite different, of course.
That isn't exactly how I would have described his performance --
Yes, and no one but another bard would be able to understand you. -- He finishes, and the applause in the hall's like thunder -- people are on their feet, cheering him and raising toasts, both Kindreds, in all fairness and homage to his Art -- and the Man's as proud as a peacock, you could see he's completely confident he's won already, and he looks at Edrahil with this arrogant little smirk, you could feel him saying, -- Beat that without your magic harp, Firstborn -- and sets his instrument down on the bench and waits, as if he might back out of it now. But of course he's not going to, nor give away any sign of whether he's feeling confident or worried. "Excellently played," he says, and he bows. Then he takes up the Man's harp, and spends an inordinate length of time -- as usual -- fiddling with the tuning of it, while everyone fidgets and gets more and more impatient, and then he starts playing.
[he leans back, looking up into the arches, and sighs in reminiscence]
I can't begin to describe what it was like. The Sea was in it, in the low booming chords and the rolling curves of the lines of the melody and the thin high picked notes like the cry of seabirds, and that alone would have been wonderful, but then he sang, and there was real Power in that, because it was the shores of the river first, and how seeing them made him think of the coast they ran to, and the wide harbours there and the White Tower like a red-gold flame at sunset, and then from that he spoke of the other side, of Westernesse, and home, and how these beaches reminded him of those, and how they made him sad for that reason, and yet he would not turn from thought of them despite all that, nor from the restless hunger and noise of the waves, because it was something that both of them had in common --
[with an apologetic look]
-- that just sounds so flat, I'm sorry -- but "forever between us run two deep waters," and at first I thought he meant the river we would have to cross to get to the South again, and I wondered which one. And then I realized that one of them was the Sea, and the other was the Doom. The only thing comparable to it would have to be something of Daeron's, it was that strange.
It wasn't that good --
Third Guard: [earnest]
Yes, it was.
And when the last note of it faded away, there was -- silence. Just silence. No one clapped, no one cheered, no one spoke a word of praise -- because no one could. Those of us who'd been there were all in tears, and most of the mortals as well, and the rest were in a daze. And he turns to the harper and just stares at him for a long moment, when all you could hear was the fire crackling on the hearth and the walls creaking, and before the Man can say anything Edrahil asks quietly, "Who is the winner, sir?" and to the hall, "Does any here deny me the contest? Speak, if you judge otherwise," -- and no one says anything. So he turns back to the bard and hefts the Man's own harp in his hands --
-- and looks at it with a critical eye -- well, you know what he's like, gentles, you can imagine how -- and sniffs at it a bit, saying, "I could take your instrument, in forfeit, now, for our wager," and the Man gets a panic-stricken look on his face, trying to think how he could earn another, without it, and what kind of work he'd be able to get without being able to accompany himself. "-- But," he goes on, "I need it not, and 'tis so crude I might not even give it to students for practice, so little would it avail them to struggle against its flatness."
That isn't exactly what I told him --
Do you want to tell it?
Well, then. -- So the mortal is staring at him in relief at his words, with an expression of awe and humiliation together that was just painful to look at, and he asks him, even more quietly, "Have I cheated, harper? Do you deny me the contest?" and the Man shakes his head, once. "Your harp is worthless to me. Is there anything in the world you value more than your music?" and again the bard shakes his head. "Then I shall take your voice," he says, "as something else you take for granted."
[he pauses for dramatic effect]
"You shall regain it, if -- and only if -- you drink a cupful of water taken living from these mountain freshets, drawn and borne to you by your lady's hands, as the Sun dispels the night. No chance-met hour will suffice, nor water from well or jar or unmoving pool -- and no other woman may undo this binding. Only the free gift, made in mercy, of your consort's love shall set you free -- or a greater Power than mine. If she will not -- " and the Man looked at his wife with a kind of shock, as if he'd never seen her before, and only now realized he'd wed a stranger, and she was looking at them both in a daze herself, as if she'd meant to defend him, but now that the light was on him he wasn't so fair after all, and did she really want to, or not? -- "Then you must journey to the world's end, and find the Sea, and when Arien setting, you behold the Lady's flames upon the waves, this spell of silence shall be broken." -- And at that idea the mortal bard looks terrified half out of his wits, but he just goes on, cool as midnight, "Otherwise, I cannot say how long it shall endure upon you."
[silence, alternately embarrassed and impressed]
Ranger: [to the Steward]
What did you do to him, Sir? We never could figure it out.
What do you mean?
The geas. It seemed -- well -- rather Dark to us.
Steward: [sudden realization]
Oh. -- That's why everyone was so cooperative for six or seven years thereafter. I thought it was some rare alignment of the Circles or a conjunction of the stars --
[shaking his head in amazement]
I did nothing to him. The idiot did it entirely to himself. It only worked because I could See the fool would believe and obey whatever I said to him. In other words -- I cheated.
Now, be fair -- you'd just convinced some two-hundred-odd people of both Kindreds that they were standing on the shores of a Sea most of them had never dreamt of, let alone seen. No wonder the poor wretch was dumbstruck.
"You are thinking how you both shall manage if she will not -- but does not your lady have a voice as well?" And then to her, "Can you not sing as well as play, or do I misguess?" And she was so startled that all she could do was nod her head. "Then it shall be your part to accompany her and hers to sing, and the time for you to listen to her voice, as I fear you have not done enough -- if ever," and the two mortals looked at each other, wondering what to do next, and the woman was scared, but at the same time there was a strange light in her eyes, as if something about the idea pleased her, or would if she let it, and I, I wondered how long she'd make him wait before curing him of his dumbness. And Edrahil, here, in front of the court assembled all sees that look in her eyes and says to her, "Or else -- come with us." And he holds out his hand to her, like that.
And she stands there, like a statue, holding her breath, and then looked at him, afraid, with the fear he was mocking her plain to her face -- and then afraid because he wasn't. And then she looks at her consort again, a nd back at him, and makes this little brushing-away gesture, as if she could blow away the words like a bit of candle-smoke. But he kept waiting, and they wouldn't go away . . . and everyone else there, that had hardly paid a thought to her before, except in pity, looked at her then as if they suddenly only then, realized that here was something of such rare value that a King's right-hand Elf would praise and treasure and why hadn't they seen it before? -- Especially the mortal harper.
[he looks grimly pleased at the memory]
What did she say to him?
[glancing with a troubled look at the Steward]
-- To you?
[he only nods her back to the Captain, with a resigned expression]
She said, "I cannot" and he said, "Why not?" and she said, "You have horses," and he said, "And one can carry you." And she wrung her hands at that as if she were trying to break her own fingers like twigs for kindling, so hard a choice it seemed it seemed to her.
[he grins as the Steward winces at the deliberately un-bardic formulation]
And then she looks over at the side of the hall where the outchambers were, and some thought came to her that made her calmer, and she faces Edrahil back again steady as she might.
"I have a child," she says.
Nerdanel: [knowingly, almost a sigh]
[Elenwe nods, with a bittersweet smile]
He agrees, "That is a difficulty," and she looked half-relieved and half regretful, before he goes on, "But has he given to the rearing of the child as he ought?"
"He earns our bread and our shelter," was her reply, to which Edrahil counters, "As do you, lady. But the wild creatures do as much, in nest and hole, and more besides, often enough. And he?" She shook her head, saying, "He doesn't do any more."
"Then your babe shall not miss him, for his part is easily replaced, being so little." And everyone looked at her husband, not able to help it. -- That hurt a bit, the look of his eyes then, for all he'd been speaking to her but a little before as I'd not speak to a disobedient hound, nor even one of my company that had failed me -- at least I certainly hope I've not used such a tone of commonplace cruelty and routine hate --
[the Rangers both shake their heads at once]
-- yet now, with everything he'd taken for granted was his now at risk before his very eyes, and him helpless to utter a word in his own defense, it was -- it felt unseemly to be witnessing it, just though his punishment was, as if one were to stand by gawking at the healing of a stranger.
"I am mortal -- we do not belong in such high company. I should be quenched in your splendour," she objects, looking at the King and the rest of us, and Edrahil counters, "Then I shall bear you to another land far from here, where there are kindly folk who will welcome you and give a music-maker such as you great honour in their halls, and you shall be eminently free among your own kind." Oh, but she was tempted by that. But finally she shakes her head.
"But I love him," says she.
[Amarie smiles bitterly]
"To that I have no answer," and he bowed to her and said to her husband, "See that you merit it," and then he walks out of the hall into the dark, and none to hinder him. And we don't see anything of him until the next morning, when we rode on our way and found him a long way's walk up the river waiting for us, looking grim and guilty. And he starts to apologize for having behaved so unmannerly and high-handed and shaming Himself before all, and our lord just says, "Thanks for dealing with that, and saving me the pains of doing so myself, for it would have been an awkward matter, had I as both guest and King and our host's lord's kinsman as well, stepped in -- but from one stranger to another, such an exchange were less weighty a blow, and no affront to our host's hall," as if he'd not spoken to abase himself.
"Oh," says Edrahil, just like that -- "I'd not thought of that." And the King says, "It's still true, despite that."
[Finrod chuckles at the imitation]
Teler Maid: [frowning]
Would you truly have brought her with you, and looked after her, that mortal woman, only for that her consort was not kind to her?
Indeed -- had she been willing.
Wait -- that was you?
[she touches him on the shoulder, leaning down to look at him in astonishment]
That tale -- was of you, my lord?
You heard about it? In Doriath? Was it -- gossip from Brethil, then, perhaps?
Luthien: [shaking her head]
But how --
I know some of the songs about it.
There are -- songs -- ?
But they're all different. From what happened, as well as from each other, that is. They're not about you, though -- not in any way that anyone who knows you would recognize -- well, obviously, since I never guessed. But definitely about the incident.
[in spite of everything, and herself, she is starting to smile and fighting impending laughter]
Somehow I -- am certain I should rather not know the details.
We would, though.
[the rest of the Ten nod agreement; Finrod looks quite blank, but his eyes are twinkling]
-- But of course.
This one never made any sense to me, really, until now -- though a lot of the mortal songs seem that way, at least at first. I mean, who would believe anyone who said they could take you away someplace safe in a ship? Everyone knows about the Ban by now, that there's no way to get to the West except by being dead. But anyhow --
Well met, well met, my own true love!
......Well met, well met! cried he --
...I am returned from the salt salt sea,
.........all for the love of thee --
I could have married the King's daughter dear,
......she would have married me --
...But I have forsaken her crowns of gold,
.........all for the love of thee --
-- Well if you could have married the King's daughter dear,
......I'm sure you are to blame,
...for I am married to a house carpenter,
.........and I find him a nice young man --
-- Oh will you forsake your house carpenter,
......and go along with me?
...I'll take you where the grass grows green,
.........on the shores of the flowing Sea --
-- And if I should forsake my house carpenter,
......and go along with ye,
...what have ye got to protect me then,
.........and keep me from slavery?
-- Six ships, six ships all on dry land
......seven more upon the Sea,
...a hundred and ten all brave sailormen,
.........to keep all harm from thee --
Oh then she picked up her own pretty babe,
......and gave him kisses three,
...saying -- Bide ye here with my house carpenter,
.........and keep him good company --
Oh then she put on her finest gown
......so glorious to behold,
...when she walked in the sunlight bright
.........it shone like glitterin' gold.
Oh they'd not been sailing but about two weeks,
......I'm sure it was not three,
...when that fair maid began to weep,
.........to weep most bitterly --
-- Oh why do you weep, my fair pretty maid?
......Weep you for your golden store?
...-- Or do you weep for your house carpenter,
.........that you shall see no more?
Oh I do not weep for my house carpenter,
......or for any golden store!
...-- But I do weep for my own pretty babe,
.........that I shall see no more --
Oh they'd not been sailing but about three weeks,
......I know it was not four,
...when that gallant ship sprang a leak and sank,
.........never to rise no more --
One time around spun that gallant ship,
......two times around spun she,
...three times around spun that gallant ship,
.........and sank to the bottom of the Sea --
-- What hills, what hills, are those, my love,
......those hills so fair and high?
...-- Those are the hills of Aman, my love --
.........but not for you nor I --
-- What hills, what hills, are those, my love,
......those hills so dark and low?
...-- Those are the hills of Hell, my love,
.........where you and I must go --
[the Steward only nods with a judicious expression, like a connoisseur presented with an indifferent vintage, though Finrod has jammed his knuckles against his lips and others of his acquaintance are watching with fascinated alarm]
You did say -- songs, Highness.
You really want to hear the rest of them?
Alas, no -- but there will be no peace until it's done.
All right, then.
An outlandish knight
...from the north lands came
......And he came a wooing me
...He promised he'd take
......me unto the northern lands
.........And there he'd marry me
-- Come fetch me some
...of your father's gold
......And some of your mother's fee
...And two of the best
......horses in the stable
.........Where stand there thirty and three
He mounted on the milk white steed
...And she on the dappled gray
And they rode till they came
...to the salt water side
......An hour before the day
Light off, light off
...your steed, he said
......And deliver it unto me --
...For six pretty maidens
......I have drowned here
.........And you the seventh shall be --
Steward: [shaking his head]
A murderer of seven -- better yet.
Oh, no, she tricks him, and flings him over the edge instead. There's another one like that, where it's a young boy with a message to the High King, and the strange rider tries to trick him in going to the sea as well, but he battles him with his own riddles in turn, and the Enemy's Servant has no power over him. Oh, and there's a longer version of this one too, only it's different --
There stands a knight at the top of yon hill
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...He blows his horn both loud and shrill
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
Oh, if I had the horn that I hear blown,
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...And the knight that blows upon that horn
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
No sooner had those words she cried
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...Than the Elven knight came to her side
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
Thou art aye young a maid, said he
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...Under my cloak thou ill wouldst be
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
I have a sister younger than I
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...And she was married but yesterday
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
Married with me if thou wouldst be
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...A courtesy must thou do for me
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
For thou must shape a shirt to me
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...Without any seam or hem, said he
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
And wash it in yonder dry well
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...Where never sprung water nor rain fell
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
And dry it upon yonder hawthorn
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...Where the sun ne'er shone since Man was born
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
-- Well if I shall do that task for ye
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...Surely you'll do one for me
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
Fetch unto me an acre of land
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...Between the salt water and the sea sand
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
I want that land for to be corn
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...And you must plow it with your horn
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
And shear it down with an eagle's feather
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...And stook it up with a stem of heather
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
And you must bring it over the sea
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...Fair and clean and dry to me
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
When you have done, and finished your work
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...Then come to me for your seamless shirt
.........-- The cold wind's blown my cloak away
-- I'll not give up my cloak for my life
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...It wraps my seven bairns and my wife
.........-- The wind's not blown my cloak away
-- My maidenhead I'll keep then still
......Blow, blow, blow ye winds, blow
...Let the Elven knight do what he will
.........-- The wind's not blown my cloak away
[pause -- awkward brightness]
That one's closer, because she doesn't go off with him, and there's no sign that he's trying to carry her off at all, instead he's trying to put her off, it seems, telling her she's too young for him, and she gets angry with him when he won't marry her after she's been so insistent, and especially when she finds out he's already married at the last and tells him to just go away -- though that's got to be mixed up with Feanor, what with the "seven bairns" -- and the Ban's in it too, since the mortal woman puts crossing the Sea as part of her impossible tasks . . .
[she trails off, looking apologetic]
Sorry. I didn't make them up.
Am I not right in assuming that is not the end of it?
[she shakes her head]
There's lots of different versions of it, sometimes he's "the Lord of Elfland," and sometimes he's just a knight of the North, but you can tell they're the same even if the melodies are different. Then . . . well, there's the one about the King who loses his Queen in a game of chess -- to a wandering harper . . . Only first he loses his horse and his hound, or else it's his sword first and then his crown and then his lady. It depends. I can't sing them, because I don't really know the words, because Beren only knows them partly -- they're from Dor-lomin and he knows what they're about, but not how the actual verses go.
[silence -- everyone is still waiting for someone else to say something]
We think people were trying to explain what happened to Prince Fingon's mother and didn't want to ask, -- or didn't believe the answer -- and made up a story about the Enemy capturing her like the others who were taken prisoner --
They might have been thinking about you and cousin Turgon, too -- and mixed it up with everyone who stayed over there, and --
Here. It isn't there, now, for you. You keep saying that.
Quite right -- so it isn't. But anyhow, that explains why the evil deceiver in the legends is taking her -- and the others -- across the Sea, but we haven't any idea where the bit about the other lost things comes from, or where the idea of the Enemy having a harper in his service came in. -- At least, we hadn't until now.
[she gives the Steward a very quizzical look]
-- Chess . . . can't imagine where that came from, either.
[the Steward gives him a Look, to which he pretends obliviousness]
They could be about other events, in which the Enemy's agents attempted or succeeded in luring away humans on various occasions in various guises.
Luthien: [shaking her head]
Not the one about the woodcarver's lady. That's just too close, with the Sea and ships and everything else.
-- Though the boy also is threatened with being carried off to the Sea and wrecked as well . . . and so is the lady in the other one . . . actually, it's in all of them. Hm.
Steward: [shaking his head in turn]
Even that is -- possibly -- a coinciding with Enemy activities.
Even you don't believe that's the case, though.
Alas -- no.
I should have realized how the offer would inevitably have been taken.
Are you all right?
Steward: [very dry]
What -- should I be troubled, that instead of being remembered for my own songs and the deeds which I did accomplish, such earthly immortality as remains to me shall be in the misrecollections of mortals, as a miscreant and minion of the Lord of Fetters, going about the land seducing and kidnapping the wives and children of honest Men, set to simple canting rhymes and tunes scarce less plain?
I think it shall be the richest joke I shall ever hear.
[the Sea-elf looks at him very warily, as if wondering whether he's been replaced by someone else]
Aegnor: [abruptly & in a very harsh tone]
Don't flatter yourself -- they're not all about you.
[there is an extremely awkward moment before Nienna's Apprentice tries to break the tension]
Apprentice: [to the Captain, humorously]
That sounds more like you, anyhow -- you're the one who loves socializing and talking to strangers.
Captain: [shaking his head]
No, I don't think so. Too busy, what with all the dashing hither and yon and hither again, between all our lord's very many relatives and friends and acquaintances, before the Leaguer broke. No time to be standing about looking dramatic on hilltops blowing bugles -- damn' foolish, if you ask me, just asking to be shot -- or waiting for mortal girls with nothing to do to come up and be lured away by riddles.
Besides, three words out of your mouth would immediately prove you insane.
And? That makes any difference? News to me, then.
[gesturing towards Luthien]
Didn't you hear what her Highness said? You don't think I'm crazier than Beren, surely?
[his friend graciously lets this one go, very obviously]
No, no, it's got to be Lord Aegnor, as he said. After all, -- are we sure there was only the one time? I only knew of one -- but that doesn't really prove anything, does it?
[warming to his subject]
Why, for all we know, there could have been scores of heartbroken human women all over the North Country during the past yen, all of them with stories to tell about the mysterious Elf-warrior who showed up out of nowhere, sang songs and talked about the meaning of life and told them they had eyes that rivalled the gems of the Starmaker for beauty, and promised to meet them there again -- and never showed up.
[everyone is trying desperately and futilely not to give in to appalled, nervous laughter, while the subject of the speculation only seethes in stoic pride]
-- Not knowing he'd panicked, and was quite incapable of making any kind of a lasting commitment, the result was these highly-coloured but emotionally-accurate bits of poetry -- which then took on lives of their own, making it seem as though the troops of the Leaguer had nothing better to do than roam about trifling with the affections of Men --
[Aegnor, quite incapable of articulate speech, lunges up snarling and flings himself on his tormentor, grabbing him by the tunic-front and dragging him half-up before shoving him down the shallow steps to the open floor, the Captain recovering with a fighter's efficiency and rising to his feet as the Prince comes up to him in a white-hot rage]
Will you draw, damn you!
You know I can't, unless you assault Himself --
Aegnor: [equally exasperated]
I'm not going to do that just to oblige you!
Then you're just going to have to deal with the fact that you were a blithering idiot three-score years ago and you've not stopped being one since, and everybody knows it and is tiptoeing around you as if you were Lord Osse, and I'm tired of your irresponsible behaviour, because right now you're completely out of control. You're supposed to be an example -- not, gods forbid, a cautionary tale of royal incompetence!
[Aegnor is shocked into silence, with an expression of the fury that would be remorse if the subject were not too proud, as his challenger presses on]
If we were alive and you were under my command, sir, I don't know what I'd do with you, because I couldn't set you to any task in confidence that you'd do it properly -- because you don't care enough about anyone else to stop you from doing it poorly. Forget fletching or scouting -- I wouldn't even trust you to make supper! You'd probably let all the bannocks burn to charcoal whilst glooming about your own misfortunes. How impressed would Lady Andreth be with you, eh?
[the Prince raises his hand to strike him, but the other Elf grabs his wrist and blocks him efficiently]
Aegnor: [yanking his arm away]
Don't sully her name, you fool --
You've no kinright in respect to her. What do you think she'd say, if she knew your way of "honouring" her memory was to poison everyone about you with your bitterness? -- That you're doing everything your apathy allows to obstruct another couple in your same straights, nephew or no nephew -- I'll hazard the whole world that it wouldn't be, "Poor darling, whatever you do is fine by me -- "
[Aegnor rips out his blade without further discussion]
-- Ice, at last!
[he ducks away from under the resulting overhand swing, drawing his own sword in the left-handed fashion he used earlier -- then tosses it to his right and pivots to catch the Prince's return-stroke against the guard of his weapon, holding him at crossed bay]
You know better than that shoddy Orc-work -- good thing for you I'd not drawn yet, what? -- Overhand, honestly!
Aegnor: [through grit teeth]
Stop talking and fight -- !
[he breaks the lock and falls into a more practical style of fighting than the flashy but unsafe "hewing swings" popularized by "barbarian heroes" in various media iterations, and they're very well matched as combatants -- and this time the Captain isn't holding back]
Elenwe: [to Finrod]
Wilt thou not part them, Ingold, ere one or another dost the other hurt?
Everyone except for the rest of the Ten:
? ! ?
It's all right, here. They can't really harm each other this way, and if they finally get it over with perhaps that'll be the end of it, the constant hostile rhetoric and the pained forbearance both. It's getting awfully tiresome.
[she turns away and refuses to watch]
A most peculiar justification for kinstrife, that --
Besides, it isn't really my place to interfere, though it's hard to explain -- but since they're both striking on my behalf, ultimately, though not overtly in my defense, it's awkward for me to get involved. Some things are better off for not taking official notice of.
Finarfin: [wryly amused]
'Tis something difficult, one perforce admitteth, taking such din, e'en such exertion, withal upon the senses.
Fingolfin: [raising an eyebrow]
Really? And you with all those children, too?
Aye, and eke thine, that ye moughten have peace in house, oft and oftwhiles, recallest not, how thou didst send this one and that to ask some thing else other, of us, -- and delay returning?
Angrod: [bemused aside]
I'm -- astonished Father's taking it so calmly. -- Unless he's a great deal more frustrated with us than we thought . . .
[the combatants circle, neither giving an opening, and Huan begins to offer his own advice, or maybe opinion of it all]
Hush! That's very distracting!
[she wraps her arms around his head and quiets him with a hug]
[the Teler Maid is watching through her fingers, unable to look away or take the Exiles' blase view]
Teler Maid: [wondering tone]
It has a certain terrible beauty in it, like to the great fishes hunting, or storms in the Deep.
[the Ten look at her, shyly pleased that she isn't condemning that part of their lives without differentiation, and proud of her bravery. Aegnor suddenly draws his dagger and begins fighting two-handed]
Don't worry --
[the Captain catches hold of Aegnor's left wrist and slams it against the nearest pillar, jarring the knife from his hand]
-- so's he.
[deliberately the Captain draws his own dagger, and tosses it away]
Show-off. -- Is he crazy, challenging your brother like that, or just dumb?
The former, definitely. -- Dumb would be doing it for no good reason.
[although the comment was in no way directed at him, the Warden of Aglon bridles defensively, though without the old aggressive hostility. His companion gives him a wry smile, taking his hand]
Is anger at being called "stupid" a good reason?
[he slowly permits himself the smallest amusement at his past vanity -- it looks painful, like a first step without crutches, but it is a smile -- and doesn't let go of her hand]
Ranger: [mixed pride/bemusement]
There was the time he yelled at Lord Osse, once, when the deity was being uncooperative about us reinforcing the breakwater at Eglarest, remember? Every time we wanted to take the barges out it would get choppy out of nowhere, and Lord Cirdan told us not to worry, give it a few weeks and the Stormy One would get over his bad temper, or else the Lady would notice and make him stop -- but after the fifth time it happened, and we lost the load of stones, the Commander lost his temper and told him to get over it, if he really cared about the Teler he'd help us fortify their defenses, no matter what?
Wait -- that wasn't the time he showed up with his arm broken and only said he'd fallen on the sea-wall. -- Was it?
[looking at Finrod]
Did you know the details?
Er -- vaguely. "Your people are mad," was all Cirdan told me, and when I asked privately for the details I was told that I really didn't want to know, that it had been stupid but at least it had worked, and no harm done -- that wouldn't heal. I didn't see that anything would be gained by pressing the issue, saving embarrassment.
He went right out on the end of the old break-water and stood there yelling at the waves, and Lord Cirdan's folk were trying to think how they might get a boat out to rescue him, and pretty sure they'd break up or founder but still having to try, and rigging some sort of tackle with ropes -- and the Daunter slapped him hard off the jetty and then into it, breaking his arm --
-- and dislocating the shoulder --
-- So he's clinging to the rocks, because he can't climb back onto it, and what does he do but shout at the waves, "Fine but you're still an idiot," and another roller started building up, and right then Osse's Lady must have noticed and gotten control of him, because it flattened out just as it was building to a peak, and then went still as glass, and stayed that way all the while the Sea-folk were going out, and days after, all the while it took to finish building the wall.
[the Sea-elf's eyes are very big. Amarie snorts in disdain and continues ostentatiously looking at nothing]
You know, it doesn't really count as violence, because of it not lasting. It's just like any other game, really.
[Amarie condescends to look at the duellists, raising an eyebrow as Aegnor batters away at the Captain's defenses, his teeth bared in a snarl]
As to that -- thy brother holdeth it otherwise, methinks.
[suddenly the Captain reverses the situation, and they begin traversing the Hall again, as virtual sparks fly wildly about]
Apprentice: [watching them in dismay]
No, you're not. We are.
I wasn't being literal.
Then why bother talking?
When you make jokes, that's not being literal.
And when you use metaphors, neither. -- Like calling the Ban another ocean.
But those aren't supposed to be literal. When you just say something, you're trying to mean something to someone, so you ought to make it as clear as possible.
Are you sure you're Noldor?
[the Youngest Ranger reaches forward and cuffs him lightly]
Hey! You're abusing your rank.
Am not. You weren't in our chain of command before we were exiled, and not after either when we were consolidated into one unit. That means I can ding you upside the head as much as I want. -- And vice versa which is why I don't do it very often.
Not really, though.
Youngest Ranger: [solemnly]
No. He's gotten better, I don't have to so much, now.
Fourth Guard: [sniffing]
No, it's just that it would make it that much more awkward when you have to ask me to touch up the camo on your armour. Just a little bit of a change in tone, what? Ow!
[he has ducked just a little too late]
-- Oh, look --
[the fighters have worked their way over towards the Loom, when all of the sudden the Captain redoubles his attack, throwing the Prince distinctly on the defensive. Instinctively Aegnor springs up onto a lower projection of the assemblage, using it as a vantage point from which to rain down blows on his opponent and --]
Ranger: [automatic, to everyone on the steps]
[-- there is a thunderous flash-bang of blinding white light and reverberating sound, causing Finrod's brother to leap down and whirl in a general alarm, warding against what unknown adversary, while simultaneously and reflexively the Captain moves in behind to take up a defensive posture at his back, mirroring the Prince. There is however no further dramatics and they are left standing back to back in an empty space, looking rather foolish while everyone watches them with morbid curiosity.]
[After a second Aegnor lowers his sword and turns to face his antagonist, his expression very wary and dark still. The Captain matches his glower, both of them looking very much the proud, obstinate High-elves that they are. Aegnor looks down at the weapon in his own hand, back at his adversary, and then very deliberately sheathes the blade, standing empty-handed and defenseless in a gesture of leadership as he acknowledges the other's loyalty thereby; the Captain waits long enough with still-drawn sword between them to make the subsequent putting-away equally deliberate, not in defiance but in emphasis, as he acknowledges the Prince thereby regaining his moral footing. The glares give way to reluctant smiles, and then to embarrassed chuckles, attempts to be properly dignified failing as they both glance at the Loom, and then at each other again]
Aegnor: [addressing the general direction of the ceiling]
Er, my Lady -- we do apologize, and it won't happen again, I promise you.
Captain: [gesturing towards the other]
Just to be quite clear, Ma'am, that was him, not me, and I never touched the Loom.
[Aegnor gives him a very fell Look]
You worked that on purpose so I'd bring down the wrath of the goddess on me.
Aegnor: [flinging up his hands in exasperation]
How can you say that?
Because you know it isn't true, and I know you know it isn't true, and because you know that I know that you know that it isn't, it's not untruth, it's a joke told straightfaced, whereas if you didn't know it wasn't true, but I didn't know you didn't know, it would still --
Aegnor: [very sternly and regal]
[the Captain sweeps him an elaborate bow, complying at once; extremely dry tone and expresion]
-- That too.
Captain: [glancing at the Loom once more]
I didn't think she'd be quite so upset about it.
[they both start laughing quietly again, until Aegnor pulls himself together and sobers up a little]
Aegnor: [regretful, but not overwrought]
I should not have beset you and forced such a dilemma upon your choosing.
Highness -- I knew quite well what I was about.
[the Prince glances over at Angrod and back again]
Aegnor: [same serious tone]
You never blamed either of us for leading you all in the rebellion.
Why? I followed as freely as any of us.
That did not stop us from blaming our uncles, both of them, many a time. Fairly or not.
[the Captain shrugs a little]
I remember that you saved my life, on the Ice, more than once, and I remember that I thanked you after, but I also recall well that I have said other things as well, much more lately -- unforgivable things, that nonetheless I'd ask forgiveness for -- knowing well you'll grant it.
Things have been difficult lately.
Yes. But I've still been unfair to you. You couldn't have stopped him, and to try beyond counselling would have been rebelling, and for you to stay by him with nothing to gain by it, I should be thanking you, not mocking you.
He stayed by us through the Crossing, with everything to lose, and I only paid in fraction my debt to him for all those years of plenty.
Nevertheless, you did, and I give you my thanks -- if a little late.
[they share a fleeting grin]
Will you also forgive me for my part in the Rebellion? -- I know you were not compelled to follow us -- but I also know that given who we all were then, you could hardly have failed to be carried along with our tide, and you deserved better from your House than what leadership we gave you.
[quietly but very earnest]
I thought -- feared -- you'd not ever laugh again, when we reached the end of that hellish journey, so grim had you become with every latest death. If I have reproached you lately for your good cheer and diversions, it has but been my jealousy speaking, that begrudges you what I cannot find -- and for which my own heart has reproached me every time I did so.
I knew that, Highness.
And that I knew as well, my lord, but of your kindness permit me to apologize.
Well, if you insist . . .
[he rests his hand on Aegnor's shoulder, familiar but not offensive -- and Aegnor does not take offense at it]
Want a beer?
Aegnor: [after visible hesitation]
[he puts his own hand on the Captain's shoulder, and with linked arms, in a relieved cameraderie they return to the dais and sit down again, side by side, greeted by Huan, who isn't influenced by social conventions at all and very obviously happy that two of his people are friends again -- affection which is more tolerated than welcomed by the trodden-on, shoved and snuffled recipients and bystanders until they can get the Hound settled down again.]
[Keeping it prudently out of Huan's reach, the Captain manifests another drinking-horn and graciously offers it to the Prince after taking a pull first -- Aegnor in turn dutifully takes a draft, looking like someone who doesn't exactly enjoy beer but after a century or so as a lord over Men has gotten used to drinking it socially. As he hands back the vessel:]
[everyone relaxes a little in turn, though the atmosphere is still a little wary and disturbed]
It's just as well Herself broke it up when she did, I've got to admit. I don't know how much longer I could have kept you at bay, really.
You're being far too kind.
Oh, no. You had the focus, in life, that I never did, despite my initial advantage of years' serious hunting; your yeni at the fore of the Front left you more disciplined than I ever was -- too easily distracted by some passing bird or other.
Yes, and leave out all the combined decades spent spying and running errands for my brother, let alone teaching others to fight -- !
You could have destroyed me there, you know, by letting me take you. That -- would have frozen my wrath in an instant, and left me broken in shame at having struck down one both kinsman and liegeman, and having to deal with my brother's disappointment on top of that.
Oh, no, that would have been dishonourable.
[Nienna's Apprentice gives him a sharp Look]
Lose fairly or throw the fight, the end result should have been the same.
Captain: [nodding grimly]
I know. I didn't want that -- it was the least-acceptable of outcomes by far, though better than you staying locked in that damnéd tangle of guilt and fury.
-- Would have hurt, too.
[gesturing towards the quiescent structure with the ale-horn]
If I'd not been able to force you to it, I'd have blundered into the Loom myself, to end the match by preferrence to this shadow-dying of our war games, but that would have been much more humiliating.
You planned on manipulating the Lady of the Halls into abetting your scheme without her knowing it?
[the Captain shrugs, trying to look innocent -- the Prince shakes his head, wide-eyed]
You're crazy, you know that.
It is a condition often remarked upon -- thus, not unlike the weather, and the curious human custom of confirming amongst oneselves its observéd state, manifest though it should be to all.
[Aegnor reaches for the drinking-horn again, at a loss for words. Glances both appalled and amused are exchanged by the onlookers]
Captain: [to the Steward]
You've fallen into exaggeration too, you know -- you said "three words" would prove I was crazy.
That wasn't exaggeration.
Oh? What three words? "I say there," or "Excuse me, please," or "Have you seen -- " or "Hallo, we're lost," aren't enough just of themselves to give it away.
[he reclaims the horn from Aegnor and incautiously takes a swig]
Steward: [very deliberately and meaningful]
Happy. New. Year.
[the results are instant and alarming -- his friend chokes and begins a prolonged bout of coughing (Aegnor quickly rescuing the ale-horn) while there is a collective groan from the rest of the Ten and Finrod ducks his head against his knees, his shoulders shaking helplessly, while everyone else looks on in bewilderment.]
[Elsewhere -- the Corollaire.]
[the hilltop is getting pretty overrun with critters: not only all the insects, but more hummingbirds have come to feed at the wildflowers, and in the background quail run through the grass, tortoises plod, and lizards zip through the scene, sometimes darting right over the two as if they were just rocks in the way]
Beren: [a little hesitant and awkward]
What -- what about the idea that things won't be just over, and hopeless, when the World ends -- that it's not, really, I mean, not the end like The End but a beginning too?
[Yavanna raises an eyebrow and he goes on, a bit jumbled:]
What the King -- Finrod, I mean, not his dad -- was saying about, that maybe -- maybe we won't have to lose each other, for always -- but I didn't think you'd be offended, even if it is an impious claim to know things that You didn't teach them.
Why would we think that? The more the merrier, say I. My poor husband only wishes he had students who wanted to discover, and not simply copy, from the things he makes. Hmph. -- Of course, that tends to the other problem, of swelled heads -- but that isn't caused by thinking. It's quite a different activity, that wants to squash others out of the way, and it's as common in bluebottles and potato beetles as it is in Noldor Princes.
[he looks a bit uncertain at this demi-rant, and goes on:]
So . . . what do you think about it?
It's an interesting theory.
[he wasn't expecting that]
You don't know?
Nobody knows what will happen after the world. We can't. We didn't make it to end, and we're in it, so we can't see from outside what is going to happen to Ea, even if we had the ability to comprehend it all, which we didn't when we were younger. None of us is planning on stopping holding our end up, and only Melkor has ever expressed an interest in ripping it all apart, and we didn't anticipate the effects of his behaviour on Everything, so --
[admiring a lizard that has decided to sun itself on her wrist, like a bracelet]
-- it seems likely that any termination of the project will be because of him, directly, indirectly, or both. But not even Namo has seen the details of it in any coherent frame of events.
[chuckling, not noticing Beren's deepening look of worry]
Apparently it's quite something when he gets arguing with your friend about the nature of Foresight and Vision. From what Vaire says, it's the mythical irresistible force and immovable object, clanging away until they call it off for a bit. What she finds amusing -- or rather, she finds it exasperating and we find it amusing -- is that it usually turns out that they're in agreement, but they won't agree on terminology.
Beren: [very troubled]
You said earlier you were part of the World. That you belong to it, and it to you -- you all -- and that's one reason that Melkor can't ever corrupt anything completely.
[in a rush]
So -- the End of the World -- Is -- does that mean --
[he looks at her imploringly, please-say-no]
Does that mean that you're going to die too someday?
I expect it will be somewhat like it, yes.
But -- you -- you're --
-- Gods, yes. And we are part of this, this all-in-all, and bound to all its Circles and its depths, in ways you cannot begin to fathom. And all this will fail eventually, and come apart. That's what the End of the World means. I don't expect that it will be particularly pleasant, though I don't think it will be much like what you went through.
Why? -- Why?
[she raises her hands]
Nothing lasts forever. The World moves, and everything that moves wears down, and we with it. Add to that the wear and tear of constant battles and sabotage, and --
-- I suspect that by the time that Day comes, I will be as exhausted with bringing forth Life as Miriel ever was, and the rest of us no less.
But why can't -- why can't you just -- why do you have to -- can't you just --
[she smiles wryly]
What sort of Guardians would we be, if we simply treated it as a pastime, to be set aside when it grew boring, or like that game of yours, when we're losing -- just tipped off all the pieces and went away? Because that's what would happen, if we could leave the World's Circles: it would tear apart.
[looking at the horizon, distantly]
We cannot cheat, and make it so that we are free to depart, without enduring, until the End, while the Firstborn must abide. We don't even have that option.
You -- can't go back to the Timeless Halls?
[she shakes her head]
But even if we might -- we wouldn't. No more than your father would have bent the rule of your company, that duty be chosen by lot, and not by lordly whim -- even to spare you from danger.
[Beren swallows hard]
-- No more than you would have wished or taken such favoritism, because you were foremost. We too, that are the Lords and Powers of this land, are bound to it no less than your own House. That's how it was, from the Beginning; we made a lifetime committment. It has to be that way. And we did so freely -- with more choice than you had in it, truly. We didn't have to come here, but those of us who did -- did so for as long as it lasts.
[he is not quite crying -- yet]
Who knows? Not we.
Don't worry about it. It's not going to happen for Ages yet.
But it's going to happen.
Don't you think it's a little strange that you're upset, when it's you that have already died? It was your song that was cut untimely short -- the Tree of your life that was blighted just when the time came to flower.
[through silent tears]
Your life was ruined -- is ruined -- too, just like mine.
[the Earth-Queen looks at him with a sad, admiring smile]
But I will have many Great Years and more,
[her voice is almost a chant now]
-- of beeches and birches and barberry green, of the gray dove and the white lamb and the black bear in the wood, fish in the stream and fry in the pool, and the speckled wings of moths and all manner of things that haven't yet wakened from their Sleep of my Dreaming yet, but will in Ages to come.
[she reaches to touch his maimed wrist, and the lizard scampers up to cling like a Lalique ornament in her hair]
-- And it is very, very good, is it not, my Champion? For all the sorrow we have at Earth's fading --
[unable to speak, he nods, and she brushes the tears from his face]
But it is of your Song, your branch unbudded, your dreaming of the days that would have been, and were not, that I am concerned -- not mine. I know mine well, but you are different from me, and from all others that I know, Elf or Ainu or work of my hands.
Will you give me that, then, as you would have given it to me had you lived, as you gave me all your born days under the Sun?
[as he gives her a wondering look, gentle, but still a command:]
-- Tell me your hopes, what you wanted from your life, and how you would have shaped your Song, if the World were not as it is.
[the Hall. Finarfin is looking shocked and agitated, not in the completely-stunned and distraught way as after Luthien's initial revelations in the Valar's council, but grimly shaken. The Nargothronders in particular are upset in turn, but there is a slight air of bewilderment among all the dead at his reaction]
Truly, I deemed no further recounting might surpass in bitterness the words of that your breaking, but this tale of defeat and near-slaughter ye did endure doth burn my heart anew, and deep.
[turning his head sharply towards his younger sons]
-- Nor hold ye -- nor dare ye! -- I should not ache so sore, did ye bespeak me of those selfsame hours ye did endure, and perish.
I -- I'm so very sorry, Sir. I didn't think -- I mean, we survived it, after all, and the Marshes were pretty wretched at the time, but . . . it isn't so bad, now, looking back at it --
Nay, 'tis some wise the worse, lad, that ye do jest anent it now.
Second Guard: [bemused aside to his friends]
But what's wrong with the joke?
It was a jest.
Second Guard: [snorting]
There wouldn't have been much point in saying, oh, "We're all going to die," after all. We knew that.
Youngest Ranger: [quietly]
Only we were wrong.
[Finrod rubs abstractedly at his (ringless) hand, frowning at the floor]
Of course it would come as a shock to you, having no experience of such things, both the facts themselves and our more cavalier regard of them.
[silence -- the Valinoreans look at each other]
Amarie: [hardly aside at all]
Oh, thou prating fool!
Nay, long and long since the years lie 'twixt, that I have stood in fear of violence upon myself, else seen encarnadined the mire.
When did you encounter war?
That first hour thou surely dost recall, when anger rode upon us all as the lightning the stony heights, and my brothers bared the whetted fangs of their wrath all openly for the first.
Nay, which that was there might e'er forget -- ?!
No one was even hurt, then.
Nay, in truth; but the beast of bloodthirst was loosed in us that hour, though yet did but couchant lie in waiting shade. -- But I reck not that fear 'gainst thy travails -- 'twas of Alqualonde I spake.
But we were not menaced there -- horrible though it was -- you were not in da --
No -- No --
[shaking his head, too agitated to continue]
Finarfin: [with an edged smile]
Thou art clever, child: hast caught the drift of sense, I deem.
Were you -- Father, you were not hurt?
Angrod: [too quickly for their father to answer]
Would you have it otherwise for his sake, Ingold -- or for ours?
[as Finrod looks at him, going on with grim sympathy and a knowing Look]
You'd rather not know about it, as much as any wish it should not have happened. But what difference does nearness of blood make -- or ought? So you've said. Often.
Finrod: [pained acknowledgment]
Ought not -- but you know it does.
-- Were you harmed?
[the living High King shakes his head]
Nay -- naught worse than bruiséd knees, eke some disarray of raiment. I ken no part of aught ye have suffered, saving dread of harm, and heart aghast at horror its pangs.
Aegnor: [frowning, pulled out of his abstraction]
What -- why?
Finarfin: [lifting his hand]
Folk were affronted to behold an arméd host of Noldor return against them, as perchance 'twas, and time had let tempers' heat rise from that unsteady state of consternation that did obtain when first we passed -- there was an outraged multitude with all sharp tools and heavy -- and use of those, some presently within this place well might attest -- and also some swords whose makers needed them no longer, that wrath made up for unskill in wielding hands. Resolve was there, and eke great anger, that no enemy might take from them again unready such vessels as yet remained within Swans-Haven.
[the Teler Maid flinches, and looks wretched, blinking back tears, but remains attentive and self-possessed -- more so than the Exiles now hearing about the return to Alqualonde]
On myself, as foremost of the lordly line, their wrath did fasten, though for the moster part our folk but did submit unto our arresting, nor did protest in our confusion and new-come, late-come guilt --
[Luthien shushes him quickly with a hand on his muzzle]
Our House now stood aside, and did not rally to you nor defend you, then -- ?!
Finarfin: [perfectly even]
Where was right, else justice, in this wrack, when I had most grieviously failed to prevent their folly, nor led them well nor held mine own course unvarying, yet held still mine own authority at their head to stand? 'Twas in mind of many to yield, not merely yield up, to whatsoever Doom awaited there; though not few did stand me strongly by, nor stood still-handed when hands were laid upon my person --
[to the Captain]
-- thy sister one such was, that hung not back nor drew aside, but would bar them from my self until I bade her fling down blade, nor wavered, but pressed close by to share her liege lord's fate when we were haled unto Olwe's feet.
Captain: [faintly, with a drawn smile]
Good for Suli'.
Ambassador: [wondering aside]
In my own recent distress and pain, I had not thought that the scene of their disfavour and the Princes' chastisement by my lord their uncle should be rehearsed yet again, at home -- and perhaps many more times, indeed!
Th'indignation of our kinsmen at their losses -- of which not least verily the loss of love, of trust broken with the breaking of heart and brain under edge of iron -- mounted as yon tall waves of Lady Uinen's sorrow that brakest anent the northwards course of our departing, harrowing against us like neap tide in its rising. -- All of the authority persuadant that Earwen and thy grandsire held was needful, to withold it falling hard on us.
Mother -- was there -- ?!
Holdest thou she should bide still, when word did come of her City its ruining and her folk their need?
-- Thine even so too.
[the White Lady looks shocked; for the first time a flicker of uncertainty in her expression]
But why was she --
Finarfin: [cutting him off]
-- Which else to deal with yon wreck we did leave behind in wake, that eke ye did turn face from? Or hold ye so, that the sad wounded ought best be left recovering their lost, that houses burnt and dwellings broken to lie uncared for 'neath the ruined skies, the whiles them unhurt do carry on all heedless saving only for their own lesser griefs eke loss? -- She came there, as true prince must, and certain bravest friends withal.
[his brother bows his head in solemn acceptance of the rebuke, though not explicitly directed at him, while his sons struggle with this revelation]
What . . . what did she say to you?
My lady had no word for me. -- Word for others, that should spare me, aye -- but when that her kin had freed us, taking no right upon themselves that the Powers did not to punish, she turned from me, and did depart withouten hindward glance, nor mine own word to hinder her, unto her diverted task.
[Aredhel and the Lord Warden look away at his words, rather as Huan did when confronted by the Teler Maid earlier]
Nor spake she any word as I made haste to follow after, nor any sign saving only to point the baulk she did set aside to speak for me, that had been set to the upshoring, that they might salvage of the quay what haply might, and seek better after the dead for tally.
I recollect me well how we twain did meet, when those selfsame stones then reddened first were cut, how we did joy in the building of those very piers, and she did laugh so freely at my strivings to match the fashion of my speech unto her own, and the whole world sang, it seeméd me, of wave and wind and sweetest voice to each attuned --
-- 'Tis passing hard, from stone once dried to setting, the blood congeal'd to scrape away. Like unto enamel, even.
[there is a choked sound from one -- or more than one -- of his Exiled family]
And thus was justice, and harder punishment than death and immurement in this peace, I deem, meted out to us by mercy, that we did labour by our kindred's side, and thence make way, at longest last to shadowy Tirion, when after they that had earliest borne hence the living wounded and worst hurt in spirit unto Lorien and some measure of healing did return, and give the greater strength of gods to that sad work, and we released from them that had little wish to behold us longer, even as we them --
We can't go back. Ever.
Said I not, -- long and long time hath passed? All's changed; there is no stain nor wreckage anent the water's front, nor any bones yet scattered on the strand. Peace hath settled there anew, as the swan's breast upon the verge.
Alqualonde is back to normal? I don't believe it. I've seen --
[breaks off, abashed, as his father only shrugs, his eyebrows lifting over a gaze that has seen far too much]
'Tis far other, yet 'tis built again. Gated walls there are that may be made fast, that ne'er were elsewheres than Formenos, in the Day that was. But all's changed, and much ordered upon the thought of war.
Say rather -- fear.
Thou dost not speak counter to my lady's kin that they do train at ship's defense, else ward their gates, though they fear not in truth that we who did remain should e'er attack again.
'Tis needful, for that they might ever feel some ease of heart, after.
Nerdanel: [patiently lecturing]
Even so is the rest needful.
Thou dost aver.
Thy king no less.
[Amarie says nothing]
Thy conscience, daughter, standeth in judgment overweening -- else it be pride, the which I must hold -- uncertain.
'Tis ill that Elves should set hand no less than mind to war's consideration.
Yes, we should just let ourselves be enslaved and butchered, so that when the Enemy's soldiers overrun us we'll be able to feel pleasantly superior to them as we die.
'Twas not of necessity I spake, kinsman as kinslayer, nor defense, but of readying 'gainst needless battle.
Talk about belabouring a point long past any reasonable end of argument -- how many years has it been, and she's still complaining about something that's been obvious since the first? We don't really need to be lectured about the evils of rebellion any more, I'm fairly certain.
I'm getting the definite sense that there's some miscommunication.
[she stares intently at the Valinorean faithful for a moment]
You're not talking about us -- about Beleriand -- at all. You mean . . . here. And now, not back when the Trees were still alive, and you were feuding over who would lead the Noldor.
Howsobeit else, than following the Dark One's assail, we should not make more perilous our 'fences, and guard most vigilantly all ways within and passages, that no new foe nor old returning might enter further without alarm and excursion to prevent? Even so didst thou describe thy mother's strong endeavour when telling of thine own home and history.
But that's what Orome's people were doing, all along, -- Much good it did us.
Aye, youngling, even so -- and for the same hath the numbers of them that stand unto the watch most great increase, by addition of eyes less keen belike than demigods' -- but diligent naytheless. Should any foe seek our lands to venture presently, a pale so much the mightier than the former fences doth loft its spires to the Stars so close that none saving only the very Eagles, I dare to guess, might rise to cross that stony hedge.
The mountains are changed?
[she is very upset by this idea, and not alone]
Even as the lands their fashioning was shaped in ancientest time, in yon measureless Deeps ere any light save god-light did brighten this Marred world.
But -- how?
In the technical sense, he means.
'Twould be something long of a whiles in the telling.
[gesturing as if sketching an alpine horizon in the air]
Our Lord did greatest part in it, assuredly, but all we his folk, Eldar else other, did contribute some measure of our abilities, be it to calm the restive spirits of plant and beast, else to mend all 'twas jarred unto damage of hands' fashioning, else more, as those whose nature as whose training did incline to it, should employ their better sense of stone, of ore and its flowing as the hot veins of the profoundest earth, to waken and rouse from lumber eke to guide thence where fittest.
You've been helping Aule move mountains around, 'Danel?
Mine own portion of the Working was but slight, in truth; Noldor or no, we do but fathom the surface whereof his greater Servants comprehend all many depths thereof.
Angrod: [strung-out laughter]
All this time we were building castles and cities over there the old-fashioned way, and back home they've been rearranging the skyline.
And meanwhile I've been so proud of having figured out how to employ telekinetics for redecorating rooms!
[shaking his head]
Remind me of that next time I'm getting obnoxious, please.
Nay, 'tis overmuch a skill for to employ in mere daunting of over-witty nephews, I vouchsafe ye.
No, I don't suppose you could really threaten to open up a volcano in the middle of the dining terrace, could you?
Nerdanel: [shrugging, smiling a little]
Verily. -- Moreover I am not currently much practised with such deeds, being much taken up by the needful present Work of our good Lord Aule's forge, to aid therewith the equipage of yon swelling ranks which do guard the Calacirya --
Aredhel: [even more incredulous]
You're making arms now?
Fingolfin: [as startled as his daughter]
Gentle sister -- what is this world coming to?
There's an army about the Pass of Light?
Aye, and even so.
Why, -- ours.
But -- um, who is it?
Their armories the gods hath emptied: all those among the faithful that remained who wish it have been given arms and training in them by the Powers, far surpassing all the Arts of hunting and our own House's childish efforts to piece out the use of Morgoth's -- gifts. -- The which would occasion no little amaze, amid those of our kin that deemed no blood save Noldor should e'er have mastery of the Arts of war amongst the Elves. Preeminence hath passed to them that e'er were first among us.
The Vanyar have taken up arms?
I can't believe that.
Neither can I, I'm afraid.
Otherwise, I -- yet what, i'truth, ken I?
The Vanyar -- are become warriors?
[the Exiled shades look over at the representative of authority, who looks discomfited]
Some. -- Not all, by any means.
[everyone looks involuntarily at Amarie, who looks like one of the Fates in painted marble]
My lady, how difficult that must be for your spirit -- I am most sorry.
[shaking his head]
And so my dark imaginings are shown to be but shadows of the truth, that worse than nothing of the home I did recall is left, when what is left is changed, down to the very horizon!
You Saw this.
No. I cannot See anything beyond the walls of this place.
Then how did you know to worry about it?
I am not merely neurotic and depressed -- I obsess and fall into despondency for perfectly sound reasons, though I do not feel compelled to afflict everyone about me with them at all times and without cause.
Apprentice: [aside, bemused]
Of all the things to specialize in -- worrying as a sideline!
I don't see anyone else volunteering to take up the job, do you?
Finrod: [still stunned]
Ingwe's prepared his people for war?
[to his relatives]
What does Grandmother think of it all?
She sorroweth for its needfulness, but --
[looking at Amarie pointedly]
-- raileth not in the street and square of Valmar, nor Tirion, nor upon Taniquetil's peak, thereto assail the peace that yet withholds, nor goeth about the Guarded Plain berating them that stand to ward our land.
Nerdanel: [just as pointedly]
Indis hath ever been one to accept the world its changes, like them well, else like them little; nor to waste her heart in fretting 'gainst the course of time.
Wait -- I'm still reeling at the thought of Aman a nation mobilized for battle, but -- are you really saying that not only have the Vanyar sanctioned it -- and participate in it -- but that you're --
[looking directly at Amarie]
-- now challenging the Powers on their decision and taking them to task -- and encouraging others to do the same?
[biting back an uneven grin]
Oh, this is rich. This is just too much.
Aye, mock me openly -- I'd have such in preference to soft words of consolation and disdain, as I were a child filled with folly, that might not understand such rougher concerns nor aye the harshest ways of this the world most marred -- !
Thou wert in veriest truth most impatient, no less than thou didst speak as if unto yearling babe, when bright Varda bespake thee thus.
I did utter but words the same even as thou did unto thine own, in despite of multitudes, my lord!
-- Aye, and thee no less, as thou hast perchance forgot in thine exiled days of blood!
I just think it's funny that you're the one arguing against the Valar right now. I don't know enough about this situation to have any opinion on it one way or the other --
-- something I'm going to have to have a talk with Namo about, I can see.
Amarie: [tossing her head]
Lawful protest I but make, my lord, eke remonstration, unto them that hath most free and at no god's command nor king's now taken up the sword and battle-spear, and shield, and spells of force, as 'twere needful they should add unto the Powers' might, as aught they might essay should count in such defense!
Making any headway?
Nay. As well to reason with the flying-fish, as proclaim peace amidst the Eldar.
Lawful . . . so you mean that nobody cares enough about your troublemaking to tell you to stop, I gather?
[he is not very successfully biting back a grin]
. . .
Steward: [to Amarie, frowning]
Indeed, such must be no less of upset to yourself, than all this to us -- I think it must be as an earthquake, that your leaders and your people have all changed their way of thinking, and you that were secure once in their midst, though isolate among us Noldor, now are left apart, to stand alone upon the hard-beset ground of your strong-held principles.
[Amarie gives him a guarded, wary Look, and then nods very slightly, accepting the sympathy as if it were something unidentifiable and potentially dangerous. Glancing at Finrod:]
Thou art kinder than thy master, in truth.
It costs me little, that am but bystander. Had I such personal concern, I think 'twould be far harder.
[the object of their discussing flinches, looking guilty and stubborn both at once]
Teler Maid: [troubled aside]
No self-interest, say you -- but is that truth, taken at a remove?
[she gets up quietly and moves towards the front of the dais]
Amarie, you've --
[before he can go on, the Sea-elf comes to stand beside, frowning down at them with her arms folded, her expression unhappy but resigned and determined]
It is no good, Edrahil, no good in it nor hope. I cannot let you break my heart again.
[as she looks down at him from the steps, he turns to face her but does not get up, so that he is kneeling on the floor in front of her (and everyone else) as he looks up at her, stricken]
Steward: [voice shaking]
You did grant me a chance, one chance, Maiwe -- if I have failed with it, I beg you at the least to tell me in what fashion. I meant no insult in my words -- my latest words -- to the lady Amarie.
But it may be that you but speak so to impress me, and gainsay my fears, out of your great cunning, and thus by fair words to one so long your rival in your reckoning for Lord Ingold's friendship, so to make me think you are become generous and kind as Lord Ulmo's very self, and your power no more to fear than his! That you are gracious to her itself is but deception, I do misdoubt.
-- That I am changed -- itself is proof I am not changed?
Curlew -- that's not fair.
[her lips tighten, but she does not back down or look at him, continuing to scowl at her ex]
Then that chance was lost before it was ever offered.
I am not unjust -- not so! -- but ever and anon you did pledge me your unkindness to me would cease, and you to treat me not so coldly outside my lady's house -- and ever and anon you did again. And then did make me coils of words to foul my steering-oar and leave me unhelmed, proving how you did not mock me with your mocking. That you are good -- 'tis too good to be trusted.
[she fights tears, very proud in her distress; he sighs and nods, once]
[he closes his eyes for a moment, before looking at her resolutely]
Then I offer you this choice, which I have pondered now some whiles, the making of it I will not attempt to sway, nor to resist once made. -- Would you not have the danger of me as I am, all that I was and yet am and have become, then I pledge you this: do you wish it, I will ask of the Lord and Lady here, when the time comes, that I should drink of the cup of forgetfulness --
-- though I think that must be metaphorical -- as I were one reborn whose child-soul newly wakening needs must be sheltered, lest the growing mind grow bent with too much press of knowledge and recollection of things beyond any means of comprehending.
[long shocked silence, as all his friends and enemies and acquaintances stare at him . . . most of all the Sea-Elf]
Teler Maid: [breathless]
I think that I have hurt you so deeply, that you perhaps may never think of me without some secret fear that I will mock you once again, in secret smiling words that are too subtle for your thought's untangling, or in smiles alone, or perchance in thought only -- and that the worst.
[turning up his hand]
Therefore if you will, 'tis my will that your words should be my first, taking up my life anew, your speech that from which I learn the ways of thought, and thus my first proud self forgot beyond recall, a tale from a distant land, in a stranger's tongue, that hearing might be wondered at and learned of, but never quite the same. Let yours be the world's translation, to my mind, hereafter.
[she comes closer, staring at him in dismay]
Teler Maid: [almost whispering]
You surrendered your heart's dearest ambition for your people . . . and your flesh for the sake of your friends -- but for me you would give up that which you prize above all other things, dearer than pearls, dearer than praise even, -- the treasure of your mind --
Steward: [with a very slight smile]
I have a better sense of what is of worth, and what is worth less, I think, than I did in bygone Day.
[Finrod starts to interrupt, but Luthien puts a hand on his, forestalling him, though her expression is as serious as his and his companions'. Nerdanel takes a deep breath and presses her hands against her lips, closing her eyes on her tears.]
Teler Maid: [rather desperate]
You do not know that the gods would grant such asking.
Perchance not -- but I trust I have some skill at persuasion, and I cannot discern any harm nor wrong in it, if 'tis my will as it is yours.
You -- you would become as one of us, as one born of the Teleri, forsaking all your own House and folk and lore?
But you would be of Tirion a laughingstock, and a stranger, among the proud companions of House Feanor . . .
. . . but they are not there, now, I do remember . . .
[pulling herself together]
But how should you fare among us, lacking all memories, as a child full-grown, and knowing naught of the lore of ships?
Do not trouble about that. We are swift to learn, our people, even as to teach.
Teler Maid: [increasingly panicked]
But you would no longer know your friends, and would you lose even them for me?
That would not matter, for they would be my friends yet, would they not? and would surely treat me no less kindly, when I should be speechless and ignorant of them as of all else, than ever they did before.
Teler Maid: [with a nervous glance at Finrod and the Captain]
But they would be greatly angered with me, or at the least reproachful.
You are not deliberating whether to wed Finrod Finarfinion, nor any of his following nor kin.
Teler Maid: [taut]
You are pushing me, Edrahil.
Yes. You cannot push aside the burden of choosing onto others who have not chosen it.
Teler Maid: [whispering]
-- Do you want it?
Do not trouble about that. I offer it freely: naught else matters.
Indeed but it does -- ! You shall resent me for it, if I say you yea, I think.
No, for I shall not remember it.
But you shall so in time, when your past life returns to you, as I have heard, and shall you not then recall what skills you have lost and given up and regret them most sadly, and so too me?
Then shall I not also recollect the reason for so choosing?
You have answers for everything.
Yes. And so it shall ever be, -- unless you would have it otherwise.
Teler Maid: [in a rush]
I might not love you then. Have you indeed thought upon that? That I might grow weary of you as dull, and one no longer mysterious and strange, that did learn all words and ways of me, nor wish to wed you then, and leave you to go your ways bereft and all forlorn?
[he looks over briefly at his King and comrades, and their anxious looks of concern, and smiles faintly]
Not all forlorn.
Why would you be willing that all your glory and pride and strength of wit be gone from you, for so little return as one I know you deemed me?
Maiwe, I am so wearied of the weight of days that the thought of a time without their burden on my soul is as welcome as it is otherwise. I have had for my consolation the certainty that you, at least, were well and better without me, for surely your true intended must be of your own folk, and you to have realized that with my vainglorious desertion -- and I have learned that even that was an empty dream, and all my meant nobility of sacrifice to think of you wed to another and happy for that, a folly and arrogance, and no more.
I cast myself into the Lord of Water's embrace in hope of oblivion, and found it, but for a little while, and must ever wake again to the world, and the world Outside awaits, and I fear it more than ever I feared Ice or Fire or Wolf. To lose its imaginings were no loss.
Teler Maid: [frowning]
But were the world so ill that you would gladly lose it, then it may not be so, that you might be indifferent to unchange!
Steward: [smiles regretfully]
You were not so bold to argue against my errors, in the Day that was.
And you would never, never have smiled so at it . . . !
[in almost a whisper]
Such a choice you give me, such an offering -- as rare and unreplaceable as any swanship, and shall I burn this gift, lest it be used against me?
[shaking her head]
I cannot accept your gift. I am not deserving of it.
[sadly but without regret]
I will remain the younger of us twain, and you shall keep the mastery, and memory of the Treeless world that I have never yet seen, nor shall I seek to lessen thee. Only --
[her voice trembles a little]
-- be gentle with me, that am and ever shall be the weaker, and recollect the long years I did spend in shadow and dreams, while you wandered far under the changéd sky --
[he cannot answer at once]
Steward: [strange intensity]
Weak? That has held power to harm, where wronged, and set aside nonetheless?
[shaking his head in turn]
There is no deed heavier in all of Arda, nay, Ea, than to show mercy, when no gain or glory's like to come of it. And as for fearing the world Outside -- true, I have indeed beheld the Sun upon the water, and Tilion's cool flame amid the Stars -- but when I seek to think of the lands I knew, the home of my first beholding and my birth, not in the gentleness of the Silver and the Golden Ones but bright and dark and changing as Beleriand, -- I am filled with dread, and tremble to dream of looking on them, when all is changed and past recall.
Teler Girl: [disbelievingly]
You, also? Afraid?
Very much afraid. I fear you shall find me a poor shelter, and little of strength or protection from me, nonetheless.
Teler Girl: [slightly mocking]
What, shall I then defend you, and be your protector, and your mainstay against the storm?
If you will have it so. And if you will not --
[his voice is unsteady now]
-- then if you would, remember me not all unkindly, for I did love you truly, if too late, and if in vain.
Teler Girl: [indignant]
In vain? Now that you have come to me? Small chance of that! I am not you, Edrahil --
[he flinches, but she keeps on]
-- neither who was, nor is, to fend you off when you would hold to me, nor let you slip away unclaimed that come within my lee!
[she takes hold of both his hands and pulls him upright, then has to look up even though she is standing on a step]
Teler Maid: [a little dismayed]
Oh! But you are so much the taller than I -- and I did recollect that, but it seemed otherwise for so long you have been kneeling.
Steward: [very seriously]
Perhaps that might be changed, did the Powers will it; one might ask them at least.
[she gives him a very dubious Look]
You would wish to be so short as this? Would that not be most strange to you, and hard or more so than to lose --
[checks -- frowning fiercely up at him]
You -- are -- jesting -- with me!
[he does not deny it, though his expression does not change -- hers changes to wide-eyed wonder]
Ah! You are truly changed, to utter silly jests against yourself, and I heard it told, but held it past likelihood -- No, I would not have you less, so you do not stand so high you might not see me in your shadow.
I will never clip nor close your wings.
[the Sea-elf continues to match stares with him, and he with her. Suddenly she jumps up and grips his shoulders, setting her feet against his knee as if she were scaling a rock-wall -- or a mast -- and holds there like a gymnast, so that now she is looking down slightly into his eyes. Reflexively he catches her around her waist, keeping her steady, and in complete trust she lets go, leaning back against his hands, and runs her own down the sides of his face and through his hair, her eyes sparkling with delighted glee and more than a little mischief.]
Teler Maid: [shaking her head earnestly]
You are not who I dreamed you should be, did I have in all ways my will -- for never did it come to me, to dream of any realm so rich and strange that I should wonder at it no matter how long the world should last. -- Edrahil, I do not forgive you -- for it is truly as your friend has said: him that you now are never did me wrong, nor might I hold hard grudge to another, when the one who hurt me has vanished.
[frowning a little anxiously]
-- Are you happy?
Indeed, I may answer that an unqualified yes.
[she looks at him with a thoughtful curiosity]
Did you know, of a certainty, how I should choose?
And if I had -- if I had made that offer but in hollowness, giving you a choice that I knew most certainly you should not take, and thus no risk to me at all, but only the semblance of generosity, as the Lady Luthien has told of her captors' bragging to her in our City, how Lord Curufin took pains that he and his elder should be seen to be Narog's defenders against preying Wolves, both so that they might obtain first information of my lord's death or return, and so that their nobility be ever in the people's foremost view -- if that were true -- what shall you do now, Sea-Mew?
[she slaps at his shoulders in exasperation]
Why do you speak of such a thing, as you'd have me hate you yet and once again?
Steward: [with careful emphasis]
Because you must be certain, that you know what it is you will -- and you must know, you must not blind yourself, that such a subterfuge lies full well within my powers, to guide the course of others' thoughts and words -- most especially of them that are less practised or else weaker than I.
Teler Maid: [coolly]
You did not say which, yea or nay.
[he smiles a little in appreciation of her shrewdness, but answers as seriously as before:]
I had seen that you were brave, and wise; and that your thought is not upon your own good alone, but that you take heed for justice -- and thus I could See whatever choice you made, were well for me. But I did not See so far as to which 'twould be.
[bemused and oddly vulnerable]
I concede, it pleases me strangely more than I had thought, that you did choose me, as I am, in mine own despite.
[she tries to say something, but is at a loss for words]
Ex-Thrall: [hoarsely, but smiling]
Speak, cousin; or, if you cannot, stop his mouth with a kiss, and let not him speak neither --
[she does so enthusiastically]
I think I will babble folly all the day, to be so silenced --
Teler Maid: [interrupting, rising to his defense]
-- You are no fool!
-- and mine own self to censure, to be so praised --
Teler Maid: [glaring in mock indignation]
Ah -- !
-- and pardon beg for such small subterfuge, that such a starry gaze might longer look down on me the whiles --
Teler Maid: [trying not to smile]
-- and all these but empty words and worthless webs, phantoms of illusion to draw you after me once more, were it not for one abiding flame of truth that kindles each to life: that I do love you, Maiwe of Alqualonde, more than any other place or state or thing upon this earth.
Teler Maid: [smiling now, but trying not-very-successfully not to cry]
I know not what to say, Edrahil, I would have had you look upon me, and now -- your notice does undo me most completely --
No matter; I have an answer --
[he kisses her in turn this time, as the scene ends]
[Elsewhere -- the Corollaire.]
I never wanted to be a warrior. I never didn't want to. It . . . just wasn't an option one way or the other. That's what we did. I wasn't crippled. I hadn't any great skills like Healing or Smithing that would have been more valuable to the tribe. I was just a Hunter. I always knew someday I'd go off to the War. And then we got overrun and everyone had to be fighters.
See? That's exactly what I was getting at earlier. You need to make your own decisions now, not based on factors that no longer apply.
But I'm dead.
You keep saying that as if I didn't know it.
You know something I don't.
Yavanna: [smug, teasing]
Lots of things.
If I weren't dead . . . I would be too afraid to look at you, wouldn't I?
Maybe. But maybe not -- you've never feared any of my shapes, my shadows, never shrank from my touch in the world beyond, no matter what my mood or form it took while you were living. You're mine.
Wait . . . was that you? When I was dying? I'd lost so much blood I couldn't see, even the torches were going out it seemed like, but I could still see everyone -- like candles, kind of, except Tinuviel was like a bonfire, and all the trees glowing too, and over us the Lady-tree was like this pillar of light above, and everything was --
You were there. Watching over me.
Yes. After a fashion. A part of my -- awareness -- was present.
Beren: [as certain]
You helped me. You were the wind that carried me over the Sea, so that I didn't fall into the Grey Lands again.
[she only looks at him with a sad smile]
Who are you?
[at her bemused expression]
We call you the Earthqueen, and the Lady of the Fields, and those aren't names, those are titles. And I always thought Yavanna was your name name, but then I learned the Elven Old Speech, and it just means the one who gives us fruit, and that isn't a real name either, that's just a description. The same thing for the rest of you guys -- your names are just special ways of saying words, really. They're descriptions that people gave you.
Obviously. We only use them because the Children prefer it.
Then -- what do you call yourself?
Beren: [staggered and rather worried]
You don't have -- a real name?
Yavanna: [with an wry Look]
What is a name?
It's . . . it's the sound that means you. Or the thought, I guess, 'cause it can be letters, too. I mean written.
Where does it come from?
Your parents give it to you.
[she keeps waiting]
Or your friends, sometimes . . . Or you pick one, because it describes you, and okay, I get it, but they don't seem like names. I mean, the Smith -- the Star-queen -- the Windmaster -- the Lord of Dreams -- they all seem sort of . . . impersonal.
You sound like your friend, who goes by the name Finrod these days, and many more than when he left us. Do you know what he said, when he asked me the same thing an Age ago, and I tried to explain to him that it would take until the end of the world to tell him all my names, because who one is keeps on going -- ?
"Well -- do you think you could talk really quickly then?"
[Beren chuckles; the Earth-Queen sighs]
Aman has been such a quieter place, since.
We aren't really using words now, are we?
Okay . . .
You might be dead, but your mind still has the habits of years and your people think partly in words. It would be rather pointless for me to speak to you in ways you don't understand, or so well, when we can communicate directly at present.
Partly. So . . . another way . . . is all this -- ?
[he brushes his hand through the grass beside him]
In images. And feelings.
[he turns a little looking up at the dead Trees]
Beren: [almost in a whisper]
Long ago -- for us -- the King gave my ancestors his memories of Aman in visions. You must remember them too, better than anyone else could.
[she looks at him intently, understanding perfectly what he's asking]
It will hurt. An awful lot.
There's this idea my friends told me about, I'm not sure I buy it, but it could be true -- that the way the world is now, even air hurts us, just a little bit at a time, every time we breathe it, only we don't even feel it because we're born to it, so we're always used to it, not like the first time you go up into the mountains and it's too thin, but like being born up in the highlands and it's thinner than down in the flats, so people from Brethil have a hard time moving north until they get used to it -- and maybe that's part of why we get old the way they don't, because we don't heal right. Men as opposed to The Elves, I mean. But you understand me . . . all of what I'm trying to say.
[gravely she nods]
You will not be able to take it all in, though -- even my memories are greater than your ability to grasp, dear one.
Then give me what I can. -- Please.
[she looks intently into his eyes]
You would have given Them to me, had I asked you, and you been able -- Yes.
[(Note: we never see the Trees themselves during this sequence.) The light begins to grow around them, not a blinding blue-white light at all, but a gold-silver, clear and intense but not painful, nor flat, but shifting like that of sunlight through leaves -- or rather more like that of the fireworks which become like weeping-willows made of golden light. As it increases in intensity the blue of the sky is overwhelmed and the green of the grass becomes translucent, as if each blade were an impossibly thin leaf of emerald, but the quality of it retains the same coruscating, shifting character. Tears fill the Earth-queen's eyes at the memory, and her expression reveals a combination of pain and joy.]
You meant hurt you . . . I'm sorry --
[he reaches his hand up to her cheek, unconsciously, like a child comforting a caregiver, his own tears beginning to fall]
Yavanna: [same tone]
[the light illuminates them the same way it does on the world around them, like the clear diamond-cut daylight of a Vermeer painting which makes even chipped mugs and windowsills beautiful, only more golden, or like sunlight in a Terrence Malick film, the mingled light of the Opening Hour. The butterflies and bees glow like blue topaz and amber, garnet and white jade. It is too much, even in recollection, and a dream, and the mortal begins to sway -- she catches him, gently leaning him back unconscious on the hillside, while the sky returns to mundane blue and the world to the ordinary light of day.]
[the Hall: the Exiles of House Finwe are in mid-argument with their relatives (it's less of an argument than a distress-airing session, really and the distress and bewilderment are mutual) about the fact that they've gone and changed home on them. (The Teler Maid and the Steward are now seated side by side holding hands, a little apart from Finrod and Luthien, but still part of the group; although the Sea-Elf is trying diligently to be attentive and serious, she can't help bouncing up and down on her knees from time to time like an over-excited little kid, and when they look at each other, it is with the lurking smiles of two who share a private joke. He, in particular, is changed -- no longer brooding or preoccupied, but completely relaxed: the worst is over, there's nothing left that he can't cope with now. Their quiet conspiratorial glee is the source of different reactions among the seated company: for some (Finrod, Amarie, Aredhel, Eol) it increases their unhappiness, others (his comrades, Elenwe & Nerdanel, the Ex-Thrall, Huan) are cheered every time they look at them.)]
You didn't say anything, Father, you never mentioned it to us -- if you had --
[he shakes his head in reproach -- aside, sadly]
. . . I would never have slighted you so, had I known you came so nearly to violence: my anger is gone, in my pointless fear for you in bygone danger -- but not my hurt, for rage gone cold is a cruel weight upon the heart --
Yet how shouldst thou give credence, that nor we nor eke this realm be withouten change, even as ye in veriest truth are likewise given unto change?
[Aegnor does not know what to say; Angrod and the Captain try to comfort him. So does Huan.]
But nobody expects it to happen. I know I didn't think that Doriath would be any different at all, not really -- certainly not like it was when we finally got there.
Finrod: [sounding tired and unhappy]
Might we get back to that? If you don't mind, of course. But talking about all this -- we can't change anything, and neither can they, and the longer it goes on the more upsetting it is, for myself at least.
It just keeps on getting worse and worse from here.
No, I meant that it doesn't seem like that's going to be much of an improvement for you. I think I can manage the rest, now. But I'm afraid it will only depress you in a different way.
Nay, there resteth in tales of others' woe the power most strange to lighten one's own grief, betimes; some do say for that one might gain better perception by compare, of this sorrow its insignificance, but I do aver 'tis moster that the tale doth occupy the heart so full that passing weight be much displaced by present.
I do want to know how it ended, even if I already know what happens after. -- If you're sure you're all right with it.
Do you remember where I was?
Fighting with the Lord of Beor about what to do next, my Lady.
Yes, but that's most of the story.
All right. Yes. -- The hardest part for me was accepting what I'd demanded earlier, when it wasn't what I really wanted. It took me a long time to bring myself to acknowledge what a sacrifice he was making, to give up his pride and agree to go back to my father with me, without the Silmaril, so that I'd be safe. When I said, "I'll only go back to Doriath with you by my side," I was imagining a defiant sort of way, me telling them that we weren't going to listen to their silly conditions and objections, and they could take me on my own terms -- with Beren -- or not at all. I didn't imagine us going back with a Silmaril at all -- I didn't even dare let myself think it could be possible, even while I was doing everything I could to make it happen -- but this --
[she smiles sadly]
Going back in utter defeat, limping home with nothing, to beg charity from them, even if I wasn't going to admit that they were right all along -- it was just too awful a thought. And after that winter -- there wasn't anything about roughing it that bothered me at all. I was good at it. I don't need anybody else to look after me -- except for Huan -- !
[giving the Hound an affectionate look]
But -- Beren -- just couldn't. There wasn't -- something happened to him, when he lost to Carcharoth, more than just being injured. The poison, perhaps, or . . . Sometimes I thought he wouldn't wake up because he didn't want to, because he didn't want to live any more, only he's too stubborn to stop, either. And when he did . . . he was so -- so old. -- Weak. Even after his health recovered, he -- it was in his mind, not so much his body -- he was like an oak gone all hollow, there on the outside, but everything that made him strong and alive and him all eaten away, with just enough left to keep going for one more spring --
[she swallows hard]
There are people who became that way after the Grinding Ice.
[Aegnor also nods somberly]
Salgant was always a weakling with no moral fibre whatsoever. That fat fool let himself be pushed along into the March -- it wasn't courage that stopped him turning back at Araman, it was simply that he hadn't the nerve to make his own choices.
Not so. I am sorrowed to hear the cold did break his spirit, and the deaths of children, yet such wondereth me not: 'twas for the same kindness and duty to his folk that set my lord thy brother on that trail even as Ingold.
Aredhel: [giving Finrod a wicked smile]
Speaking of useless people -- never mind.
When are you going to grow up and stop thinking that fighting with everyone is a worthwhile use of your time?
You should talk -- you got to have an exciting life as a warrior for all those years, while I was stuck in that hole of Turgon's and then my noble husband's so called Great Hall.
[Eol smirks knowingly at her mockery]
Aegnor: [uneven smile]
Oh yes, so exciting -- every year for yeni watching Morgoth's smouldering dump, waiting for something unpleasant to happen -- telling more people their loved ones weren't coming home, and then finally getting to watch all our friends die with us. -- And never the chance to have a real home, or a real life, with a family and children of our own. It got boring very quickly, 'Feiniel. I -- envy you.
[she looks away haughtily]
Luthien: [going on determinedly]
And finally I had no other choice. I couldn't fix him -- not without destroying him.
[Nerdanel looks at her with a very pointed, knowing expression, Luthien matching hers, not looking away]
I do not understand.
I might have been able to change his mind so that he couldn't remember about Carcharoth or the Silmaril any more, and then it wouldn't grieve him so, or he to blame himself for it.
But why would that be so wrong? Would that not be healing him, after a fashion?
Sea-Mew, how if I had only made you forget your fights and bitterness with Edrahil, so that you only had a vague recollection that you'd disagreed, but it was all silliness, and thus you should not hold it against him any longer -- instead of weighing all the past against the present and your own knowledge, to judge him false or true, so that you might have perfect bliss without any pain at all?
[she looks dismayed]
No, no, that would be most wrong!
Steward: [giving Finrod a Look]
[he puts his arms reassuringly around her shoulders]
Teler Maid: [breathless and a little worried]
Could you do that, Lord Ingold?
I don't -- think so. But I'm not a demi-god. If I knew how --
[he looks at his friends with a sad smile]
-- it would have been far easier to do that, than let you two terrify me so -- to wrong you, to keep you both safe -- and thus to lose you both, by so doing, and this harmony you have made for yourselves, that I never dared to hope for.
[Aegnor looks at him in concern, and then at Amarie, who sighs but does not say anything; Aegnor looks again at his brother with a troubled expression, and a profound, if belated, empathy.]
I think -- I think if I had once started to try -- it would have been easy for me to master him thus -- because I'm strong enough, and I know his mind so well -- but most of all because he loves me so much. It wouldn't have been like my other battles --
Warden of Aglon: [confused aside]
Of course not. He's a Man, not Ainur.
You'd be surprised -- Men are very tough, and capable of resisting mental interference to an astonishing degree, given their lack of life-experience.
Better far than some of us.
Why do you think I fled the field, rather than try to argue with my true-love? Luthien may be the only one of us more stubborn than House Beor.
-- As stubborn, maybe. I don't think anyone can be more.
[blinking rather hard, with a bitter smile]
All the while he was comatose, I kept thinking that there could be nothing worse than this -- that it would have been better if we'd both died before Thangorodrim, than for me to lose him like that, to have him alive without being there, as if fate were mocking us both. I'd rather have followed him through Nan Dungortheb, and faced the creatures that live in the ravines, than spent those nights and days watching him struggle against Death alone, able to do nothing but bathe him and sing to him and try to get enough food and liquids into him to keep him from wasting away --
[the High King's daughter laughs shortly]
And what do you think you could have done against them?
Not much, probably. I gather the giant spiders are fairly tone-deaf.
[this deadpan comment brings an involuntary sour smile to the face of the other Princess]
I heard far more than I ever wanted to know about Ungoliant's spawn and sundry fell creatures during his other illnesses, when he was delirious with fever or just having nightmares. I don't mean that I want to have anything to do with them, or ever did. But at least I would have been doing something, if I'd been there by his side, not --
[her detachment begins to fail her; Finrod grips her shoulder tightly]
-- waiting, to find out if I'd ever hear his voice, if I'd already lost him as I feared at Angband -- always afraid that he might slip away without my knowing it, not knowing if anything I did made any difference, or if he could even hear me -- but sometimes it almost seemed as if he was about to wake, there were moments when consciousness was almost about to return, I thought -- and then he'd slip back into dark again, like when there's a warm day and you think it's finally come to Spring, but then it turns out to have been an illusion, and a killing frost takes all the new growth.
[she wipes her eyes with her hand]
The worst -- the worst was that he was in pain, even when he was deepest in sleep, I could tell -- sometimes I thought that perhaps he didn't want to come back, because it was too bad, like a wall o f fire to pass through. And when he -- he did, that was all I wanted, I thought -- I thought it would all be all right, no matter about the Silmaril or even his poor hand. Only -- he was broken, and I couldn't change that, not by anything I said or sang or did, and it was worse when he tried to make an effort for my sake and be normal . . .
[wiping her eyes again]
. . . it hurt so much to look at him that way, and finally I had to stop fighting the truth and admit there was nothing more I could do to heal him, and then I had to ask myself -- how much was I willing to give up for him? Could I stand to set aside my pride, and face my parents, for his sake, or would I keep on being a coward and telling myself that things would get better for us both if I just made him do what I wanted for a little while longer, so that I wouldn't have to deal with the stress and shame of dealing with my family again?
Poor Huan -- we both kept wanting him to take sides and choose between us, and tell the other one what to do and who was right, and he wouldn't, he wouldn't say anything, it made him so unhappy to have us at odds.
[the Hound whines, thumping his tail a little, his ears and eyebrows forlorn; it's Aegnor's turn to comfort him, patting him and rubbing his nose]
Finally, one day, I couldn't, and I woke him -- Beren, I mean, of course -- and told him we would go back home. And he was so -- so grateful for it, as if I'd just taken a huge burden off his back, and helped him up from the ground, and given him water. All the while we were breaking camp, he was so -- easy and almost cheerful, but the worst of it was that I knew why -- I knew it was because he didn't care what happened to himself any more, so the thing that I was most afraid of, that Dad would have him killed or imprisoned as he'd warned us, didn't mean a thing to him -- really, because he wouldn't have worry about me. I was afraid -- very -- that he was actually hoping he'd be put to death, just to get it over with, but how could I ask him that?
Fourth Guard: [troubled]
That doesn't sound much like Beren.
No. He wasn't -- he hadn't been himself for a very long time. Even before, when I first found him, but -- this was so much worse.
[pulling herself together]
So then we went back to Menegroth, together, for the second time, and I was so tense and afraid and angry that I hardly noticed how different everything was at first -- Beren marked it before I did, that the woods were completely still, there were no animals about at all, and there was a hush over everything; only it wasn't like before, when Daeron's moodiness bound everything -- this was more like the calm before a hurricane. It was fear, not unhappiness -- well, there was unhappiness too, but that came because of the fear, not separately. We didn't understand it, and it was extremely spooky -- if I hadn't been able to sense Mom's working, it would have seemed as though the Maze had failed and everyone been mysteriously taken from the land -- and we all crept through, on guard for we didn't know what -- else, at least. I was worried that someone might get -- overenthusiastic, and shoot without warning.
Huan: [hackles raising]
[those in the Hound's vicinity start and edge away a little]
I was so paranoid, I was convinced it was some ways connected to us, their anger at us both causing the Forest to turn against us, or -- I don'tknow what. I was thinking all the time of what I would say to them, and trying to rehearse in my mind how I would say it, and all the while I kept laughing at myself, because I've faced down Werewolves, war-leaders, and the Dark Lord himself -- I've gone where no free soul has ever gone, and come back to tell of it -- I've done what no one in the whole history of Arda has managed -- and I'm afraid to go home and face my parents.
They're pretty intimidating when they're upset. It isn't one of my favoured memories.
[Aegnor shakes his head in rueful agreement; she manages a smile at his words]
If it had only been me -- I don't think I could have done it. But I had to be strong for Beren. And then -- everyone was there, in Menegroth, and they were all so -- it was so different from what I was expecting, all the turmoil of everyone gathered there in terror of Carcharoth, and this feeling that the end of the world was coming, and not focussing on us at all -- not in the way you'd have thought they would, -- Oh, here's poor little Luthien come back having learnt her lesson, she needs a brush and a wash and and a good feed, and who are these hairy ruffians tagging along after her?
[Huan thumps his tail]
-- That's what I was bracing myself for.
Doriath was not as it was when you departed from us, my Princess, long before we were assaulted by the Wolf of the North. If you had been willing to come back, even prior to your attempt on the Silmaril, your father might well have been willing to set aside his pride and anger against your true-love, so that we might have had an end to our terrible silence.
Steward: [not at all harsh]
Are you certain of that, my lord? For I aver it possible -- but your King is stern in judgment, and when his heart as well as the safety of the realm is touched, his wrath no small blaze lightly quenched. Is it not possible -- before further grounds for self-reproach are laid at her Highness' feet -- that Elu Thingol should have been yet more enraged, at such seeming mockery on The Beoring's part, and taken a broken bargain as full warrant for the enforcing of his bloody terms?
And I wasn't willing to risk it, and Beren wasn't either, which makes it all moot.
Until he saw no other road open to him.
You remember I said that Beren seemed to recover a bit when I agreed to go home? He was like that still, fey almost, nearly -- cheerful, the closer we got to my parents' audience hall, with this weird little smile, as if he were laughing at himself and everything --
Ah. Yes. That one. -- That's the real reason why Curufin loathes him so, my Lady. Beyond anything else objective.
I -- hadn't actually seen that before. Except the last time he told off my father. But this was worse.
I was going to try to minimize the damage, and then we got close, and -- they looked at me, and I didn't know what to say, I couldn't -- say anything -- and Beren sort of stands there waiting, just the way he did before, while everyone's staring at us -- at him -- and it was all so -- wrong -- and then he just shook his hair back and grinned at Dad and says very clearly, "Hi. I think we had a bargain," and took it from there. He . . . dominated the conversation.
I -- can just imagine.
No, you can't, Sir.
[to Luthien, earnestly]
-- Tell him how it happened, please, because I want to do it, but I wasn't there, and it's yours by right.
[Luthien smiles, looking down, blinking hard to get control; when she goes on her voice is very quiet and level, with a kind of amusement that is half-exasperation, half admiration]
He went and knelt down, very formally --
[to the Ambassador]
-- not mockingly, but it looked like it if one didn't know him -- in front of my father's chair, and looked at him very seriously, and told him that yes, he had gotten a Silmaril just as he promised. And Dad asked him where it was, then, and Beren says, in the same way, that it's in his hand. And my father looked at me, and I didn't say anything, I just looked at him. He knew something was up, but not what, I don't think. I waited. He waited. I was more patient. Huan didn't say anything, either. So he turned to Beren again, and looks at his left hand, which is empty because I was holding it until a moment before, and told him to show it to him, then. Now Beren's got his cloak all across his front, like that --
-- and when Dad said this, he shakes his head, still with that weird little grin, and tells him, "Sorry, I can't." And then he shrugs back his cape, and tells them that the jewel's in his hand -- but his hand was swallowed by the Great Wolf of Angband, who ran mad into the wilderness. And while this is registering, he says, perfectly straight-faced, "-- But that still counts, right? I was gonna bring it back to you, in fact I was on my way, before it got stolen from me. I did like I said, I kept my word. So I think you owe me something." And he looks up at me, and raises his eyebrows, and just looks at Dad, smiling.
[Finrod closes his eyes, covering his face with his hand -- his brothers look at each other, aghast]
He said that to your father?
Is he cr --
Oh. Right. We'd already decided that.
If I were Elu, I'd not have stood for such insolence from a mere Man.
It's a good thing you weren't, Master Smith. You don't know how this story turns out.
Eol: [heavy emphasis]
Nor -- do -- you.
What did Melian say to all this?
She started laughing. And crying, all at the same time. And Beren was just -- like a wall of rock, like the edge of the Andram, completely immovable, with everyone's eyes on him, and I wanted to go drag him out of all that, protect him from them all, -- but he didn't need it, he was so brave, and I was so proud of him --
Finrod: [half smile]
One thing House Beor has never lacked for is sheer nerve.
But you weren't there the last time, when he was so overwhelmed by all the people and -- and everything, and my parents especially, that he was completely tongue-tied.
"Inarticulate loser in ripped camouflage" was how he later described that episode to me.
[she gives a short, strained laugh and wipes her eyes quickly at his words]
It was bad. And I was too shaken by all the changes and all my planned words now being irrelevant, to say anything just then -- it was almost as much a blur as when I fell off Horse. But instead of thundering at him, Dad told him to get up, quite politely, and sit down if we didn't mind, and tell them all the details. So we did that, and everyone told us what had been happening there meanwhile -- I mean that both ways, meanwhile we were gone, and while we were trying to describe our adventures --
Beren did say it was rather overwhelming.
Yes. He started getting whelmed pretty quickly, too. And I got -- sarcastic.
I was so angry still, and it hadn't anywhere to go, and I was starting to get frightened, too, hearing about Carcharoth in our country, and people getting killed or lost on my account --
[the Ambassador scarcely even winces at this reminder now]
-- and they were being so -- so miserable about it all that I was even more frustrated and angry, because I wanted them to suffer guilt about it, but they had, already, and I wasn't even there for it -- and so it was all very anticlimactic and not going the way I'd imagined it might when I was thinking about what dramatic speeches and denunciations I'd make to them on Beren's behalf.
I know it wasn't very noble of me, but you went through all that yourself earlier, and all my sympathies were with us then. And I didn't like having to share them.
[with a resentful little smile]
-- Home was so different, and I don't know if it was that they were different, or I was changed, or both.
Finrod: [looking at his father]
[she nods agreement, sighing again]
Everyone kept being surprised, saying that I was so different now -- not simply at first, they kept on being surprised, over and over again.
Different how? That you were no longer in doubt of yourself, of your powers?
Well, that, yes, but mostly how I looked. Saying what a mess I was, -- that my hair was darker --
Was it so?
I couldn't tell.
[her cousins are confused]
How could it be?
What's darker than black?
They said it didn't shine any more, that it was all shadow, now, like my cloak. It really upset them -- I suppose because it wasn't something that could be taken care of by hot water and recourse to a clothes-chest, or even time.
Finrod: [very skeptical]
Was it true? Wouldn't Beren have noticed, if it were?
All that struck him was that it was off. We had a lot of conversations like that at first -- "What happened to your hair? -- Oh, yeah." -- "Your hair -- it's short." -- "Yes." I'd almost forgotten by that point until he reminded me, really, what with being a prisoner and everything. I asked him that night, when we were alone, if it was true, if he'd noticed any change in it, besides shortness, and what he said was even more troubling, in a way.
What said he?
He said, that everything about me was changed, then, that it was hard to remember back to that moment, but he couldn't forget it either, that I was bright and dark like Elbereth's night come to life -- and that I went on changing after, and hadn't stopped yet. So he couldn't say how I was different, when I found him, from when we were together in Doriath.
Nerdanel: [thoughtful frown]
Nay, I recall me only now, didst declare how none were taken up with such matter as thine unkempt state, nor only with thy living return. Which, then, was't?
Well. When I said "people" it was mostly my parents.
[looks down, then at Nerdanel again]
Well. My mother, really.
That doesn't seem very like Melian, to be concerned over something so trivial in so consequential an hour.
Angrod: [sad smile]
I think, from all the sounds of it, that our aunt has found out the hard way that when it comes to familial feuds and protecting people on both sides, there's no winning. Remember how much we talked about the weather?
Mom kept trying to avoid my questions, and treat me like a little girl again --
[laughing, wiping her eyes]
-- we got into the stupidest, childish arguments over what I was going to wear and where we were going to sleep and what kind of spells I'd been working -- Do you know, we even got into a dispute over whether or not I knew how to make lembas? I was talking about how we'd survived in the woods, and how I'd substituted other grains for amaranth sometimes, and hazelnuts, when I couldn't find beechmast, and she told me that it wasn't real lembas then, no matter what else I did to it, and we both got very adamant about it -- and so I told her that according to the High-Elves, we were making it all wrong anyway, because we used the wrong words here, so there.
I fear I do not understand.
That's what Finduilas told me in Nargothrond.
[looking at her Noldor cousins]
She explained to me very sweetly that yours was the only proper way to do it, because they used the words that Yavanna taught in the right language, you see, and because ours was only a translation -- "a very free translation" was what she said -- it just wasn't the same. "But I'm sure it's almost as good," she said, quite generously, after teaching me the true way to Sing it.
But -- is not -- your mother a very goddess, and of Yavanna's folk, that did house herself amid your people?
[looking around dubiously]
How then might any say that she does not know the way of making the blest bread? Or you?
Maiwe, have you ever known us to be lacking in either boldness or in pride -- even to the Powers? The Princess Finduilas is a great lady of the Noldor.
[she starts giggling at the absurdity of this, muffling her laughter with her braids]
Nay, oft have I beheld mine own late love a-telling of the Servants of our lord Aule how they did err, in manifold and sundry way. -- Betimes 'twas so, even, that he had the right of't.
Poor Beren didn't know what all was going on, for most of it, between my parents and myself, and then with everyone being so completely polite to him, when he expected they'd toss him into a dungeon, or worse -- he kept bending over to "check on Huan" who was lying next to us, and wishing he could join the other hounds under the tables.
Huan? Or Beren?
[Huan grins, panting]
I rather felt like it too. All these stupid, trivial issues. And then . . .
[fade out, camera pulling back -- in the shadows, another brief gleam from the palantir, completely unnoticed]
[Elsewhere -- the Corollaire]
[Beren is lying back with his arms folded behind his head, watching the clouds overhead with an expression of calm contentment. The Earthqueen is holding a blade of grass between her thumbs and blowing around it to make skreeky noises, very seriously. He rolls on his side (right), raising himself on his elbow, and looks at her, smiling, until she turns to him with an answering smile.]
I guess I should figure out what I'm going to do now.
What do you want to do?
I've asked what I wanted to ask; got an answer -- a lot of answer; I've seen what lies beyond the Sea, and seen not the least of the gods; I understand a little bit now what my part in the Song was, and -- I'm okay with it. I didn't win, but who does? I made a temporary difference, which --
[giving her a rueful grin]
-- puts me about even with you guys, on a slightly-smaller scale, and I don't think my family will be too ashamed of me. What more can any Man accomplish? Or ask for? So I suppose I ought to accept facts and reconcile myself to the way things have to be and help Tinuviel understand that I'm supposed to move on.
[he swallows hard, but manages to keep back his tears]
I didn't ask you what you thought you ought to want, I asked you what you wanted.
I want --
Why are you asking me?
I asked first.
[he sits up, his expression one of distress]
Beren: [struggling for words and against what he knows]
I want -- I want Tinuviel to be happy. And --
[breaking off, shaking his head]
-- it won't -- I don't know why this is so, but regardless, it's not going to happen if I'm not around -- and I wanted her to be safe, and even if that sounds stupid now that we're dead, I still do, but that's not going to happen either if she isn't happy. Because if you're discontent, then you're not safe. Not yourself, and not to be around. Not even here. Case in point, the late Lord Feanor . . . who . . .
[looking slightly shaken]
. . . ye merciful gods! is now also some incomprehensible degree of related-by-marriage to me. Good grief! is there anybody in Valinor I'm not related to now? Um. Anyway. Tinuviel won't be, happy or safe, without me, and that's a fact.
Yavanna: [laughing quietly]
I'm glad you've finally admitted it. You worked hard enough to avoid facing up to that fact!
Beren: [gesticulating in frustration]
I know. But that just makes more of a problem, or the same problem again, because I'm still mortal, and she isn't, and I have to leave now.
Because -- I'm dead, but you know that, so that isn't what you're asking. But what else can I do?
Yavanna: [raising her eyebrows]
What indeed? You haven't given any serious thought to the matter, I can tell.
[as he looks at her bewildered]
You were always so good at coming up with plans at home -- notorious for it, in fact, aren't I right? Daring raids and even more daring escapes. And the hardest part of all, just staying from day to day. I remember a Man who was the most successful of all living trespassers, once. Two Kings and a Warlord remember that fact, at least, to their lasting sorrow.
[he stares at her, amazed]
Not to mention the fact that neither guard nor gate has ever held against your true-love and her liege. Was there ever a wilderness was barred to you, child?
I don't believe what I think you're saying.
Yavanna: [tilting her head]
[he jumps to his feet and begins to pace in agitation]
Beren: [a bit of a beginning rant]
But it would be wrong! -- At least, if you're actually suggesting what it sounds like, that we should just sneak off and li -- stay -- here in the forests of Aman. -- As ghosts.
[she rises and comes to stand in front of him again]
Yavanna: [raising an eyebrow]
[he doesn't have an answer]
Do you will any harm here? -- Quite apart from whether or not you could do any.
[he shakes his head]
This present state of yours -- sadly diminished though you are -- is it any more of a hardship than your other loss? It seems to me that you've adjusted quite well to reality, better than to that of your hand. Since all you required in life was love, and friendship, and the freedom of the woods -- does anyone here have anything to fear from you, all of you, housed or unhoused?
[again a silent negative]
Has being "outlaw" ever bothered you before?
But -- is that even possible?
But I --
[he stops, frowning -- into his worried expression slowly enters a glint of rising, irrepressible laughter]
Hah. Sneak off and live in the woods again out back of the kingdom -- hoo boy, is that idea gonna give Lord Mandos conniptions! -- and everyone in Valinor, I bet.
[shaking his head, grinning]
-- She's gonna say "I told you so, you idiot," and I'll just say, "Hey, better than never, right?"
Does it have to go that far? I mean, maybe I can just suggest it and the Lord and Lady will consider it a good alternative to dealing with Tinuviel for the rest of Time. It ain't like they can just stick her up in a tree and ignore her in the Halls. We can ask, right? But if they don't --
[fighting back mirth]
-- oh well -- !
-- Ask for everything. Who knows what you'll get? That's what I do.
I will. Oh, I will --
[he becomes serious and gives her a troubled Look. Suddenly hoarse]
Will I ever see you again? -- Like this, I mean?
Yavanna: [shrugging again]
But it won't be the same.
It's never the same.
But that is true for all. Whenever we meet it is anew, for all the past that's been.
[she places her hands on his shoulders again, speaking carefully, earnestly, holding his full attention:]
Every thing changes. -- We abide. That's the Secret. -- That's how it works.
[as he assimilates this summation of how all the cells in an organic being, or all the individuals in a given species, can die and be replaced, and the entity on a microscopic and macroscopic level remain the same despite changes, she pulls him into a strong embrace and holds him, resting her cheek against his hair as if he were an almost-grown son before stepping back and looking at him proudly]
Astonish us -- again.
[he nods, his eyes bright with tears, but his expression resolute, and vanishes]
[The Hall. Eol is staring incredulously at Luthien]
He threw himself between the Hellhound and your father?
To save him.
I gathered that, thank you. -- Why?
Captain: [confidential aside, gesturing with the ale-horn]
Thus the outcome to which I was previously referring, which would have been impossible had you dealt harshly with Beren for his supposed impertinence, previously -- if you had been the Greycloak, that is, and not yourself.
Eol: [disregarding him]
Is the Man merely a fool, or was he greedy enough to think that your father would somehow reward him further, for saving him, or did he seek to humiliate Elu by rendering him service after his misfortunes at your father's hands?
You don't understand, do you? Beren was never Dad's enemy. He never wished to be, he never thought of him that way. It was just -- Fate, as far as he was concerned. It wasn't -- personal, it just happened to be the two of them. He understood why Dad thought it was a bad idea, and he agreed -- he just couldn't get me to give him up. It wasn't like with Curufin, or Celegorm, at all. Beren considered him as much a kinsman as if he had been human, and as much an ally as if he had been one of the Noldor, and for either reason he would have defended him. -- As he did.
But, Luthien dear, are you certain that . . . sentimental story, is the truth?
[pause, relishing the confusion he has sown]
Might not your consort's death have been arranged upon the hunt -- it's a convenient scenario for it, all those people with weapons and animals moving and confusion in the darkness, nerves on edge, edged implements -- and a noble tale concocted to cover the deed, and deflect your wrath before its inception?
Luthien: [staring at him]
Your mind really is broken, and badly healed, cousin.
[shaking her head]
Either not only my father, but also both our Captains, and everyone else upon the hunt that day, lied to me so seamlessly that I never even guessed it, and never slipped up -- that I never guessed it mind you, and I'm not much good at trusting my family these days --
-- with exceptions -- and kept it up all the while afterwards . . . or Beren did what he always does -- did -- when someone was in danger near him, and tried to protect them regardless of his own risk. I know which one seems more plausible to me, at least.
And wouldn't the Lord of Beor have noticed, eh?
I'm sure my royal kinsman could manage putting a glamour on a human -- even if such is beyond your capacity.
There's also the little problem that injuries inflicted by weapons don't look like bite wounds, so you've got to add in the assumption that Luthien couldn't tell the difference . . . kinsman.
There are ways around that, too -- for those with sufficient intelligence.
But not around a morsel much harder to swallow -- that everyone in Doriath is so lost to Good as to conspire deceit and subtle murder, and follow that with more deception still. You know perfectly well that my uncle has crossed swords with us --
[to his Valinorean family]
-- metaphorically, I mean --
[to Eol again]
-- and we've heard enough from Luthien tonight as to his willingess to be both devious and ruthless when it comes to protecting his own from his own --
[looking back at the Faithful Eldar]
-- which is something I know everyone here can sympathize with, even if we're all mostly inclined to take Luthien's side in this, and even if we highly disapprove of the way you define protecting, Master Smith --
[shakes his head]
-- and disregard my aunt's counsel, which is unheard of, in the process -- but I can't accept such a calumny upon Elu Thingol. He would, I doubt not, have treated Beren as he treated us, with open challenge and punishment, not put a smiling face on treachery. If he spoke to him with kindness in Menegroth -- he meant it.
-- Even if it was as hard for him as it was to speak civilly to us for the next score years after he let us come back to visit.
And wouldn't have gone back on his word after, either, for anything under the Stars.
Well, of course you'd think that -- you're Finwe's children, of course you can do no wrong in Elu's eyes.
[the Finarfinions look at each other blankly]
I'd hate to get on his bad side, then.
Angrod: [to Finrod]
What was it you said, brother, something like -- Don't bother packing, leave it, 'Tari will look after it, and even if he burns all our gear the moment we're gone, I'd rather cross Beleriand in my shirt-sleeves than endure the aura of his wrath even ten minutes longer than necessary.
Some of us didn't even have time to saddle our horses, not being at hand when the edge came down and finding out about it late.
You've never minded riding native-style.
I know. Principle of it. And it was a very fine saddle.
And he didn't, as it happened, throw our belongings out, either. They were all neatly organized in storage, and some of the things that he thought we might be needing -- like our saddles -- he sent downriver by boat afterwards. With little labels on.
That was Galadriel, actually. Dad said, "Throw it in the river, ship it down river, I don't care and I don't want to know." -- And then he told Celeborn to go see if there were any boats ready.
Case rests. Elu wouldn't stab Beren in the back -- or commit secret murder.
Ambassador: [looking hard at Eol]
I thank you for your kind words, Highness. -- Unlike certain others here, who disgrace the very name of Eldar.
-- Wait -- did you mean unlike as in hard words, or as in secret murder?
[she breaks off, torn between defending her husband and the reverse]
Did thy folk comprehend thy lord his honour, and give him due in full measure of honour in their turn, or did but the same as yon Darkened soul, to hold as folly, else suspect of less-than-worthy will the motive force of his great deed?
No. That's how it was when they finally came home, and I knew my fears were true, that someone I loved was going to be dead that day, and that no matter what, I would never be happy again -- all of Doriath bowing down to him, and it meant nothing, nothing at all, because he was dying. And I thought -- perhaps I could repair what's broken, I could certainly try, though it would be harder than anything anyone has ever Worked -- perhaps I could force his body to stop destroying itself, draw enough power from the Forest to make his wounds mend and the bones grow properly again -- with or without Mom's help -- perhaps I could simply take what I needed from Doriath, with their permission or not, and fix him again --
[her voice and face are hard as iron; her hearers look at her with combined awe and dismay]
Perhaps -- there was no real perhaps about it, I don't know.
[Finrod tries to say something, but can't manage it; she stares into the distance, and the scariness goes out of her tone:]
But I couldn't.
I couldn't do that to him. I loved him too much for that. He needed rest, he needed to be free of -- of things. It was only for my sake that he was holding on despite the pain and the shock and the poison, I had to let him go.
[tears are running down her face, but she does not notice]
Only I couldn't. I kissed him goodbye, and I whispered to him -- I told him -- to wait for me -- here.
-- And everyone thought there'd be a miracle, some wonderous power, to break the power of his Fate that he foresaw, everyone was hoping that somehow it would all come right, and we'd be saved from their mistakes -- and something unbelievable did happen. He stopped fighting, finally, and let go, and died.
[silence. Finrod tries to say something, several times, and cannot; the Eldar living and dead who have not heard the earlier versions are overwhelmed by the story, even Luthien's kinfolk of Nan Elmoth being temporarily respectful -- those shades who heard the same events narrated earlier by a participant, however, take a more critical view:]
Soldier: [aside to his friends]
It's almost the same, the way she tells it, this part --
First Guard: [nodding]
Only Beren still comes off much more the hero than in his version. The way he tells it he just blundered into things --
Well, we knew that couldn't be right --
Fingolfin: [aggrieved tone]
[shaking his head]
-- can you not forgo your levity for a little while, in reverence to the Lady and her tale of woe?
[the Ten look abashed]
Sorry, your Majesty -- we've heard it already.
Youngest Ranger: [severely]
There's no need to go ruining it for everyone else, just for that.
First Guard: [defensive]
I didn't ruin it. I didn't tell anything out of order, or what's going to happen.
But we don't know what's going to happen.
Yes we do. Beren gave his word to the Princess. And we're all here, and we've got Huan, and the King will sort everything out, you'll see.
[Luthien and Finrod are both shaken into reluctant amusement (& some dismay) at this expression of total confidence. Huan yawns and lays his head down on his forefeet, complacent. Across the dais, the Dark Elf looks at his consort with another troubled glance]
Eol: [patronizing, but also oddly vulnerable and uncertain]
You don't really -- really want me to be that way, do you? To be your hapless swain, besotted --
Aredhel: [suspiciously ragged voice]
What do you care? You don't care what I want -- you never did --
[she pulls away as he tries to caress her arm; he grimaces, his expression wavering between concern and hauteur]
Ambassador: [to Luthien, meaningfully]
What did House Feanor finally do about it all, Highness?
[pulling herself together]
-- I'm sorry. Mom convinced Dad it wasn't worth trying to get any answer from them, and they've been quite happy to pretend that we don't exist again.
There were no apologies, no -- no offers of recompense or weregild from Himring, no conciliatory gestures whatsoever?
Not that I know of. They didn't even send another letter telling us the Silmarils were all theirs by law. Of course, they were rather busy.
Fingolfin: [indignant outburst]
Too busy to give account, explanation, expiation? -- Too busy, say you? -- Doing what?!
Getting ready for their own invasion of Angband.
I don't think you're joking, Luthien.
Why would I be?
What do they think they can accomplish?
The others. So I gathered, at least. They might be planning on taking down Morgoth, too. I'm afraid I wasn't really paying much attention to the news at that point, but there were lots of rumours from our contacts in Estolad about their recruiting efforts. Beleg might have done some more infiltration missions eastward, I don't know. He and Mablung spent a lot of time talking about it over maps, or arguing, rather. They wanted to think it could work, but I don't think they could.
House Feanor is going to try a direct assault on Angband?
Apparently so. People couldn't understand why I didn't care about it at all, so I kept hearing things.
They were privy to our own plans, Sir -- Curufin doubtless thinks he can improve upon them.
But . . . they didn't consult you?
Why would they?
Only living person who actually did what they're planning to do? Inside information? Valuable data about various pitfalls that would lead the rational individual to conclude that no, frontal assault is not going to work, without a force much more powerful than ours before we were decimated in the Fell Year?
My nephews are not that stupid, surely.
But if Maedhros were going to consult with me, he'd have to apologize. And discipline his brothers. And decide what to say or not say about the jewel. And why would he need to? Obviously, if we could manage it -- a mere mortal and a woman with no martial skills -- then certainly House Feanor can do us one better and get two, not just one.
Yes, but they don't know about your part in it all, because they didn't ask. Besides, there's no other giant Wolf there -- as far as anyone knows, at least.
[the late High King closes his eyes]
My nephews are that stupid, evidently.
It's not going to be very long before we see them again.
[he checks, and his expression changes to an edged smile. Giving his brother a meaningful Look as his hand goes to lock around the hilt of his sword.]
[Angrod's expression turns equally wolfish as he thinks of the possibilities in this; but Finrod buries his face in his hands.]
I'm sorry -- I really don't know any of the details. It might be more coherent than all that.
It might not. This is House Feanor we're talking about. -- Charging Balrogs, accepting invitations from the Enemy, and then sitting around for a couple of yen while the other side rebuilds and regroups and oh, incidentally, gathers all manner of information about our battle array, on the grounds that it's "safer" than provoking him -- we're about due for another round of impulsive offensive action, I should guess.
-- Sorry, milady.
No more than I, certes.
I could very well be leaving something else out. I spent most of that year out in Neldoreth anyway, except when they kept finding me and bringing me back home to try to make me eat and cheer up.
[the expression on her friends' and relatives' face shifts from sympathy to astonishment as her words sink in.]
About that. A little less.
[the shades look at each other, impressed]
No wonder the staff were so put out with Beren.
I wonder if all mortals are that much trouble.
No, it's just House Beor, don't you recall what the Lord and Lady were saying before? About Bereg-the-Turned, how Beren was like him?
Not that we needed any more evidence about his stubbornness. A whole year!
Angrod: [shaking his head, indignantly]
What's a year? No time at all, especially here.
Steward: [aside, looking at the ceiling vaults]
It is when one is obliged to put aside other matters and is continually forced to keep an eye on unfinished Work.
[with a lifted eyebrow]
"I say, Edrahil, what are we supposed to do about this? The King didn't say before he left."
"-- But I've not the authority to determine that, when his brothers are in residence -- you need to ask them."
[with a quirk of a smile]
"Oh, we did -- Lord Aegnor said to see you about it, he's going hunting. Lord Angrod's already gone."
[silence -- Finrod glances at his brothers, knowingly, as Aegnor rubs at his lips, while Angrod looks almost innocently blank]
You do yourself very well -- and us.
[the Princes exchange a look of wordless communication, and then, drawing a deep breath and bracing themselves, they make a sincere effort at apology for recent slights without going into embarrassing specific details]
Thank you for looking after us so well, in all the varied regions of our domain, that we might take your service for granted, my lord.
We are not insensitive of the fact that such reliance might appear as a cavalier assumption of use, but such could never be possible, were not such worthiness of trust present, that no doubt of reliability should ever enter the imagination.
[the King's Steward gives them a nod of acknowledgment, his expression of tolerant amusement]
Finarfin: [raising an eyebrow]
Handsomely uttered, my sons -- yet with, perchance the merest trifle of facility, that seemingly underlieth such quick-given grace.
Such did I deem to observe, yet thou dost ken thine own somewise better, haply, than might I.
Quite shameless, indeed. You may trust my most recent observation, brother.
Angrod: [very frank]
And it's been tiresome, being patronized as a boor and a churl for -- well, behaving churlishly, towards my King and his household.
[he gives Finrod a rueful smile]
-- If I must swallow my pride to make amends -- it's a small price for an end to endless sarcasm sheathed in the velvet of exquisite courtesy.
[looking seriously at the Steward]
And . . . it's true. No realm can manage well without those who give such faithful service for love, and not for acclaim or gain . . . even if we, sometimes -- be we prince or populace -- forget that fact. That I say so for my own benefit doesn't make it false, no more than does the benefit it gives to you, friend Edrahil, that your long Work be recognized by we who did rely on it, and you.
[the Steward gives up trying to hide his emotions and wipes his eyes on his sleeve]
Aegnor: [reasonable, not defensive]
Besides, he wasn't very good at accepting gratitude when he was alive -- he'd always brush thanks off with some snappish comment about it being his job, and managing while at it to imply that no one else ever did anything, except possibly Finrod.
[without looking up the subject of their discourse nods, half laughing, at the recollection]
Angrod: [bittersweet smile]
Oh yes, that used to drive Orodreth half-mad whenever he did it.
[to the Steward]
It was pretty off-putting, my lord, though that's small excuse for neglect of thanks.
Though I'd rather that than this -- having Edrahil break down is almost as bad as having Ingold furious and yelling.
Teler Maid: [giving the Finarfinions her glare]
No one shall take him for granted now, for I will not permit it.
Not even you, Lord Ingold.
[her ruffled, protective attitude draws smiles from many]
Aye, -- but thy love dost heed thy counsel, little one, and lettest thou to guard him from's self.
[Finrod flinches back, looking miserable, and less stubborn than before]
Youngest Ranger: [loudly, forcibly changing subject]
But Beren wasn't doing anything to cause trouble. He said so himself.
Er -- that isn't exactly true.
[as a lot of people give him askance Looks]
Or -- it is, but -- that's the problem, isn't it? He wouldn't respond, wouldn't let anyone help him, wouldn't explain what he was about, or who he was, or what his problem was -- and wouldn't stop this beast here from behaving like a bloody Hellhound whenever anyone tried.
[Huan grins, his tongue lolling out -- and showing an awful lot of teeth]
If only we'd known he was here, we could have come to look after him.
Of course you would -- I know that as well as he.
[the Ten look regretful at this, but not for long]
Warrior: [with a wry smile]
-- Causing trouble for a whole year without doing anything.
[there are some perfunctory attempts to behave appropriately, but they soon give way to grins]
That's our Beren, all right.
Steward: [rallying to his usual manner]
Third Guard: [frowning, to Luthien]
If Beren was dead for all of that time, and never realized it, -- how long have you been here, my Lady?
Fourth Guard: [solemn]
That's why we need a chronometer.
[innocently, as his colleague gives him a disgruntled Look:]
You should have helped your nephew and his friends when they first asked you. Then we'd know, wouldn't we?
[the other swats him lightly]
I'm sorry, I'm afraid I've no idea. And I don't think Time happens the same way here at all -- would a clock like Celebrimbor's even work?
Oh, don't get them started on that -- it's worse than chess!
Fingolfin: [dry humour]
Truly spoken, 'Feiniel.
Finrod: [bewildered, to Luthien]
I -- somehow I expected that you -- would have followed him, immediately. I'm rather surprised that you say otherwise, now.
So did we all.
[the Ex-Thrall shakes her head, knowingly, with a sad smile]
I -- I couldn't. I tried -- but I couldn't manage it. Not at first.
Aredhel: [shaking her head]
I don't understand this wanting to die at all.
[the Ten share meaningful glances at her disdainful comment, but don't say anything]
What good does it do one to give up all the joys of life, simply out of guilt? It isn't as if it makes any difference, to make yourself miserable over it.
Nor might I comprehend -- though 'tis passing strange that thou and I might upon a thing agree, I deem. Much joy to me, else shadow of joyous hour, that mine own dear love doth live and walk and joy beneath the Sun I ken naught of, nor that his sorrow for my death hath brought him to this pass.
Teler Maid: [serious]
I do --
[checks, looks at the Steward earnestly]
-- Do not take hurt at what I am about to say, for 'tis not at you that I do speak -- no longer.
[when he nods she goes on:]
I do know well how drear the days can be, when heart is broken, and all joy of the world is broken, so that one would not be about anyone else that is happy, for that but makes it the worse. -- And I recall me how it was to hurt so much, before I was unhoused, that living was worse than any grief, and to escape here a refuge of blessed coolness and peace from anger and harsh hours.
[the Noldor princess cannot match her calm steadiness, and turns away, as does the Lord Warden when the Sea-Elf gives him a pointed stare before looking up at the Steward again]
I do not hold you a coward, for that you had rather to stay within this gray and shadowed harbour, as did I.
[he leans his forehead against her hair, smiling a little]
I'm afraid I don't see it either -- I suppose it's because I've never been in that situation --
[he glances at Aegnor, troubled]
No. Even when we were dying, -- I at least only experienced regret at not being able to fight on, not relief at being able to leave the fray. But then --
-- as you said, we didn't live long enough to find ourselves in our cousin's situation. -- Or our brothers'.
[he looks at Finrod, meaningfully]
-- You understand it, don't you, Ingold? And have, these past ten years.
-- Eleven -- no, twelve, now.
[his brothers share a Look of amusement and the torc passes between them again]
You're right, he just can't help correcting people.
[Finrod looks slightly embarrassed, but mostly moved]
Finarfin: [aside, melancholy]
Too well the truth of warning word so darkly uttered in darkest space of earth as soul, I fear, mine own dear ones, ye did learn most hard and severally in Hither lands.
Fingolfin: [grim smile]
I, too, know well how great a burden breath may come to be, when all that one loves, all folk, all work, all hopes and duties together are collapsed in one great wrack of flame, so that nothing short of death may burn away the torment that sears soul and body at one, nor consume the pain of loss but a stroke of vengeance that sweetens the agony of losing, and swift release.
For me . . . there wasn't any such direction. I couldn't go seeking my revenge from Morgoth, after I'd thrown everything I had at him and then some, and been outmatched, or even Sauron, entrenched somewhere in the middle of the Nightshade, and both of them on constant guard. Even if I could have gotten anyone to back me up this time -- and I might have, Mablung at least, and Beleg, I'm certain -- what would it have accomplished? Besides getting us all killed, very likely. It wouldn't have brought them back.
Some things there be that none may comprehend them, I do fear, ere that hour that such a thing cometh upon them -- and still for all that, 'tis past fathoming, e'en as one doth ken such loss-pain in the heart and bone.
[she looks at Amarie, and reaches out her hand to the younger Elf -- who this time does not refuse the kind gesture, but lets Nerdanel grip her hand in comfort]
I think -- I think it was that I hadn't said goodbye properly the first time, that I'd left in such a hurry, without caring whether I came back or not, and so now that I knew it was for ever, I had to do it again -- or for the first time, rather. I had to appreciate everything that was in Doriath, that I'd always taken for granted until I fled, and only then when it was too late, did I realize how deeply rooted in my heart my homeland was. Or how deep my soul's roots were sunk in Doriath's earth.
A seedling can be uprooted more easily than a sapling -- and you're far older than that. Nor are we meant to be uprooted so.
I just -- I had to See it all, one last time, and yet it was so hard, it hurt so much -- I'd find something, a place, oh, where the moss had grown this year so deep it shone, and I'd think, -- How Beren will love to see that! -- and then I would remember again, and it seemed as though the pain would kill me, but it never did. And Mom didn't want it -- she tried so hard to keep me bound to Life, and it hurt her so much that I couldn't mend, and I didn't want that either, and Dad -- Dad didn't know what to do. He thought that by honouring Beren's memory, that would make me happy -- but it couldn't. Nobody understood why I simply didn't care what they did about funeral arrangements, or what sort of carving they should put on the lintel of their barrow, or even being there for it -- Mom had to practically walk me through it all like an illusion she made, I was hardly even there -- and after, they wanted everything to return to normal, but it couldn't, and so in consequence nobody ever knew what to talk about, because if they did refer to Beren, or any part of our adventures, I cried, and if they didn't, it was so obviously false --
[Huan gets up and comes over to put his head in her lap again]
When each breath is an hour, and each hour a day, and the changes of the year slower than Ages --
And then -- one day in late Spring, right about the same time we'd first met, only a year ago, I was sitting by Neldoreth again, the way I had when first he left me, thinking about how this time there was no hope that he'd ever come back to me -- it was suddenly all clear. There was nothing holding me back any more, and the world just opened up for me. And I left -- home -- behind, and never looked back.
I got a little lost coming here, though. One's sense of direction is rather strange, without a body, and I kept getting tugged North, so that even though there was no chance of me being wound in Morgoth's nets, I ended up at the Ice at one point -- I think that must have been where I was, it was all so very strange -- and I think I went in circles for a bit until I ran into the Eagle again and had him show me the way West.
It was very tiresome, and it didn't help that I was already worried sick that Beren wouldn't have been able to wait, either.
Warden of Aglon: [bemused aside]
Star and water! She speaks of the possibility of being lost in the Unseen realm as though no more than taking a wrong turning in a hall!
I'm glad my death came so easily, by comparison, since come it did . . . but if it could have been otherwise, I think almost I'd wish that rough journey upon myself, if only hers might have gone the smoother for it. No one who delivered such a mighty stroke against the Lord of Fetters should have to suffer for it so.
[he does not notice the considering, but approving looks the Ex-Thrall and the Valinoreans give this almost-generous expression]
Apprentice: [to Luthien]
My lady --
[but he gets flustered when she turns to him]
[finding his nerve again, earnestly, not unkindly but doubtful]
-- Do you think he will return to you, truly?
[as she frowns, apologetic:]
I -- I've been following your story for a while now, and -- no offense intended, so please don't take any, but -- while your parents both have considerable prophetic gifts --
For all the good it did us in this pass.
But, well, I'm just -- wondering what it is that makes you so certain, because -- you really haven't much Gift at all to know the future, less than Huan even, and I really hate the way it's all but impossible to be discrete here, but -- I know you're Melian's daughter, but I don't understand why you have such confidence, because Lord Namo doesn't, and it is your true-love's Doom, and I'm not sure why you think you know better than the Doomsman himself, or that your consort will be able to convince our King and Queen to let him stay against the laws of nature.
[she only shrugs, not offended]
I don't know how it happened, that I didn't get any special ability to look ahead. Perhaps a double inheritance of Foresight turns out as extra Insight. Because that's what I have got. That, and music, from both sides of the family.
And courage, in double measure, and more.
[the Princess for whose sake he died (even if she didn't know about it at the time and wouldn't have wanted the venture undertaken if she had) gives him a long Look of gratitude and acknowledgment and forgiveness before turning back to Nienna's student:]
I don't know what's going to be -- I know what is. That's why I'm certain. Not because I can See how it's all going to turn out -- but because I know Beren. I trust him more than anyone else in the world, I -- I trust him. That's all. He waited for me . . .
[struggling against her tears]
. . . so what else can I do, but wait for him in turn?
'Twixt love and folly, little variance 'twould seem,
nor better much than madness might it deem,
that suffer the former, the latter would forfend.
Of all things for which in life Men do contend --
prizes of plenty, treasure of gold, or gem, or land,
of memory enduring past all things, in poet's hand
a fame immortal made, and in hearing mind --
Love should be least-lasting, measureless -- kind
but in hope, in consequence of price more dire
than battle grim -- for 'tis the loss of love its fire
that giveth all other losses their sharpness keen;
and so the proof: Love's yet greater, though unseen --
Luthien: [gesturing vaguely]
Sometimes I feel as if -- as if Luthien doesn't exist any more, that person who once lived in Doriath, that she's gone like the Trees, and all that's left are people who knew her and remember her. Including myself, someone named Tinuviel, who met her long ago.
And then -- and then --
[shaking her head, while her cousins look at her in concern]
-- other times, I think . . . perhaps, who I am now is simply the completion of me, as if Luthien were the seed, and not gone but changed, completely, into this flowering of Tinuviel, someone who doesn't need and doesn't depend for her existence on those who gave her life, but still that other being is there, somehow, within this present self of mine.
But a flower is not the end, either, for a tree. There's always more.
Apprentice: [mournful aside]
-- Should be, at least.
Luthien: [sad emphasis]
[long keening whine]
[checks, perks up his head and sniffs the air]
[loud happy bark]
[Beren strides back into their midst, from out of nowhere. None of them have ever seen him like this (though Luthien comes the closest), without the burdens of anger, guilt, fear, pain, hopelessness, exhaustion, and generalized anxiety to weigh his spirits -- he is not simply at peace, but ebullient, undauntable, and ready for anything or anyone foolish enough to challenge him. A subtle change is in his stance -- his balance is back, he no longer favors his right side or holds aside his arm stiffly. We see a glimpse of who he might have been, without the Breaking of the Leaguer, a leader of Men . . . but far more than that now. Luthien springs up and embraces him, and he hugs her back, lifting her off the floor for a second]
Did you speak to them?
What's going to happen?
Beren: [not letting go nor looking away from her]
The gods themselves -- haven't a clue. We're all working it out as we go along.
[the others rise, drawing around them in amazement and curiosity; Finrod comes closest, staring at Beren with a touch of awe, as well as concern, as he looks him in the eyes:]
What are you going to do?
What I should have done a long, long time ago.
-- Tinuviel, will you run away with me?
Luthien: [smiling through tears]
I thought you'd never ask.
See? I do learn from my mistakes. -- Eventually.
-- Run away? How? And where to?
Beren: [half turning to the others, but still keeping his arm around Luthien's waist]
I'm reminded by a most gracious lady of my long acquaintance that there was never a wilderness or woodland barred to me, nor a wall that could hold Tinuviel for very long, either. -- And Aman is full of forests, I'm told --
You don't mean -- is that even possible?
Dunno. -- Nobody does. But we're going to find out. -- Huan? Will you carry us both?
[loud happy barking]
That's the maddest plan I've ever heard. Beyond crossing the Helcaraxe on foot! Are you really going to make the attempt? You're not just making an empty threat?
[Beren doesn't say anything, just looks at him]
Beren: [regret but not shame]
I'm sorry --
Obviously it's the only solution, if they're set on parting you two for no good reason.
Not all the powers in the world are against us, I've learned. -- You were remembered fondly, by the way.
[he laughs suddenly, from sheer joy in being, and everyone stares at him in renewed amazement]
Beren, what -- what's happened to you?
I -- Saw it. -- The World. Without the veils.
[shakes his head]
I can't -- it was -- there aren't words to tell of it, the view from Taniquetil --
But that's not hard to describe. The hills look like slabs of jade, with silver for the rivers and lakes.
And one can see all the way to the coast, just as if it were a map.
Luthien: [but smiling]
Oh, he's being metaphorical, that's all.
But you were -- answered.
[Beren nods; Luthien is trying to discreetly wipe her eyes]
What was the Answer?
What I said -- they're just muddling along like us, making it up as we go.
[pause -- the Eldar, living and ghostly, look at each other in silence]
That . . . is essentially what I've been saying. All along. For great years.
Yeah, but I didn't get it before.
But -- how does that answer your outrage? -- How does that relieve your mind at all? I don't "get it," I fear.
Don't you, Sir?
[he lets go of Luthien's hand and grips the Elf-king's wrist for a moment, hard as a handcuff]
I thought for sure you would.
Finrod: [ragged laugh]
I know what you're saying -- that we your lords made our mistakes and led you into danger and and failed to protect you when Bauglir struck, even as I erred and failed in my attempts to save you, and still despite all that you loved me no less, for being powerless, but --
Beren: [cutting him off, roughly]
Not in spite of. -- Because. And all the more.
[clearing his throat]
-- So. They're just a bunch of poor bastards struggling along to do the right thing, same as me. I can feel for that. Respect it too. -- Kind of makes it hard to stay angry, though.
Apprentice: [finding his voice at last]
And yet -- for all that respect, you're going to defy them now by trying to leave the Halls?
Nobody actually told me I couldn't. Tinuviel? They tell you?
Luthien: [grim triumph]
I . . . think it's presumed to be unnecessary . . .
Highness, is this what you will, what you truly think best?
Luthien: [lifting her chin]
And will you tell me now, again, that I am but young and foolish, and ought to listen to wiser heads for my own good?
[shaking his head]
I have learned to trust your intuition, my Princess, as I have placed my faith in your lady mother for all these ages -- if belatedly -- and I have confidence that your choice shall be the best that might be made, under the circumstances. -- However much I might regret the outcome.
[he looks deliberately at Beren, and then bows]
I commend you, my lord, upon your valour -- but most especially for your Goodness, and thank you for your gift of generous heart in defense of my King, when Doriath was unready, and -- wish you -- well.
Um -- thanks. You're welcome, I meant. -- And thanks. Yeah.
[he laughs, unselfconsciously cheerful, at himself, as Thingol's emissary bows again, smiling sadly]
Fourth Guard: [bemused]
Beren, you're really going to escape from the Halls? Just like this?
You know how it is when counsels get outta hand and too many stupid suggestions -- sometimes you just gotta bang on the table to get folks to listen up.
This is more like flinging over the table, I think.
Youngest Ranger: [raising his eyebrows]
Somebody did that?
Lord Caranthir. Before your time.
[the dead High King snorts, exchanging a glance with his sibling; Nerdanel closes her eyes in disgust/dismay]
Before your friends take their leave, Finrod, might I perchance trouble you for an introduction to this renowned young Man?
Beren: [with a little smile]
Another one of your relatives, Sir?
Finrod: [exchanging an amused glance with Fingolfin]
Rather. -- My uncle. One of them.
Oh -- Sorry --
[he kneels at once, and with great respect, faltering a little as he introduces himself:]
Y -- your Majesty. Beren Barahirion, Lord of -- that was Lord in Ladros of Dorthonion, a -- at your service. Sire.
Luthien: [sharp aside]
Beren. You got a Silmaril from Angband. You don't stammer to anyone. High King of the Noldor or not.
Fingolfin: [nodding, his eyes twinkling as he gestures grandly to Beren]
Quite so, lad, quite so. -- Rise, Elf-friend, and let me see the Man who succeeded where all the armies of the Eldar could not.
[completely embarrassed, Beren gets to his feet, blinking a little as the High King of the Noldor in Beleriand c laps him approvingly on the shoulder.]
-- Well done.
Beren: [nodding towards Luthien and Huan]
It was mostly them, your Majesty. I just -- was there.
Fingolfin: [raising an eyebrow]
Indeed, I suspect there will be as much deliberation on the question of who did the deed, and whose the credit, as there shall be among us as to which was the most valiant challenge -- mine, of mere combat in forms mundane, or your demi-divine lady's of Song.
[it is Luthien's turn to look embarrassed, though Huan just wags his tail happily at hearing his people praised]
Oh, I'm sure. You're great ones for talking, you Elves, I've noticed, Sire.
Ah yes, that mortal humour. -- You've the air of House Marach about you, for all you're Beoring, lad. I suspect that's where you get that streak of indomitable stubbornness, from our side of the mountains, -- to temper your native common sense, and dare I say, wisdom . . . which is your heritage as followers of my nephew here.
Uncle! You've just put me in the position of having to contradict you out of courtesy -- and thereby to concede myself irrationally stubborn, if I will not be rude.
Truly 'tis said, the rarer a delight, the sweeter.
[the High King's shade gives him a disgruntled glare, while Finrod restrains a grin]
Finrod: [to Beren]
Have you made any plans as to how you're going to effect this, yet?
I just figured on making it up as we go along, same as usual. -- And letting Huan do the thinking.
[Luthien chuckles; the Lord of Dogs waves his tail from side to side]
Oh, I think we can do a bit better than that. If --
[checks, looks over at the Apprentice]
You don't want to be here for this. If I might make a suggestion, that task I set you earlier -- you might continue it, if you'd be so kind.
For what cause givest thou orders, Ingold, and unto him, that's hither at Lady Nienna's behest, I think?
Er . . .
He lost a bet.
Aredhel: [to Finrod]
You're doing something devious and political again, aren't you?
When have I ever been devious and political, 'Feiniel?
[Aegnor and Angrod have a spontaneous coughing fit]
Aredhel: [giving him the evil eyebrow]
Who was it convinced our cousins that the best thing for them all would be to remove to the other side of Beleriand, hm?
Maedhros made that decision after consulting his siblings -- and not, may I remind you, with any interference from me.
After you came back from one of your little jaunts to the back of beyond burbling about all the gorgeous uncut stones you'd seen in the Blue Mountains and all the monstrous great beasts you'd seen in the woods to the east.
Upon my honour, I only talked to them of those things they each were interested in -- as I always do, wherever I happen to be visiting.
[while Aredhel smirks knowingly, he gives the Apprentice an expectant Look]
I am in so much trouble . . .
...that it doesn't really matter if I get into more. Good-bye -- for now --
[he bows a little and hurries off out the door]
Finrod: [clapping his hands together]
Right, then. Arm up, people, we're going to make a Stand.
[the Ten look at each other, with some confusion]
[he gestures towards the dais and the Thrones, giving his King a bemused glance]
Finrod: [edged grin]
Oh yes. Most definitely here.
[his brothers look at each other in awed dismay]
Um. Ingold . . . ?
[as they are fumbling for words, Finrod's foremost counsellor steps in without waiting for permission]
My lord, is this wise?
[as Finrod looks at him, frowning]
-- Is this a prudent course of action? Have you considered in full the consequences, likely or unlikely?
Grinding Ice! You're not saying we should stop helping Beren and his Lady now, are you?
No. I am saying that this does not appear to me to be the most rational or appropriate manner in which to help them. This seems -- premature --
You don't think there's been enough talk yet? Morgoth's mercy, how much more do you want -- until the mountains wear away?
[ignoring him, to their King]
Dismounted, Sire, or ahorse?
No. We're just trying to make an effective demonstration of purpose. Cavalry would be counterproductive and rather too dramatic.
Ah yes, and an armed stand in the Halls of Mandos, is otherwise discreet --
[the Teler Maid looks from him to the others, frowning and worried]
Finrod: [raising his voice a little]
It would be a distraction and might escalate things without any pertinence. -- Besides --
[he pats Huan on the withers]
-- we have the Lord of Dogs on our side: how could imaginary horses compare?
Fingolfin: [meaningfully, to Finrod]
Gentle nephew, you entreated my assistance, which alas, I came too late to render in the fashion you desired. Howsobeit, I am presently here, and as you have remarked, my deed holds some little weight in the respect of the Holy Ones. It seems to me, it might be well if I did claim responsibility, and whatsoever business you may be planning, I shall attest it thus: for that Nargothrond is liege to me, and hence your vassalty as well, so that the Lord of Beor has too a claim upon my protection.
[this gets him both stares, and askance Looks from those who understand what the late High King of the Noldor is offering to do for them. Finrod smiles sadly.]
No, my lord. I thank you for your offer -- but this is my affair, and I cannot accept your generosity; for the choice, and the blame, are entirely my own.
But you are not one of us in rebellion, despite that past outward seeming of circumstance, and that the Powers know as well as any. Hence your pardon, which it seems you jeopardize without consideration.
Right. That's why it must be me, and none other. Or rather,
[he looks around with grim pride at his followers]
-- Us. They'll pay attention to Our resistance, instead of dismissing it as yet another Noldor temper tantrum.
[Aredhel laughs in astonishment]
Still the delusions of grandeur, Ingold?
Aegnor: [dismayed aside]
-- That's what we're afraid of -- and you're not?
[before his brother can explain (or try) Amarie turns to her dead compatriot]
And wilt thou not reproach him, for that he seemeth to pay thee some heed at least, or respect, belike, for thy -- discretion, kinswoman?
[the Vanyar shade only shakes her head]
Passing clear it is that thy consort shall ne'er be still within the Circles, nor let deed be a-doing without he hath some part in't. Wherefore then no more am surpriséd, than at Sun's rising -- for certain 'tis that he shall strive 'gainst overwhelming Night, no less than the Powers, to make some change upon it.
[she sits down on the lowest step again, resting her chin in her hand and watching in a benignly curious way, as if a spectator at an event in a sport whose rules were not entirely explained. The living High King of the Noldor breaks silence finally, in no uncertain tone:]
Good my sister 'Danel, I pray thee come aside a little and a little while with me, and hold me counsel on such question, as calleth for most fine discernment, 'twixt duty, and desire, that latterly doth colour all the first --
Aye, I'll gladly that.
[glancing over her shoulder at her nephews, she takes his arm and they go back to the rose-crested hillside to talk, while the Finarfinions share wide-eyed looks of sibling empathy and worry -- then Finrod shrugs, and goes back to business.]
Now, both of you, I'm not ordering you to leave the talking to me, but at this point I think perhaps it might be better if you'd at least let me set the pace and lay down conditions --
[Luthien and Beren nod, guardedly, while Huan cocks an ear quizzically]
Thou meanst to do it again? Thou'lt rebel again?
Not if I needn't. Hopefully everyone will be reasonable enough to negotiate.
Finrod -- thou dost not truly mean to throw away everything thou hast gained back -- all's been given thee -- by throwing in with these -- these -- unworthy reprobates!
[as she gestures wildly around there is some nudging and wry Looks exchanged among the Ten and Huan]
Second Guard: [solemn]
Unworthy, that's us.
We're not that bad.
Some of your jests, though, Sir --
By any standards -- I'm one of these unworthy reprobates, Amarie.
Thou differest --
Finrod: [cutting her off]
-- No. Marginally more competent in some areas, perhaps, but not different. Except, perhaps, to you -- as you, always, are to me.
Do not -- let not thou dare --
Finrod: [cool smile]
I cannot speak anything but truth here, love, even as you. Reproach me for daring, if you will, and call me overbold -- but how else should I dare to love such a one as you, oh loftiest of ladies?
[Luthien gives him a very sharp Look, but his attention is all on Amarie for the moment]
Amarie: [her voice almost a snarl]
Oh wretch! to cut me with a honeyed word -- ! Out on thee --
Beren: [warning aside]
Sir, you're doing it again --
Finrod: [waving him silent]
No. Beren. I know you want me to be humble with regard to my lady, and to give up my pride as you did -- but I can't. My heart would incline me to be as pathetic and needy as you wish -- but my duty permits it not. I owe it -- not to you, but to myself, to keep faith. If I do not -- there is no spirit here left worthy of her love, nor capable of it, but only a hollow shell less substantial than my present nakedness. I cannot change myself so far. I cannot be a lie.
Do not blame me for this -- still less, yourself.
There's no blame here.
Thou'lt do it, shalt not? Shalt go hence from me once more.
Finrod: [grim smile]
I asked you once, to come with me.
Amarie: [gesturing wildly]
Oh, I did fling away my chance, say'st thou?
[he shakes his head]
I'm still waiting. You never gave me an answer, remember? I wasn't the only one walking away that Night -- nor the last.
Thou art arrogant, Finrod Ingold Finarfinion! How dost thou presume against me!
[she stalks away -- but not back to the Hill. Instead she goes to the Falls, besides which, pausing in the manner of Victory Tying Her Sandal, she pauses to unlace her footwear and leaves it on a nearby boulder, then wades out knee-deep into the pool, heedless of her draperies. Closing her eyes, she stands there amid the illusory flames facing the cataract, her hands held out a little before her as if catching the spray -- or asking a question. Lifting his chin determinedly, Finrod looks at the Princes, who are looking like ghosts who hope they won't be asked but know that's a vain hope . . .]
We're not against you, brother. But --
[he looks at the Ten, some of whom are now in chain mail and helmets, standing around expectantly, and shakes his head]
-- whether we can be for this --
-- which has all the appearances of rebellion, whether it is so or not --
-- or otherwise, we must consider -- we cannot simply choose without thought.
[he looks between the late King of Nargothrond and Luthien, avoiding Beren's eyes]
Please understand, it is not -- as Father said -- a question of desiring --
-- only --
-- but also of our duty.
[with last imploring looks, they go over to the lee of one of the columns, where they engage in animated discussion of what Ought To Be Done. The set of his shoulders showing his discouragement, Finrod turns to his foremost comrade:]
[the Steward looks at him. So does his no-longer-ex; Finrod swallows and presses on under the Sea-elf's cool stare:]
Might -- might I rely on you in this? I know you do not approve, and so -- though I cannot pretend any longer that I claim no royal authority over my own, at least, I will not demand your aid in this against your conscience.
But I took you as my lord, King Felagund, and the world has not yet ended -- that I have remarked, at least. I cannot refuse you.
Teler Maid: [indignant, looking up at him and giving his arm a sharp tug]
But you can indeed! Only do you will to?
Steward: [glancing at Beren and Luthien]
For the sake of fellowship, aye -- I will follow such a duty without compunction.
Even into error?
'Tis not, I judge, of the same degree as refusing a summons to account for crimes that were or might have been committed, the which to be determined by hearing and appeal.
Your exacting conscience is not troubled, then, my friend?
No more than yours, to follow our own folly.
[they share a speaking Look]
I should do otherwise -- but I trust your wisdom, Majesty, to make no choice that shall work more harm to them than otherwise.
[to his true-love]
[stops short -- then rephrases without imperative:]
[as he looks down uncertainly at her]
By what cause should you be sorry that you should aid your friends?
Because it should bring sorrow to you, Maiwe, that I should contend with the Powers yet again, and I would not have you lament for my sake again.
For what should I sorrow that we should aid our friends?
[he is completely thrown by this]
Teler Maid: [interrupting him]
Only you must not say you cannot do otherwise, as you were yet in chains, for that does make the gift of your duty a bitterness, as much to get as in your giving.
[he blinks, and slowly nods agreement]
I envy you, my friends -- but I love ye none the less for that.
[the Captain, now in full armour, cuts in and shoves a spear and shield into the Steward's hands, impatiently]
Come along, you laggard, stop dallying and get yourself together. Enough agonizing about decisions long made!
It is not his fault alone -- you must reproach Lord Ingold also!
Can't do that, Lapwing -- he's the King. If I were to tell him off in public for making far too much of too little --
-- Little -- ?!
That would be unwarranted disrespect and damaging to his power.
But you only now did so.
Yes, well, that's how it works.
[he winks at Finrod, whose melancholy expression shifts into a smile for a moment]
Shall I assist you in arming, Sire?
It isn't needful, here --
[his appearance wavers and resolves into a long hauberk like the Captain's, his hair likewise drawn back in a single plait. (Note: unlike the conclusion of Act II, their chainmail is not darkened now, but very gleamy and bright, in spectral monochrome.)]
Nevertheless it is my office, and no others', when I am by.
[he hands the war-gear back to his confederate, who, having manifested his own armament, is now stuck holding both spears and shields. Kneeling down at Finrod's side he begins to add the remaining pieces of armour to the ensemble.]
Do I look like a weapons-rack? What am I, furniture?
Steward: [closing the buckles on the greaves with a snap]
No, furniture is serviceable but not obtrusive.
This, from the Elf responsible for leaving me with a punctured lung and purblind the best part of a year. Talk about being taken for granted.
[the other freezes and gives him a Look indicating that a line has definitely been crossed.]
You -- vowed me you'd not ever reproach me for that -- so that I did not apologize another time.
I told you I'd never bring it up to you again as long as I lived. And I haven't.
[pause -- his friend is losing a fierce battle to keep a straight face; covering, he manifests a long sword and belts it about the King's waist, while Finrod says nothing, very obviously, to all this patter]
Steward: [biting off his words as he adjusts the hang of the scabbard]
Were you half as simple as you feign yourself, you'd have twice wit enough to know your jests are -- lacking so much as a quarter of the . . . humour you . . . hold they hold -- !
Nothing? -- Stars above. You concede my point, then?
[Luthien is covering her laughter with her hand]
Captain: [with an indulgent sigh]
I'm trying to figure out what you just said. I think you've got an arithmetical error in there somewhere. But there wasn't enough of substance or clarity for me to really tell.
[snorting, the Steward unfolds a long, shimmering cloak, with panels of embroidery down the front edges in Byzantine style, about Finrod's shoulders, arranging and pinning the folds with swiftness and elegance and an ornate brooch with high relief interlacing.]
Teler Maid: [to Beren]
Is this what caused your folk to think them foes?
Oh yeah. They'd go on for days like this sometimes, playing the game. I think I figured it out, though -- they both look good, no matter who wins a round, because anybody who's brave enough to tweak him is pretty impressive, regardless who's got in the last word.
Which? Him, I mean.
Both. -- And I bet it encourages strangers to make, um, imprudent comments, when the other's not around. Useful for finding out who wants to spread discord in the court, I bet.
[the three former senior administrators of Nargothrond give him appraising glances.]
Have I said that the lad's entirely too sharp for his own good?
[he presents his sovereign with the final bit of necessary equipment; the King's mood is lifting from strained melancholy to normal with their deliberate normality of behavior]
Well, at least there's one thing you can agree on.
[he accepts the helmet and puts it on: this is the war-crown, not the plain battle helm he wore in Act II, gleaming with chased designs and studded with small white gems, and the central stone flanked with two magnificent silver wings in three-dimensional relief swinging up from the temples like a crest.]
Oh! Those are swan's wings!
[knowingly, and a little wondering]
You claimed your right to lead from the House of Olwe -- not Lord Finwe of the Noldor.
From both sides of the family, in point of fact, Sea-Mew.
I see what I do see.
[she gives him a quick, impulsive hug, making him smile still more, then turns expectantly to the Steward]
Well? I want to see how you appear in that guise.
[a little abashed, her true-love lets his appearance flicker to resolve as the same type of long hauberk and armour, slightly less ornate than Finrod's. She purses her lips.]
It does not look much comfortable, I aver.
It is not. It is heavy, cumbersome, --
-- and saved your life on several occasions.
Teler Maid: [critically]
I do not fancy it.
[the Steward sighs agreement]
But an ugly coat that keeps off the storm is better than no cloak at all.
Why have you not a sword? Is it because you were Lord Ingold's herald?
[checks, goes on]
I did not wish to perturb you again.
But how shall you help to defend Lord Beren against the Servants of the Halls, without one?
[he smiles ruefully, bowing his head]
Captain: [ironic aside]
No, the real question is, how shall we deal with the Servants of the Halls, armed or not.
[to Finrod, as his counterpart dutifully manifests and buckles on his own blade]
You do have a plan, Sir, I trust?
[slight wry smile]
But I'm not sure why you're reassured by that. I thought we could break them out, if it comes to it, and eliminate the trouble for them of having to elude notice at the gates.
[aside, looking at Beren]
-- He's taking this much more calmly than I expected.
Oh, I figured out a while back there wasn't any point in arguing with Eldar royalty -- you're all way too swarn.
[Luthien gives him a Look and pokes him]
Hey! It's true.
[she snorts and tosses her head; behind them the Youngest Ranger looks up at the ceiling whistling.]
It doesn't look like I have any choice about him meddling this time. And I didn't even ask for help this time, either.
[giving Finrod a sidelong glance]
I never heard that Old Beor asked for help, either, come to think of it. It'd be pretty ungrateful of me to start turning it down now.
[he smiles around at the Ten, who are standing about looking rather excited and cheerful (if slightly nervous) at being able to do something finally, leaning on their spears and waiting for orders. Aule's Assistant appears in the middle of the Hall, and gives the company a dubious, critical stare]
Aule's Assistant: [sniffing]
These costumes are in very poor taste.
[dismisses them from concern, he walks up to Luthien. Very officious:]
Luthien daughter of Melian, the Greater Powers of this worlds-realm have sent me to summon you once more unto their presence, to privately discuss your fate.
That means alone, as in, not bringing him along. -- Or the Dog.
[Huan snorts affrontedly, and both he and Beren look to Luthien for direction. She in turn sighs deeply, and answers the junior Maia in almost a sing-song, with the tired whimsy of some of the darkest stretches of Act III]
No. Not going. -- Sorry.
[with a weird smile]
You've wasted far too much of my time already, and I'm not going anywhere without Beren. And he's not going anywhere without me.
[tilting her head on one side, almost playfully]
Princess Luthien, I am very sorry, but that was a command, not a request. You will accompany me back to the council. Now.
As I said, that was not a request --
[he starts to move towards her as if to arrest her]
[the Ten present spears and raise shields, forming a short but very sharp barrier between]
How absurd. What do you think you could possibly accomplish with this display?
Want to find out? You could test it.
You're discorporate. None of this is real.
There is that, yes. -- There's also that.
[nods towards the reconstructed wall; the Assistant looks over at it and does a double-take, not having noticed it in the brevity of his last brief sojourn.]
So you're at it again. I suppose you mean to convey some form of solidity to these illusions of theirs, then?
No, I didn't make that. They did. On their own, without any help or guidance from me. I merely teach. My people learn and improvise. I have no idea how real you'll find our thorn-hedge. Are you absolutely sure it can't possibly affect you?
[the Assistant begins to look a bit doubtful]
I strongly suggest that you pass this one back up to your superiors. Unless they're giving you hazard pay. -- Or dealing with mad rebel ghosts is in your job description.
I will do so. -- Though you may not find the consequences much to your liking.
Do we stand down, Sire?
[Finrod shakes his head.]
Objection noted and overruled, Beor. This is normal procedure for a standoff between civilized peoples. -- I may be stretching a point to call my cousins "civilized," but we were able to manage around Mithrim with only minor casualties and no fatalities on these principles. I'm going to extend the benefit of the doubt to the gods and assume that they're civilized as well.
[the bystanders look shocked and there are murmurs of horror from both camps, incarnate and discorporate. Several of the Ten cringe a bit, too. Without saying anything, the Ex-Thrall adjusts her mail and gear and walks up into the heart of the wedge, standing calmly by the lovers and Huan as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She is followed by the Ambassador, who moves to stand in a matching position of attendance on Luthien's side. With the addition of support staff, their tiny outpost starts somehow looking more serious; left alone, the Lord Warden wraps his arms around himself, looking defensive and forlorn, and very uncertain. Huan yawns, with no prospect of immediate action, and stretches down, couchant. Luthien perches on his back as if he were a big rock.]
Beren: [thoughtful, to Finrod]
You're being extra offensive on purpose, aren't you?
Why? You're not really angry.
There's a reason it's called "offensive." Pushing people makes them remember that not all power is one one side, however disproportionate the odds, and -- it keeps them off balance. You must have seen your uncle dealing with local troubles, even if you never had to do it yourself.
And besides, it's rather fun.
I had never guessed, I'm sure.
[Beren just Looks at Finrod]
Beren, it's too late to panic now.
No it isn't. You can panic all the way through. Believe me, I know.
Well, you needn't. -- Yet.
-- Oh, that's going to reassure us. -- Him.
This was not part of my plan. I wasn't going to involve you guys.
Far, far too late for that, my lord Barahirion.
[Beren grins in spite of himself]
This time I have reserves to draw on. Now hold the line, while I think things through.
Surely not yet, Sire?
[receiving a Look]
-- Er, sorry.
[Finrod steps aside a little and stands staring at the walls behind them, frowning a little, his arms folded. Beren sighs, resigned to the fact that this is now totally out of his control, and sits down against Huan's side. Luthien leans over and ruffles his hair, and he looks up at her. They smile and clasp hands.]
We should have a banner.
[all look expectantly at the Steward]
Why not? Since subtlety and restraint are already thrown to the winds --
[he grounds his spear, steps back and lowers the point carefully, sliding it back so that he can reach the ties that now keep the banner wrapped around the somewhat-longer shaft -- then stops]
Come on, what are you waiting for?
There's a slight problem.
Steward: [edged patience]
What flag do we usually fight under?
The rest of the Ten:
Oh. I see.
Er . . .
[they all give covert glances towards Finarfin]
I do not understand.
In Beleriand we went to war under the radiance of the House of Finarfin. I can't imagine what Lord Finarfin will say upon seeing us hoist his insignia in our -- endeavor -- though I do have some guesses.
-- I will ask him.
[Before he can object she scoots through the line and dashes over to Finarfin. The Steward tries to look oblivious, an expression shared by some of the Ten, while others cringe in embarrassment and at least one makes a cursory attempt to not grin. Returning -- perkily:]
He says he does not understand why you trouble yourselves over it after all these years.
[the Steward winces, closing his eyes]
My lord, why don't you use the other insignia?
It's the same problem.
Youngest Ranger: [still polite]
No, sir -- his.
[nods towards Finrod. Silence]
Because I'm being an idiot and didn't think of it. Thank you.
[shaking his head, he begins to unfasten the knots]
Youngest Ranger: [solemnly]
I think it's called "being preoccupied," my lord.
[he unfurls it -- the emblem is Finrod's personal sigil, the Harp and Flame. He carefully does not look at the incarnate Eldar on the hill as he raises the standard.]
We need a wind.
Oh, let me!
Not too much -- just enough to carry it.
Teler Girl: [innocently]
Not enough to rip it and drag you across the deck?
Hmm, no -- I rather think not.
[a small breeze lifts the flag and spreads it out.]
Is that enough? Or too much?
[behind them, Finrod looks from the smooth wall over towards the waterfall with a calculating frown, and then freezes, his eyes meeting Amarie's. She gives him an edged, fixed smile, not unlike the gleam of a spearpoint in "rest" and he looks worried, but she only stands there smiling at him without saying anything, like a wingless, rather damp, and extremely-piqued Nika between victories.]
Teler Maid: [to the Steward]
I say, do you know -- this is like one of the old stories about the March!
[he starts to make an acerbic reply, checks it.]
-- It is, rather, isn't it?
We still might lose.
Teler Maid: [shaking her head]
No. I think not so.
[Finrod and Amarie are still staring at each other over the kneeling ranks, each waiting for the other to do something first]
Whatever I say is going to be wrong. -- I'm sorry.
Amarie: [as if he hadn't spoken]
Thou didst not say 'twas the Lord of the Deeps that did command thee to thy secret City.
Finrod: [thrown by the seeming non-sequitur]
Well, who else would it have been?
Amarie: [staring at him coolly]
Why, which else, but for the Lord of Dreams, to send thee warning in a dream?
Finrod: [increasingly rattled as he goes on]
He can't any more -- no one can, because of the Trees -- being gone, that is -- to the other Shore --
[behind them the Sea-elf grips the staff of the banner beneath her true-love's hands and glances up with a speculative expression]
Might I? Please?
I shan't drop it.
Will you tire of it?
[she thinks about this, then shakes her head]
Aye, and what then of thy friend's dream, and the missives of thy cousin his consort? Or dost think those eke did come of the Waters, verily?
[pause; behind them the Steward hands over the banner, carefully, waiting until the Elven-girl has it braced before letting go. It dips a little alarmingly, but he doesn't take it back, only helping her move her hand a ways along the spear, and she stabilizes it at once, smiling proudly.]
Finrod: [starting to slip into lecture mode automatically]
That's possible, but there's reason to think that Luthien's experiences were but natural phenomena --
[Amarie raises her hand in a commanding gesture]
Hold thy prating, my lord, this one hour -- if in truth thou canst -- for it mattereth naught the least proportion one way else the other.
[to the nearest Elven-shades:]
Gentles, give way: I had liefer not to cross ye, for 'twould seem discourteous.
[surprised, they glance first at Finrod, who is no help, and then to their senior officers, who nod right back -- they open the shield-wall and move aside so that the Vanyar lady may pass through their lines, even though it would be simpler for her to go around the flank of the wedge and join Finrod that way. Amarie moves into the space between Huan and the Standard-bearer, ignoring all the Looks she is getting]
Finrod: [shaking his head]
Wait, something just happened here and I don't understand what.
So much thou art amazed, as 'twere sign of the world its ending?
No, but wait, -- I don't understand.
Amarie: [mock surprise]
How then, my lord -- thou art e'en as other Elves!
But -- you're standing with me --
Amarie: [raising her eyebrows, in a patient tone]
[her expression is that of someone on the verge of either laughing or crying or both -- and possibly hitting someone, as well]
But I don't understand. -- Why?
Amarie: [still patiently]
I am so bid -- and I obey.
But -- by whom?
[she only sighs and shakes her head, still smiling that spearblade smile -- he becomes even more frustrated and manically insistent, but before he can say anything else, his chief counselor steps in between them and puts both hands on the King's shoulders, forcing him to attend:]
Steward: [calm but earnest]
Sire, what purpose does this line of inquiry serve -- except to unsettle you further, and through you, your following?
-- Can it not wait? Can you not simply accept it as fact, for the present?
[Finrod glares at him, and then at his wife, still trying to figure out what in the world just happened]
Amarie: [patiently, but looking up at the ceiling with a highly flammable amusement]
Else might I depart, were that more favorable unto thy will -- ?
Ah -- not at all. -- Please.
[he takes a deep breath and pulls himself together, and nods to his Steward]
[and with that he's back to being King, earnestly contemplating the tactical situation, but with a strange bemused smile threatening to break through from time to time, the look one might wear after having been hit with a rock and discovering it to be a priceless gem . . . as he ponders strategy, Beren turns to the Ten with a nagging question:]
Beren: [somewhat worried]
Hey, guys -- was I obnoxious about being a vegetarian while we were travelling upriver?
[silence -- the Ten look at each other, bemused, while Luthien sighs, smiles, and rubs his shoulder]
No. You didn't claim it as a mark of moral superiority. You didn't object to anyone else hunting. We rather admired your consistency at not making exceptions for meat taken by anyone else.
Beren: [but with a smile]
You're just saying that to make me feel better.
All right -- you were an obnoxious little brat. Happy now?
[as they are speaking Finarfin leaves the Hill and comes over to them; Nerdanel does so separately. He stands there looking at them -- the Noldor, especially of his House, tense up and become rather woodenly expressionless, trying to fade into the background as much as possible; but the living King only looks them over with a mild, quizzical expression, walking along their line as if sightseeing. He stops, addresses one of his former people:]
And in this wise thou didst 'fend against the Power of the North, all this Age?
Finarfin: [to Beren]
Eke thy folk, as I do gather?
Finrod: [low voice]
Are you angry with me, Father?
Finarfin: [calmly, even coolly, neutral]
Wherefore dost ask? For thou meanst not to change thy course for mine approbation, I deem.
[Finrod shakes his head, slightly, jaw set -- but he is blinking hard. The living High King of the Noldor looks at the flying insignia of the King of Nargothrond, and then at the latter's insignia, noting the wings above the war-crown (hard to overlook, true.)]
Teler Maid: [observant]
He did not answer.
Thou art no babe, my wiseling, but an Elf of full years, nor answerest unto me.
[Finrod starts to say something, but doesn't -- or can't. His father looks at the ones all this spectacle is in aid of, with a neutral expression, while all the companions grow uneasy under his stare.]
Belike thou mayest say unto me, how thy folk did recall them my son his deeds amidst ye, Lord of Beor?
[Beren looks puzzled, Finarfin glances at Luthien:]
Thou didst remark, good my kinswoman, how that a variance did stand, 'twixt his and his, i' the telling.
Luthien: [to Beren]
-- The verses. The ones you taught me, about the First Meeting of Men and the King from the Sea.
[his expression changes to comprehension, but he is too flustered in the present company to comply; Luthien, with a slightly impish sparkle in her eyes, begins to chant while Finrod closes his eyes in embarrassment:]
...............They looked upward
and high upon a hill hoar and treeless
the guest beheld they: gold was shining
in his hair, in his hand the harp he bore;
at his feet they saw the fallow-golden
cornsheaf lying. Then clear his voice
a song began, sweet, unearthly,
words in music woven strangely
in tongue unknown. Trees stood silent
and men unmoving marvelling hearkened.
I don't like being idealized into a remote figure of legend. It was much more complicated and confusing and took longer than that, anyway.
[very seriously Beren takes the next verse, chanting:]
...............-- No sight so fair
had eyes of mortal, since the earth was young,
seen when waking in that sad country
long forsaken. No lord they had,
no king nor counsel, but the cold terror
that dwelt in the desert, the dark shadow
that haunted the hills and the hoar forest.
Dread was their master.
Your House was wiser than ours, for they fled the Dark King's shadow, instead of trusting him.
[Beren only smiles, and goes on:]
....................-- Gladness wakened.
To the hill they thronged, and their heads lifting
on the guest they gazed. Greybearded men
bowed before him and blessed his coming
their years to heal; youths and maidens,
wives and children welcome gave him.
His song was ended. Silent standing
he looked upon them. Lord they called him,
king they made him, crowned with golden
wheaten garland, white his raiment,
his harp his scepter. In his house was fire,
food and wisdom; there fear came not.
And here, I deem, is thy badge its source, recounted in the plain song of Men.
[he looks up at the flag; his eldest nods silently]
'Tis well-crafted, for withouten hearth for bread and weal, must e'er be life most bitter and full of woe -- yet dost hearth shelter no song upon its warmed stones, then soul too starveth in sated body's despite.
[Finrod does not say anything, but Finarfin's approving tone is reflected in his expression and posture; there are changes in the looks turned on Nargothrond's former King by those not of his party, as well -- the Warden of Aglon uncertain, troubled, thoughtful; Aredhel and Eol less so, but still with an air of considering.]
...............Their need he healed,
Words he taught them wise and lovely --
their tongue ripened in the time of Nom
to song and music. Secrets he opened,
runes revealing. Riches he gave them,
reward of labour, wealth and comfort
from the earth calling, acres ploughing,
sowing in season seed of plenty,
hoarding in garner golden harvest
for the help of men. The hoar forests
in his days drew back to the dark mountains;
the shadow receded, and shining corn,
white ears of wheat, whispered in the breezes
where waste had been. The woods trembled.
Finrod: [lightly, but plainly deeply moved]
Somehow the bards left out all the blisters and splinters involved. There's more to farming than song!
Halls and houses hewn of timber,
strong towers of stone steep and lofty,
golden-gabled, in his guarded city
they raised and roofed. In his royal dwelling
of wood well-carven the walls were wrought;
fair-hued figures filled with silver,
gold and scarlet, gleaming hung there,
stories boding of strange countries;
were one wise in wit the woven legends
to thread with thought. At his throne Men found
counsel and comfort and care's healing,
justice in judgment. Generous-handed
his gifts he gave. Glory was uplifted.
Far sprang his fame over fallow water
through Northern lands the renown echoed
of the shining king, Nom the mighty.
So. That is what manner of deed it be, for to be a King over multitudes, in hardship e'en as danger, upon the wild shores of that our ancient land --
[she gives the Lord Warden of Aglon a speaking Look -- he swallows hard, his eyes falling under hers.]
All that has passed.
[as he says this, Aegnor and Angrod move in quietly around the spear-hedge to stand flanking him, their manifested appearance changing to full armour as they do.]
Aegnor: [clearly and clearly ceremonially]
Sire, the Lords of the Northern Marches stand ready to your service, at your command.
Angrod: [equally intense]
-- With all our strength, and all our will, your Majesty -- all that remains to us.
[again Finrod is at a loss for words, but the Look he gives them speaks very well what he cannot manage to get out; his brothers turn to look at Beren. As before:]
Hail, son of Beor, Lord of Dorthonion, faithful friend of our House!
For debt of honour, and in gratitude to your House for such great service to our own, we render our assistance in your time of need -- and for friendship's sake, good Edain.
[too overcome with emotion to speak, Beren drops to one knee before them, but the brothers each take hold of his forearms and draw him gently back to his feet]
-- I have not our lord's gift of Sight, cousin, but I think it not unlikely that in days to come, your name will be of greater renown than ours, the hero who won two treasures from great Kings at such terrible price.
We are honoured to call you kinsman, my lord.
[Beren smiles through tears, bemused, while the heroes of his childhood -- and generations of his countrymen before him -- proudly take their place beside the ex-King of Nargothrond, tall and impossibly handsome in the high helms and jeweled swords of the Leaguer, and Luthien shakes her head fondly. After a visible hesitation, the Lord Warden of Aglon comes up to the intransigents and glowers at Finrod, looking torn.]
Warden of Aglon: [gruffly]
I'll stand with you -- if you'll have me.
Why wouldn't We?
[pause. The Lord Warden looks baffled]
Warden of Aglon: [defiant]
I won't apologize for what I've said to you lot. -- Or about.
-- Or done.
Finrod: [raising eyebrows]
Why would you?
Warden of Aglon:
. . .
Aren't you going to arm?
[the Feanorian looks at the Steward's no-longer-ex, and away]
Warden of Aglon:
I -- cannot.
Go ahead and laugh at me, if you will.
Soldier: [bemused half-smile]
Why would we?
[the Kinslayer bows his head, with a short laugh, and then pulls himself together]
Warden of Aglon:
Wh -- where do you want me in your line?
[the Captain points towards the end, left flank, indicating a place by, as it happens, the Youngest Ranger. After a brief hesitation, he moves in, giving the Sindarin warrior a defensive Look and gets a wry, sympathetic grin in return -- misadventures with chess pieces and knees and knives all being now past]
You can have a shield, even if you won't bear arms any more, can't you?
[subdued, the Warden nods and takes one from nowhere, looking less vulnerable and more part of the company as a result]
Warden of Aglon:
What's going to happen? Is this going to be possible?
[the nearest of the Ten shrug, and look questioningly at the Captain -- who shrugs in turn]
We're going to get hurt, you know. Not like when we play war, either.
Come now, where's your sense of adventure?
Warden of Aglon: [muttered aside]
Back in Beleriand -- with your sanity.
It's a shame none of the rest of the old crew are with us.
This is awfully much. We're pushing it farther than is safe, you know.
First Guard: [snorting]
They didn't bother about that in Tirion.
That's why now.
[Aredhel has been watching all this with arms folded, doing a good imitation of her husband's air of superior amusement, but the pretense grows too much]
Oh, I can't stand by and let them have all the fun!
[she manifests a helmet and resumes her sword, but is interrupted by the Dark Elf's laughter]
Of course not. You're still the same charmingly impulsive hellion who ran herself into unnecessary dangers and trapped my heart all those many score years ago. I wouldn't expect you to start showing caution now.
Aredhel: [with a sidelong Look]
I'd expect you to approve of anything that would wreak havoc and anger the gods, given that they've proven quite resistant to your manipulation -- your efforts at manipulation, I should say.
If I thought for one instant that this little display of sentimental gallantry was going to annoy the Lords of the World as much as everyone else seems to believe it will, I'd endorse it -- but be realistic: this is your cousin Finrod we're talking about. They'll just smile indulgently and let it go, of course.
You have to take all the fun out of everything.
[she lets the helmet vanish (but not her sword) and leans against a pillar, sulking]
Eol: [with a cynical flourish]
Oh no, go ahead and be a reactionary, my love -- you've defined yourself as a Rebel Against The Gods, don't be false to yourself for my sake. It isn't as if doing things purely to spite me was something new for you, after all.
[she makes an impatient exclamation, and looks over at the others longingly, but doesn't join them after all. Silently the Valar appear before them on the dais, accompanied by an outraged Maia. Namo sits down and leans back in his chair, lurking behind his teacup again, but Vaire remains standing along with her brother-in-law, the Hunter, and the affronted messenger's patron.]
Aule's Assistant: [indignant]
-- You see, my lords?
[he points at the wedge drawn up facing the judgment seat with a shaking hand]
Be hard not to.
[It is actually a weirdly-impressive assembly, the Elf-lords and their retinue in the ghostly array of battle -- and the ornate, resplendent panoply of the Leaguer, very "fairy-tale illustration" with crests and gems and embroidered cloaks, not the grim camouflage of their setting forth from Nargothrond, either -- with banner and shield and engraved spear-blade . . . the effect spoilt a little by the motley nature of the command group, the fact that the war-steed is a large shaggy dog, and the banner-bearer is standing on one leg.]
They offered me violence!
Fourth Guard: [snickering behind his shield]
But he wouldn't have any.
Are you sure there's not been some misunderstanding?
My lord, look at them! Where is there room for misunderstanding in that!?
Don't worry. We'll clear this up, and deal with any troublemakers as proves to be appropriate.
[his servant looks mollified, and reassured by this, for some reason]
Finrod. I might have guessed it wasn't safe to leave you alone here.
Namo: [setting down his teacup]
What's going on?
[he leans forward resting his elbow on the arm of his throne, his chin on his hand, looking at them with a quizzical expression.]
What, exactly, do you think you're doing?
Defending my kin, Sir.
I see. -- Why?
Luthien: [cutting in]
Because we're not going to let you send Beren away from the world.
And I'm not letting you keep Tinuviel a prisoner here for my sake either.
So we're going to run away. Don't try to stop us.
But if you do, we'll interfere on their behalf -- as our warlike appearance should indicate.
[Aule's Assistant looks vindicated; the other Ainur bewildered]
Irmo: [disbelieving tone]
Namo: [to Finrod, curious]
What, exactly, makes you so certain that you're going to be able to accomplish what Melkor couldn't manage over the course of Ages?
[he gestures towards the fountain with one hand, not looking away from the assembled Powers]
I know where all the conduits and channels go -- and I know how to change that.
I'm reasonably certain that I can create enough of a distraction to keep most of your staff preoccupied, while I help my cousins here effect their own departure. And any who aren't diverted --
[he looks at their defensive line]
-- we're ready.
[meanwhile the Teler Maid is holding their banner with one hand so that she can wave at the Lord of Dreams and Visions again, but the staff dips wildly again -- as she scrambles for it, the Steward, who has been surreptitiously keeping an eye on it all the while, tenses but does not try to get up and help, and she manages to right the flag herself]
So you're, what, just going to take on the world by yourselves again?
[Finrod lifts his hand towards the water again, not in command but as if in request -- the fountain increases in volume, but the spill does not overflow; instead it begins to build up in a slowly-rising wave, (sfx) holding in place as it mounts, in constant motion in the pool. Namo's consort gasps.]
Don't you dare, you miserable wretch!
Don't compel me to the choice, then, Ma'am.
What of your promise?!?
You only told me not to amuse myself by rearranging your home. This isn't a jest, my Lady.
[the Smith and the Hunter exchange long Looks]
This is . . . pathetic.
Irmo: [waving distractedly back at the Sea-Elf]
Nobody wants to hurt you Children --
Speak for yourself!
[Orome turns aside quickly and scrubs at his eyes, regaining his stern composure by the time he faces the defenders again. Elenwe seems however to be suffering from almost uncontainable mirth as the situation progresses.]
Irmo: [to Finarfin, pleading]
Can't you do something about this? They're yours, after all.
Finarfin: [raising his hands]
Ye do ken so well as I, how well mine offspring shall heed my direction --
Vaire: [to the late High King]
Your Majesty, won't you intercede with them to stop this nonsense?
[he smiles regretfully]
No, my Lady, as it happens, I am here to intercede for them, rather than the reverse -- though it seems my presence is nigh superfluous.
Aule: [intense, glaring at Finrod]
Have you considered what devastation this -- plan of yours is going to cause, if you start tearing apart the roots of the mountains? What damage you could do to the terrain above and everything supported by it?
[Nerdanel answers before Finrod can respond, with a musing air]
Nay, should be small matter, for to damp all tremors even as to disperse the force of echoes outward unto the Western horizon's rim, I deem.
[her patron deity looks appalled]
-- You're not helping these lunatics wreak havoc, surely?
Far from't, good my Lord; I pledge I'll keep all destruction to its utmost least.
Eol: [to Aredhel]
I take some of that back -- this could get interesting.
[he is darkly (how else?) amused by the proceedings]
I don't want to inconvenience anyone. But that would be but an effect -- and an unintentional one, mind you -- of a Good action.
Orome: [baffled laughter]
You idiots. Haven't you learned anything? You're here, and you're rebelling again.
No, gentles all; we are endeavoring to protect you from making a dire mistake.
[the Lord of the Forests shakes his head with a bitter smile]
Confident, aren't you?
[the Steward's expression is very amused, but he doesn't answer]
If we were in the wrong -- would the Lord of the Deeps lend us his assistance? Or do you really think I have the power, of my own, to rule the waters by my will, counter to his own?
[as he speaks, the fountain begins to glow from within, as if the light from the now-submerged, illusory flames were spreading through the entire wave, like a giant mass of crystal. Heatedly talking over each other]
Well, of course he's going to support you, you're his favorite among --
There's an assumption in there that isn't --
Gentles, surely you see now your generosity has been wasted on these incorrigible reprobates --
You're assuming yourself that --
[The Doomsman sets down his teacup and raises his hand until they stop]
I asked this before, but -- would anyone mind explaining to me just what they think is going on?
[half a dozen people try at once: the Lord of the Halls sighs]
[bringing his hand down to point at the Captain]
Captain: [drawing back a little]
Yes, you. You usually know what seems to be going on, and what's really going on instead. Mind sharing?
. . .
[he looks worriedly to Finrod, who nods]
Er . . . my Lord, your messenger arrived and insisted -- quite peremptorily, I might add -- insisted that the Princess of Doriath leave us and go with him. It sounded -- at least, in the context of prior reports and exchanges -- as though her Highness were to be compelled to remain here, and separated from Lord Beren, permanently. Nor does it seem so far of a stretch to proceed from that, to the judgment that in that case, the mortal would be required to obey his fate, and leave.
[glaring at the Doomsman]
-- And we're not about to let that happen. Not without a fight. I'm sorry, my Lords, my Lady, but we can't.
[loudly, to the shadowy echoes]
-- And anyone who's here and hasn't the guts to join us, or to join our adversaries -- you can all enjoy us getting what you think we've had coming to us for a long time, and the Void take you!
[the Weaver makes an impatient exclamation; the Lord of the Halls sighs. Long anticlimactic silence, in which several chilly stares are directed at Aule's Assistant, who begins to look uncomfortable]
Namo: [closing his eyes briefly]
In other words -- panic, overreaction, and the dragging of bystanders along in the general enthusiasm for action.
[shakes his head]
Don't you people ever get tired of this?
We weren't overreacting --
Nerdanel: [just as haughty]
No more than were compelled, my Lord, withouten full knowledge nor resoluteness.
'Tis even as my noble sister attests.
First Guard: [realistic]
Well, perhaps some of us.
Not I. I haven't any more doubts, myself.
How fortunate for you.
Aegnor: [to the world at large]
But we're still here, if you'll remark.
And this isn't Tirion, Lord Namo.
Namo: [looks around]
Really? I'd never have guessed.
Angrod: [bridling at the irony]
I mean that we are listening to my brother -- not to my uncle, Sir.
Yes, I recognize the condescending tone.
My Lord, I beg pardon for my children their rough unmannerliness -- yet never their mind forthspoken thus plainly. 'Tis the duty of each, be he Eldar, Ainur, else --
[looking at Beren]
-- Aftercomer newly born --
[suddenly stern and very royal-sounding]
-- living else dead, to speak against wrong judgment -- and what's more, in truth, to stand, when that words suffice not, for duty general be subordinate to duty most specific, nor any duty masters that to stand against injustice, be it done by the highest even as the least, nor any hindereth the right most obligatory, to restrain even a lord from such.
[his sons are all left amazed at his display of open support]
Orome: [not-quite-aside to Aule]
I know where they get it from, too.
Amarie. This is a bit of a change, rather, don't you think? Given what you told my sister last time, that is. And the time before that, and the one preceding that one, and . . . Not to mention the presence of weaponry and so on.
I but do as I am bid, Holy One.
Amarie: [raising an eyebrow, ironic]
Kennst thou not, Lord Namo? -- By the Lord that claimeth mine allegiance most especial, by Ulmo of the Deeps --
[Finrod gives her a sudden, shocked Look, as she goes on, softly, not looking at him]
. . . and aye, by my heart, no less -- nor less, for that.
Namo: [to the Lord Warden]
Are you engaging in this for altruism, or out of defiance?
Warden of Aglon:
I really don't know, my Lord.
[he looks at them all, shaking his head for a second. At this moment the Apprentice returns, briskly, then sees everyone there and reacts -- then sees the situation, and does a triple take, quite horrified]
[there is a slight change in his appearance this time, not drastic, but obvious]
Did you know that they were planning this?
Ah -- no, I, er, had no idea this was what they were planning.
Vaire: [rising ire]
You mean you knew they were up to something?
. . .
You don't really expect him to be capable of dealing with Finrod and his lunatics, do you?
Well . . .
[the Apprentice looks both grateful and chagrined at the back-handed defense]
Irmo: [to Namo]
You can't blame him for that, brother. It isn't fair.
You mean I can't do it anyway?
[as hs brother winces at his attempt at levity; to his sister's student, wincing in turn]
-- And what is that absurd illusion, anyway?
[the Apprentice puts a defensive hand to his chin, and the stubble beard he is currently sporting]
Apprentice: [glancing at Beren]
After seeing how the mortal looked wearing it, Sir, I was curious -- I thought it added a certain something, a -- a foreign air, a touch of -- raffishness, perhaps?
Scruffy is the word you're looking for, I'm certain.
No, no, "dashing," surely?
You look scruffy. -- You look like Huan.
[several people are offended by this remark]
Oh, I say!
[single piercing bark]
You be quiet.
[low-key dissatisfied-but-"behaving" canine grumbling noises]
[Aule's Assistant makes the mistake of chuckling at his colleague's discomfiture, thereby attracting the attention of his boss.]
Curumo. I thought I told you to go fetch her, please. Unquote.
I do not recall telling you to antagonize her and her friends.
Sir, I assure you I did no such thing!
Orome: [raising an eyebrow]
Really? They look pretty well antagonized to me. Maybe I'm missing something, though.
Eol: [positively cheerful]
This is getting better by the misplaced word.
Assistant: [getting more and more defensive]
Milord, I only assumed that the same conditions as before were in force, as you did not not countermand them, and they at once met me with insolence and confrontation, for which they were already prepared --
Aule: [looking very tired]
We're going to have to discuss this later, I can tell.
Assistant: [a little desperate]
Sir, if I was too zealous in your task, and for your authority, then I most sincerely offer you my apology, but how was I to know that the former conditions no longer applied? Or were optional? You know that my only purpose for being here is to make your Work easier, Sir --
If I find out that this situation is your fault, believe me --
Finrod: [confidential aside]
And believe us, you don't want to get on the wrong side of the Lady's temper --
[the Weaver gives him a lethal glare, folding her arms crossly]
Namo: [getting back to important business]
So. You think we're making a mistake, and you're going to rectify that, whether we like it or not, is that it? Even though it has been argued that this Man here, as well as his wife, are materially if indirectly responsible for your deaths.
And the rest of you are giving them your blessing?
Fingolfin: [while his brother, sister-in-law and daughter-in-law nod]
Aye, for the sake of loyalty long given, and kinship, and true fellowship, even so.
In thankfulness for fair gifts of words, of jests, and tales. -- And questions.
[she smiles knowingly at Beren and Luthien]
Warden of Aglon: [lifting his chin]
For valour --
For love. -- And for regret.
Ex-Thrall: [mysterious smile]
To raise a melody above the storm, for even a few bars --
And you, mortal, called Beren Barahirion -- you are prepared to let your friends place themselves at hazard yet again for your cause?
I haven't got a say in the offer of help. It ain't like it's something I can force them to take back, you know -- other than asking them to. Which I did.
Aredhel: [incredulous laugh]
Now I'm starting to believe these outrageous stories about him -- he sounds almost as arrogant as my cousin, if only Ingold had a hick Sindarin accent instead.
Beren: [innocently, as his hearers (of all sorts) wince]
But you know the funny thing, Sir? People don't do what you want 'em to, always. Not even when it'd be better for them.
So I've noticed.
Luthien: [cutting in before it can get in any worse]
It would be rather churlish of us to turn it down now, wouldn't it?
[his elder sibling raises his hand for silence again, staring hard at Finrod and his cohorts]
You really are prepared to forfeit even your pardon for your friends' sake?
[looking along their shield-wall]
You're prepared to dare our wrath for them -- all of you?
The Ten & their Allies:
[there is a raucous, applauditory whistle from the background -- Tulkas and Nessa have returned and are looking very pleased with themselves.]
You tell 'em!
[They wave cheerfully from the hill to Luthien and Beren. Tulkas is now too sporting a short beard. (There is also a pair of white fawns grazing on the rosebushes now.)]
Oh no, not you too.
Whose side are you on, anyway?
Our side. Us.
The good guys.
Orome: [to Nessa, gesturing to his chin]
-- You let him do that?
We haven't decided if it's staying.
You make it sound like a stray animal that followed you home.
Nessa: [looking at her husband]
Hmm . . . that's not such a bad comparison. That's all right, I like cute animals.
It's a good thing, too, isn't it?
[his sister throws a grape at him]
He was doing that earlier, too.
Tulkas: [snorts, with a dismissive wave of his hand]
Don't mind him. -- I don't.
-- He's just sore because I had to save him and Nahar a couple times in the War, so he tries to get his own back in little ways.
[Orome glares at him, but doesn't respond. His sibling throws another grape.]
You two are not setting the most decorous of examples.
As it happens --
Vaire: [still annoyed]
-- And you've left all this -- mess -- in my house.
Nessa: [rolls eyes]
Elenwe: [looking at the roses consideringly]
'Tis not after mine own preferring, yet hath of itself a beauty free and singular for the untrammeled state of't.
[as they are speaking, another Elven-warrior fades in from the shadows and edges into the array, rather sheepishly, as if hoping not to be noticed, without any luck]
Look who's decided to join us --
Stranger: [ducking his head]
Youngest Ranger: [delighted]
I thought better late -- than not at all.
[looks worriedly at the Lady of the Halls]
It's only -- after the business with the sconce, and what was said, and now -- more wargames -- but I couldn't help listening to the story, and -- I'm sorry.
This isn't a game, lad.
Yes, Sir. I do realize that.
And it isn't me you need to apologize to.
[the newcomer nods again; swallowing hard, he turns to Finrod and kneels, offering his sword-hilt]
I'm sorry, Sire. I wasn't certain it was the right thing . . . and that -- made a good excuse for my resentment towards The Beoring.
[looks apologetically at Beren]
I know it wasn't reasonable, to blame him that his father was too late to save me -- and that it was always too late, I couldn't have made it back to the Tower, regardless of when they arrived.
[to the Youngest Ranger]
Thanks for trying, though
-- I didn't mean to sound so unappreciative before.
[to their commander]
Please don't curse the rest of us, Sir. Not everyone can find it easy to make the same decisions as you.
[to their King]
I'm here now, at least, your Majesty.
[he places his hand over the veteran's as he accepts the renewal of fealty]
-- Thank you.
[the Lord of the Halls clears his throat]
Namo: [very acerbic]
If anyone could manage to let me finish saying something without interrupting . . . ? Thank you. Now, we know you consider our deliberations to be not merely "endless" but also, "a waste of your time" and --
[Huan looks suddenly alert and starts wagging his tail]
-- "pointless" as well, but nevertheless we have reached to a decision, after talking to everyone involved and, might I add, listening (often at great and repetitive length) as well, and --
-- Have you?
[stepping out of the shadows, in her first, mundane guise]
Are you sure about that?
Where have you been, Nia?
[her Apprentice looks relieved to the point of collapse at her reappearance]
Who else is there to ask?
Someone who's been gone for a very long time.
[she pats her knee]
-- Good boy. Come here.
[Huan whines; Luthien slides down off his back, and he moves forward, waving his tail as the Elf-warriors open the shield-wall to let him through. He drops into almost a "down-stay" in front of Nienna, with all the appearance of a dog who is just too well behaved to start bouncing madly about trying to get a lick in -- but only just, whining and wriggling as his tail thumps the floor.]
It's been a while since you Followed me, hasn't it?
[reaching over and rubbing his ears]
What have you learned, since you were caught by Melkor's monotony, and drawn free by the Call of the Hunt, my friend?
[he licks her hand, trying to shove his muzzle under for more pats. In a tone as of giving permission:]
[in response to her words, Huan straightens, but stands with his head still hanging down, jaws parted in canine uncertainty]
He doesn't seem to want to, I'm afraid. We're not entirely sure why.
[the Lord of Dogs looks over his shoulder at the Elf-king's shade, with that almost-human expression of half-perked ear that is as clear as a lifted eyebrow. When he replies, it is in a deep rich baritone, (he could be voiced by Christopher Plummer, (Waterloo, Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country) or equally Denzel Washington (Much Ado About Nothing)]
But it's so much clearer as a Dog. Everything is . . . stronger, more stark -- more real, for us -- the joys no less than the sorrows.
[although they have been forewarned, his words leave his Elven listeners all taken aback, with more or less incredulity revealed by their expressions]
But with words -- one can express that joy and sorrow, and so much else besides --
[before he can say anything else, the Hound turns and whines, then paws gently at his feet before leaning his head over his shoulder, keening until the ex-King has hugged his neck and patted him]
Good dog, shh, there's a good boy --
[Huan pulls back, looking at him with head tipped to the side]
See? You understood me perfectly well, did you not? Without need of any words between us.
[he huffs a canine sigh]
That is how it was, at the Beginning of it all, and I -- I am yet easier with the same form of communication. To speak with words, breaking down thought and deed into separateness, making thoughts that are together, different -- I do not like it. Too easy to deceive, even self, that way.
[looking towards the dais again]
And it was enough, and more than enough, when I was a pup, and after -- to be, and in full measure; to do well those things that are a Dog's part: to chase what runs, to guard my People, to sing loudly. I never wanted more than that, and leave the choosing of trails to wiser souls than mine. Until the Darkness came, and we did not know what to do, Hound or Master, and joy died in the first Night of my breathing life, and we followed those who did know what should be done -- or what they willed, at least, should be done -- and I did not question, any more than those who were said to be wiser than we four-footed followers made any protest, for the most part.
Yet did some make challenge, dost not recall, good Sir Hound?
Indeed, and I said for the most. And so did the most of us follow you, O Friend and Sire of my Friends, and did not stay to heel when our choice of Dooms was given us, but dove to shore or turned tail in the high reaches and their duty, it seemed, was then made clear to them.
And I alone was left to go on, from the bright fields where I was whelped to the strange hills and the dark Wolf-haunted woods of the East, and there I found --
Thou spakest naught of Alqualonde.
[the Teler Maid doesn't say anything, but her expression hardens and she watches Huan closely for his answer]
What is there left to say, that has not already been said, O Mate of my Friend? I did not knowwhere was the greater wrong, and so did naught. Perhaps I did less wrong in that silence of action than others, who Sang Melkor's tune that Night --
[he looks at the Kinslayers present]
-- but no less did I merit our Exile, than the rest, though it seemed to me my duty lay where it had always lain, at my dear Master's heel, to go or stay at his command, and protect him in all his battles, and serve him well in peace, whether he know it or not, and so someday to meet my Fate in the ancient lands. It was there I found myself, what I was born to be, bred and trained to do in the dales of Valinor, at long last the true Hunt, the long pursuit of our ancient adversaries, our littermates in the Song who chose the Dark, to raven and tear and rejoice in the rending --
[his voice becomes increasingly a snarl]
-- and there I chased them and fought them again and again, as was our destiny, acted over our parts rehearsed in the Timeless Halls, down the nights and days of Middle-earth, driving them back from the dwellings of folk, as the darts of Moon and Sun drove them aside in the heavens -- I, the Great Dog, the Wolfbane, the Grey Hunter of the West, Huan Hound of Celegorm.
Those were good days, we were happy then, in the wild woods, and happier still when my People went away from the crowded water, so that there was none who might challenge them, no hackles raised in jealousy where there was territory enough for all. We fought the minions of our Enemy and kept the borders safe, and hunted the swift deer and the heavy boar through the sweet grasses of summer and the clean snows of winter, and all seasons between, and I no more thought on our Doom than any other soul in the Eastmarch. Not until the Night of Smoke, and the hours in which we were the hunted, and no longer the hunters, and the bitter chase westward to a new dwelling.
We thought you were happy, in Nargothrond.
[Huan's tail wags]
I was. I am a dog: there were old friends, that I had not seen for long days, and warm fires, and good food and clean water -- how could I be anything else?
It is not that we are fickle, but that each experience is so strong, that it leaves no room for any other. Of course I was happy, when you all did praise me and admire me and gave me tidbits from the tables, and sometimes even butter, and combed the burrs out of my coat and made much of me. What more could a hound ask for?
Ex-Thrall: [reminiscent smile]
I used to brush you.
Warden of Aglon: [reproachful]
-- I worked you a collar of scarlet leather and reinforcing plates, to protect you in battle, don't you remember?
[the Hound goes up to him and gives him a quick swipe on the forehead, looking from him to the Ex-Thrall]
Of course. I didn't forget any of my dead. But I was born a hound, and our way is to live and joy wherever we are, unless the pain is present.
[turning back to face the assembled Powers]
I did not ever doubt that we would some day return home, in victory, nor that my People were wise enough to manage it, no matter how many more times we lost in the seasons that followed. My job was to hunt meat for our food, and the Wargs that would have devoured us, and not to rule. And so I did nothing, when the one who did rule was driven out, for the sake of one whose voice had a familiar echo --
[he looks from Orome to Beren, and back]
-- though his spirit was a new thing under the Stars, and when my Friend was forced to leave our den, and his loyal pack stayed by him, I was not there. I only wept, as though howls were enough.
You weren't mine. You committed no treachery, Huan.
Perhaps. But I stood by in idleness, and for that the blood of innocents was shed, again. You were banished, and we stayed where you had given us shelter from the cold and danger you now were forced to hazard. I knew that this was ill -- but it seemed to me no place of mine to judge, when my Master and his littermate had chosen, for never had I presumed to counter them before. Lament the way of the world, but serve -- that is a hound's lot, isn't that so?
[looking over his shoulder at Luthien]
But then . . . she came into my range, like a star fallen of such greatness that it burns in daylight, that smiths treasure for the making of their fangs of iron, but the cold flame of her did not quench, even in the caves, and it was like the old Days, when my Master's sire brought the Light within doors, and held it still or bore it there, for all to admire. But it was like that too, when hearts grew cold, and we went away and the Lights were locked in the dark, far under Formenos, not free to go out where there are songs and love and warmth, for my People kept her underground and cared nothing for her need, no more than for her cries of pain. No hound could be so cold-hearted, but my Master laughed with his brother, and sang, and rode forth without distress while the Lady wept. And none did speak, among the wise folk, none did seek to hold them nor turn them from their prey, as did my Master's dam when we all denned together.
Nerdanel: [bitter smile]
Nay, what use, when nor I nor any might prevail in bygone Age?
[he gives her the slow, limited wag that is the canine equivalent of a hesitant, troubled smile]
At last I understood where the sorrow of the two-legged came from, when they would sigh in spite of the wind and the sky and the smells of the earth, and the lakes to swim and the swiftness of running. What matter any of these, when choice is hard, and all trails end in grief? It was not a knowledge I ever wished to understand, and for the first time in my life I knew what Fear was, for myself. No Wolf was ever more dreadful than the prospect of deciding what to do, where the choice lies only between wrong and wrong.
But you were always autonomous in Beleriand -- Cel never told you how to do things, everyone left it up to you to decide where to hunt and how to fight, for yourself and as leader of the rest of the hounds.
Even in the worst battles, there was no choice placed upon me, no true challenge to my spirit, for all that I was asked to do, was what I willed, in keeping with my place as Hound. To choose between this scent or that, to circle round in a fight or to chase down in straight pursuit -- those aren't real choices, not as the choice between not following on, taking a wrong trail when the spoor is clear, or feigning a limp to stay behind when one is fearful or weary -- all those failings which fell under my authority as pack leader to discern and discipline, and counsel the failing beast -- nor even that task, for me, which asked for more of wisdom and discretion. None of that dragged me -- as now in Nargothrond I was so dragged by the scruff -- to question all that I had taken for solid footing, where my duty's trail lay, and in that asking, to change, and become more than a Good Dog.
Finrod: [keen interest]
To remember what you were, before you took form in the Circles?
[the Hound's ears rise and he tilts his head, panting, in a canine shrug]
To remember, to become -- I don't know. We change, entering Ea -- but not so much as that; who we were in the Before abides. I know in the first Singing how easily I was drawn astray, as a pup by the rich scents of spring thaw, from this to that to thence, forgetting all else -- until the dissonance about me hurt so much that all I might do was cry out, and make the discord greater, though I had no ears then to be wrung in their deepest hollows by it. I was not such as Nahar, to know my way, and my calling, from the first, to do one thing well and wisely in my fashion -- still less as the Burning One, to see so far in such clarity that no blast of shadow or tempting allure of bait could shake her; I was but a wandering spirit, though my heart was hungry not for power, of any mastery, but for love -- as I learned at last.
Angrod: [looking at the Lady of Mercy]
I've got to say, old lad, I'm rather surprised that you were one of hers, before you were a warrior for Lord Tavros.
[the Lord of Dogs wags his tail softly]
Why? Is that not a Hound's task, as much as to hunt with zeal and fight with fierceness for his People? To comfort with warm fur and wet tongue and sympathetic eye, when they are downhearted, as to cheer with leap and bark and foolish gambol? No dog ever wants to have to choose between friend and friend, or witness his People's sorrow and be unable to help it. It's enough to make one howl, truly.
[alarmed, the Teler Maid hastily straightens and braces the flag between her shoulder and her forearm so she can cover her ears]
No, don't worry -- I will not give way to sorrow again. But how could I lead the pack, when I would not follow the trail myself, but turned away from the scent in fear of what lurked at the end of it? To judge what I must do for myself, in a windy wasteland of uncertainty, where lay Good and where the darkness -- judge my Master -- and then do? To fight against my temperament, my own nature, and leave myself behind? It was almost more than I could manage.
[looks at Luthien]
But I could never have kenneled with myself again, if I had refused to give my help. And after, when I returned to my former duty, and the cold halls of stone, where none thanked me or petted me or gave me looks other than of anger -- still I did not regret it, though my Master treated me with less love than his boots or his cloak or any other useful thing, and all others were too snared in their own thorns of misery to care for mine.
[he gives a thin sharp whine again]
Oh Huan, I'm so sorry. I didn't realize it was like that for you.
That, too, was no fault of yours, my Lady. No more did I unwish my choices after, and though I had regrets, they were not for my deeds, when my Master fell again, and I must leave my People, and find another. The joy of that love nearly healed the other wound -- but I knew it could not last. My Friend was mortal, and my Mistress loved him, and there was a web of Fate around them both, that drew them towards it the faster, and so it fell to me again to act, and to employ all my abilities, both dog and demigod, to avert so far as I was able the death that hunted them through the shadows. In some measure I succeeded, but not enough. Never enough. And so -- we are here.
[his ears droop sadly]
We did try to tell you. Though, being a Hound, you hardly have the same share of responsibility as the Elves who led you astray.
Huan: [with a proud lift of his head]
But if I had not crossed the Sea, what would have happened thereafter? Who would have set the Nightingale free, when all the wise two-legged ones hid, shivering as if their coats were wet in autumn, and would not fight for her? Who else else would have served the brave huntsman with tooth and claw, who had no other friends in Middle-earth to stand by him? Who should have slain the Great Wolf, than whom shall be no greater, and tamed the Terrible One in his pride? My task was there -- though perhaps another might have done as well, or wiser. But I was there, and no other.
[he drops abruptly "down" in the manner of a dog emphatically not going anywhere, and gives an ear-rattling headshake]
I would not take back any choice I made -- nothing but my reluctance to decide.
So you're another one of these who thinks your disobedience was justified by the consequences, eh?
Huan: [looking up from licking his forepaw]
Disobedience -- or obedience to a greater Call than yours?
You're giving me redes and riddles? I was there when you were whelped, I gave you your first bath, taught you what your teeth were for, and weren't -- and you're talking to me about wisdom?
Be glad he's not calling you six kinds of stupid.
Yeah, but you were.
Can't argue with that.
That's a first.
I always tried to be worthy of the Hunter when I was alive.
[Tulkas gives a whoop of laugher, and others have similar reactions, if more restrained.]
He's got you there, Tav'.
[Before things can escalate:]
Namo: [heavy emphasis]
This. Stops. Now.
How is this relevant?
Vaire: [very tactfully]
Not that Huan's experience isn't equally valid and as worthy of being recorded as everyone else's, but why would you think it necessary to have the proceedings interrupted yet again, for an account which does not differ substantially from those we've already heard?
I thought it might be of some value, to be reminded that nothing is as simple, and no solution ideal in all respects, as we might wish it to be.
Irmo: [faint, pained smile]
Sister, I don't think any of us will ever forget the last time we tried to help three unhappy people get what each of them most wanted.
There's more to it than that, Irmo. Should we not remember that all of us can err in judgment, and that none of us has perfect foresight, and good deeds have ill effects as much as evil ones the reverse, -- before we start making decisions -- or trying to change another's mind?
Indeed. -- Thank you for reminding us of that fact.
[the flat, detached tone of their conversation could be equally the remoteness of beings quite unlike ourselves -- or, on the contrary, the extreme deadpan irony of those who share a common private language as siblings often do. The Sorrowful One sits down on the lowest step of the dais, mirroring Elenwe's position, as her brother addresses his next remark to the Hall at large.]
We do hope that the result of all our debating will produce, on the whole, an outcome more positive than negative, and which will be equally acceptable to everyone concerned.
You declare, my lord Mandos, that you are not, then, about to forcibly part our friends, nor send Beren hence against his will and Luthien's?
[glances at Aule's Assistant]
I See how you got that impression, but believe me, that's one precedent we're not about to start breaking now.
[Finrod gives a curt nod, his face still very serious -- but he gestures towards the Falls again, so the wave begins to subside, before folding his arms and waiting for explanations. The Captain sighs and grounds his spear, leaning against it it, and looks over at the Steward]
Go ahead and say it. -- Neither of us will be content, until you get it over with.
I was overhasty, your reluctance was not unfounded, and our venture unnecessary, as it happened.
Was it, indeed? I am not entirely certain on that point.
Go on, say it --
Very well. -- I told you so.
For now, I promise.
[Finarfin puts a hand to his temple, trying not to smile]
Make the most of it, Holy Ones -- it won't last long, I assure you.
What we --
Assistant: [sputtering indignantly]
But -- but, milord, you're not going to punish them?
[the Doomsman gives him a quizzical Look]
For insulting -- er, for insult to your great dignity, my Lord. For rebelling!
I don't think you understand the nature of my work. Sorting out every little dispute and hasty word spoken in an unrecollected moment is not part of my public function -- for which I am extremely grateful. It's boring enough having to do it one-on-one in counselling sessions.
But what about their rebellion?
Eol: [to Aredhel]
What did I say? -- Well?
! ? !
There were misunderstandings. Some immoderate things were said in the heat of a long debate.
[taking a sip of tea]
It happens. It's going to continue to happen, as long as sentient beings continue to discuss things. Do you really think it's more significant to the Fate of the World than restraining and countering the effects and aftereffects of Melkor's ongoing power-grab?
But the, the things they said -- the insolence, the impertinence, the threats -- the irreverence of their assumptions --
I do remember things you yourself have said in counsels, on occasion. -- All of them.
I have always shown the utmost respect to my seniors and superiors, milord --
Namo: [very dry]
Yes, I know. You might want to reflect on your own role in this little drama.
Orome: [to Aule's aide, sounding like this is a longstanding gripe]
You know what your problem is? Your problem is, you've got no field experience -- you've never taken a hit, you've never lost a fight, you don't know what's at stake. You artisan types all think that gadgets and tricks are what wins wars --
[Aule looks at the ceiling in a give-me-patience way]
-- just like some people think it all comes down to brute force -- but it takes more than weapons, or numbers, or even courage.
You have to choose your battles, know when to press your advantage, when to pull back, and when to stand to the bitter end -- and there's only one way to learn that.
By losing some of 'em.
[he matches stares with his former patron, the two of them in perfect understanding]
[with a wicked smile]
-- Good job.
[aside, shoving away tears again]
Stupid brave kids . . .
But I was on the side of the Law --
Vaire: [all business]
Once you realized there was a conflict, why didn't you check back with us and head off all of this -- melodrama? Why did you have to push back, when you could so easily have resolved the tensions before it became this knot you then presented us to unravel?
[withering for a moment under the negative attention, the Maia of Aule points dramatically to Nienna's student]
But he was here, abetting them all -- or at least not stopping them! Why isn't he getting reprimanded instead of me?
[the assembled Powers turn their attention to the disguised Maia, who lifts his hands in demurral]
But I didn't know how. -- Or if I even ought. And no one was about for me to ask, either.
[standing very straight and resolute]
So I made a judgment call. If I did more harm than good, by not interfering, then I ought to be reprimanded, and I'll yield to the wisdom of those older and more experienced than I. But I don't think I did, gentles.
[he looks inquiringly towards his Master, who smiles but doesn't say anything]
What have you got to be so arrogant about? You're the one being disciplined for erratic behaviour and dangerous tendencies, while I am a trusted and responsible servant of --
Irmo: [sounding very stern, for him]
Neither zeal nor competence is any virtue, if discretion and good-will are lacking, Curumo.
But Sir --
Enough. We'll discuss this later.
[the Lord of Mandos snaps his fingers and looks at his sister]
Nia. One thing I've been meaning to tell you -- and this just settles it. You've got to take charge of these people. I can't keep running interference between Finrod and his hearthguard, and my lady. It isn't fair to Vaire -- or to me. From now on, I want you to be responsible for them.
That's a great responsibility.
I know. You want to trade? The rest of mine, instead?
No, thank you.
[sounding a little daunted]
What sort of responsibility do you mean?
Just that: they'll answer to you, and you for them, hereafter. I'm done with it -- there are too many others with claims upon my time, for me to spend so much dealing with the results of their . . . ideas. They're your lookout from now on.
[the Lady of Mercy looks pensive]
Intimidated by the prospect?
Nienna: [shaking her head]
I just wanted to be clear.
[to the Nargothronders]
Is that acceptable? -- Are you going to make me regret taking your part?
We don't plan to, my Lady.
That's all I can ask for.
Eol: [cynical aside]
As if that were any sort of inconvenience, let alone punishment --
If you only knew.
Aye, shall run them ragged, little doubt.
Aredhel: [with an expression that leaves little doubt of her opinion of her sister-in-law]
What use would she have for a bunch of fighters?
[the Youngest Ranger meanwhile is looking at Nienna with a mixture of pure admiration and thoughtful speculation]
Beren: [to Luthien]
See, they're being pretty reasonable, especially when you think about the way people been behaving back home. We just had to get their attention --
Ahem. If I might have a moment of your wife's attention, please?
[Beren shuts up, with an amused expression, exchanging a glance with Finrod, who half-smiles, though he's still looking pretty daunting and scarily focussed.]
All right. I'm listening.
After careful consideration, it's become clear to us all --
[raising an eyebrow]
-- that the anomalous character of your nature requires a . . . unique approach. None of the usual conditions apply; therefore the normal solutions are not applicable. You've lived as an Elf, for most of your existence, but that doesn't change the fact that you're equally Maia by birth, and you have, in demonstrable fact, begun to express that part of your personality in response to the challenges you have faced. As Melian's daughter, you have a right to live as Ainur, no less than as Eldar. The implications of this fact may -- or may not -- provide an acceptable solution to your dilemma.
-- And ours.
Solutions. Which one you choose is up to you, though --
[glancing around at his colleagues and relatives]
-- there's a strong general opinion as to which one you should choose.
What are my choices?
The first, and simplest option, is that you become one of us, and live here, in Valinor, as is your right.
[his hearers share surprised, uncertain glances]
What's the catch?
Apprentice: [eager to be of help]
Not taken game, Ma'am, but an expression from Over There. It refers to the triggering device on a form of stored-energy mechanism called a trap, used to take game in absentia, you might say, to save time and effort on the part of hunters both mortal and Eldar, when recreational hunting is impractical --
[interrupting simultaneously, talking over each other]
Well, that depends what kind of a trap you're talking about --
No, no, that isn't it -- the catch is what holds the trap shut, so by your example it would refer to the device which releases rather than impedes; the expression actually refers to a colloquialism for a door-latch, something which shuts in --
-- But Ingold, those are the same thing -- in concept and form they derive from --
Finrod: [cutting him off]
But linguistically --
[as Luthien clutches her temples, knotting her fingers in her hair]
[chagrinned, the debaters break off]
I mean, what's the problem with it, and why might I wish to choose something else instead?
The consequence is that you must become Ainur, if you so choose, fully, and no longer remain in your inherently-unstable mode of being. With that comes the corollary that your past life will no longer be part of you, in the same way, when you have changed. You will not be Eldar any longer, but a god, and your earthly experiences cannot withstand that transformation -- there is no going back.
What are you saying? You're saying something that I'm not getting --
[shaking her head in frustration]
What about Beren? What about us?
You will not be the same person who loves him -- or whom he loved. He will have no reason to remain here, nor you to hold him back.
Luthien: [raising her voice drastically]
Why would you think that's going to be acceptable to me? You haven't heard anything I've said, have you? How could I be happy here if he's not?
You won't remember him --
Luthien: [cutting him off]
What?!? You're going to make me forget him?!?
[before the Valar can respond, their friends snap to attention, rallying about with a speed and alertness that gives the lie to apparent relaxation, the Teler Maid makes one of her horrible scowls at the dais, resulting in some confused return glances, and the hair goes up on Huan's neck as he starts snarling under his breath]
Namo: [very patiently]
No one is going to make anyone do anything.
[looking pointedly at Finrod until the latter gestures his cohort to "stand down" and generally go to an "at ease" stance again]
Your . . . persona, for want of a better word, the . . . operative part of your spirit, as I'm sure you're well aware, is intimately affected by and contingent upon your physical self -- even when your physical self is no longer present, or . . .
[giving an apologetic glance towards the living Elves]
. . . even extant, as in Dreaming or . . . death.
Like two halves of a die, or mould: one implies the existence of the other, and requires it, even if the other half is lost or broken.
I'd hardly put it that way, really. So mechanical, when we're talking about the most organic of unities --
Aule: [exaggerated weariness]
You really make the most arbitrary division between things, my friend, and truly I'm afraid it cripples your Work, and Este's, insisting on regarding inorganic and organic as categories on a level with matter and energy --
[this could clearly go on a long time if not stopped]
I have a much better analogy, for our present purposes.
[her consort gives her a grateful look]
-- Luthien, dear, think of the difference between mending or restoring a particular tapestry, stitch by stitch -- and undoing all the weft and then unharnessing the warp as well, winding the threads up and now, ready to start a new project -- nothing forces you to follow the same pattern now, because nothing is left to show it -- only the same raw elements are there as before.
Luthien: [morbidly curious despite herself]
What would I be, then?
Whatever you wish. Most of us have our favorites, or those which are most useful in the course of our daily Work, but you might take a form like to your present one, or not. You could be anything under the Sun --
-- an Eagle -- or other avian --
[hastily shuts up, as the Smith gives him a Look at the interruption]
Aule: [to Luthien]
-- there's no limit beyond your imagination. Some of us --
[he glances wryly at the fountain]
-- prefer not to be locked into any one form, alternatively, and you could if you so desired remain in a state of pure energy instead --
But it's fun being people.
Now, shh, you've got to be fair, girl --
I am. Look at us, we're all being Children right now.
[Huan makes a short objecting yelp]
Except for the ones who aren't, sorry Huan.
[Aule clears his throat quellingly and keeps going valiantly despite interruptions]
It would in all probability be far easier and less confusing for you than being rehoused, and having to relearn all your prior abilities and senses, with the complication of double memories -- as well as, I grant you, being less work for us.
[Nessa goes to flick another grape, this time at her sister-in-law's sister's partner, but something goes wrong and it vanishes into a puff of mist or smoke along the way; she looks around suspiciously, but everyone is (apparently) preoccupied in the ongoing drama and she cannot spot the prankster. Nienna raises her eyebrows but says nothing.]
You think I'm going to be all right with that? Taking all my past life and myself away from me?
Namo: [breaking in before she can really get going]
What makes you think it's any of our doing?
[she stares at him, not sure what to say]
You have been the one who has left behind everything that was your life, from the moment that you made a conscious, reasoned decision to go into danger and the outside world to help a friend, breaking with your family's policy of retrenchment and defense, and then took deliberate steps to overcome every obstacle in your way --
-- and what obstacles!
-- regardless of how many there were, and how many times you could have said, legitimately, that you had tried, to justify giving up, and how each one put you further at odds with and removal from your own people. We haven't seen anything like this in Ages. -- Even Fingolfin's boy was only doing what came naturally to him by temperament and long habit, when he went adventuring at last to save his friend, though that does not take away from the gallantry of it. Your effor --
Nessa: [interrupting, hugging her consort]
It was just like when he came dashing in to save us, out of Nowhere, when things were looking really desperate, and we thought it was all going to be broken up before it got started -- and I was just swept away in an instant before I had any idea who it was -- and crashed right through Melkor and his crew like a bolt of lightning, the way you kept coming to the rescue --
Tulkas: [brushing off the praise]
Oh no, it was easy, no conflicts or nothing -- I didn't have to think about it at all.
Good thing --
[he shuts up at Namo's Look]
Luthien: [through her teeth, in the low-voiced emphasis of not quite crying]
And your idea of a reward is to take him away from me, and change me into something else that won't care and won't hurt because of it? I don't think so.
[the Doomsman sighs, and beckons her forward]
Luthien. Come here.
[after a moment, looking very combat-mode, she crosses the line, with reluctance -- and Beren, dragged along by the arm in a death-grip with her, to stand in between the ghostly ranks and the thrones, next to Huan. No objection is made to her choice of cooperation.]
Listen -- not just to me, but to yourself.
[he waits until her expression indicates that she's actually paying attention and not about to start yelling again]
With your song you brought tears to my eyes -- something which my relatives can tell you is a less-than-infrequent occurrence --
[Nienna and Irmo smile a little, bittersweet, and Vaire puts an affectionate hand on his shoulder]
-- and have caused me to spend I don't know how much time trying to solve your problems for you. To the point of dragging the sovereigns of all Arda into the discussion, in hopes that we might be able to find you some resolution.
[he bows his head a moment, sighing, shaking his head a little as he goes on]
Do you have the slightest idea, how you've disrupted the framework of the universe, young lady? You've brought the Powers of the world to a standstill, and you really have no notion what you've done. Can you look at me and say, truthfully, that you are no more than the Elf-maiden you were born, in the vales of Middle-earth, when your presence shakes the very Circles about us all? Who are you, Luthien Tinuviel?
[long silence -- she tries to answer him, and can't, several times, looking more and more daunted and wide-eyed with dismay. Finally she lifts her chin and says thinly, but with defiance:]
Someone who doesn't want to be changed into a stranger.
You are the one who has changed yourself. Our job is to help you actualize that, no more. What you cannot do is remain here as a ghost forever. You don't need healing, and you've nothing to learn; you're not planning or wishing revenge against any of your kin who have injured you, and you don't want to be dead, either. You simply don't want the consequence of being alive as you were, which is the pain of loss. This choice gives you freedom from that. You can have life, and freedom, and the safety to do and be whatever you wish -- everything that our people have in Aman, and more besides, in the knowledge that the Man you love is not suffering because of his love for you.
Everything -- except for the one thing I want.
[laughing bitterly, she gulps back her tears and demands:]
What is my other choice?
To accept the Gift of Men.
[she blinks in stunned incomprehension -- nearly everyone else is too shocked for words also]
Finrod: [aside, astounded]
How . . . elegantly simple. I didn't think of that.
I can go with him? We can leave together now?
[pausing briefly to get her attention]
You get the whole works. Mortality. To live on earth with him, for a while, and then to die and leave the Circles of the World forever.
So what's the catch?
Child, did you hear what he said?
Yes, you're going to give me what I want -- what I've been asking for.
But are those the same thing?
Why wouldn't they be?
Luthien: [in a smaller, defensive voice]
I understand what you're asking. -- Only I wish I didn't.
[she stands with her arms wrapped around her herself tightly. As all those who have heard her telling of their song now weigh in, one after the other, their tones should make it clear that living or dead, they are speaking as much to themselves as to Luthien]
Elenwe: [going from dark and meaningful to light ironic]
Well ken ye how that I did choose, and should the same path tread again, were't so given me -- saving only other footing.
Amarie: [with a smouldering Look at her own true-love]
Nor duty nor dereliction presenteth obstacle before thy will in this, Daughter of Twilight.
Finarfin: [pained smile]
None, sayst thou? Were the Lady mine own daughter, alas --
[shaking his head]
-- She wouldn't listen to you either. But to a better end than we, in either sense.
[he smiles apologetically at his father, who accepts the peace-offering in kind]
Aegnor: [somber intensity]
Luthien -- don't make my mistake.
-- Or waste King Felagund's gesture; to say nothing of ours.
Don't jest now, for Pity's sake -- with your pardon on my presumption, milady --
[bowing his head to Nienna]
He wasn't, Sir -- this time.
-- Please, your Highness, you can't leave Beren now.
First Guard: [confident]
Of course she can't. No more than we.
Teler Maid: [earnest]
You were not beneath any in his regard.
As much to declare, he did hold naught of higher estimation in's valuing than thee.
Warden of Aglon: [frowning fiercely]
To come so far -- and to yield in the teeth of victory -- unthinkable!
He's but a Man, and they offer you Aman!
[biting her lip, aside]
-- and yet -- if our rulers were to decide this instant I'd been punished enough for them, and set me free of this place, alone --
-- You'd be here demanding to be taken back again before sundown. I know you.
[she strikes at him with her arm but he catches her hand and kisses it; she does not pull away afterwards, though they both engage in a highly-competetive and painful-looking grip as they hold hands]
Yet there is much at risk, as well as to lose, no less than gain; and the hazard to you both, your distinctions of blood and age, must well be weighed before a choice from which there shall be no turning back.
Ex-Thrall: [raw, uncompromising]
I chose security.
Second Royal Guard:
We didn't, ever.
Years don't make friendship faster, no more than kinship makes truer.
[smiles around at his friends, as calm and confident as any of his High-Elven bretheren (if not more so) now]
Or Ages wiser, unfortunately!
Third Guard: [meaningful]
I remember thinking safety was to be found here, once.
Stranger: [shyly making the joke]
-- Valinor here, or here?
[his old comrades nod yes to both]
Selfishness would have me urge you return home, though I should not live to see it, for your lady mother's sake, and good Elu's, for so long as they might have you -- but you are lost to us, my Princess, I think, no matter how you shall choose.
[beset, Luthien looks imploringly at her elder cousin, who does not let her down]
Cousin, there are many, many perfectly Good reasons for turning aside from your own desires --
[as his nearest and dearest stare at him, as if unaware of their keen focus]
-- some better, some worse, it's true --
[switching from a light detatched tone to a very darkly-earnest one]
-- but doing so purely to spare other people guilt and discomfort is not any of them. You must not make this choice to please anyone: not us, not your parents, not the very gods . . . not even Beren. Choose in truth, for the right reason, or you'll regret it for all Time.
-- Beren, aren't you going to say something?
Aule's Assistant: [cynical]
Why would he need to? One can guess how he'd argue, were he given leave to speak.
But he loves her. I daren't.
Apprentice: [pensive, troubled]
I have to admit I don't know what to say -- I know too much about the Other Shore to want any friend back in that situation, and yet . . . what's important, what's to be taken for granted, isn't apparent to me any more. But -- if I trusted my own wisdom, I'd say -- take it and run.
[the Lord of Dogs shakes his head until his ears rattle]
Between love's duty, and pleasure in ease and safety? A hound's choice is always clear.
[meanwhile Beren is not attending but staring intently at Nienna, who is regarding him in turn with an expression of mild, pleasant interest]
I met you once in a very dark place, Lady.
[her polite look changes to a slow, mysterious smile at his recognition of her in this guise]
[Beren nods. He turns to Luthien, reaches his hand out to her as if to draw her back -- then turns it open, upward, as he smiles at her with brimming eyes]
Nightingales shouldn't be caged.
[she looks at him, and cannot respond]
Whatever you say, goes for me.
[swallowing hard, Luthien turns towards the dais again and addresses the Powers. (Note: in this sequence, which is essentially a soliloquy, the light is focused on her (on stage, it would be a discreet, filtered spot) to the dimming of everyone else while she speaks.)]
You all seem to think I should fear mortality, fear the unknown, fear danger -- that I should long for more of what I've always known, and more so: the world unchanging, as far as it can be such, in our poor Marred time, and myself unchanging as well -- can you not understand? That isn't what I'm scared of.
[holding out her hands, then bringing them together as if enclosing something]
To be held in Time like a wasp caught in amber, alone, for ever, surrounded by perfection, treasured as a rarity for my beauty -- but never seeing the one I love, never doing, never to be free -- that terrifies me more than the thought of death or torture or any weariness and slow hardship over days and years --
[she flings her arms wide]
Not even the Dark is as frightful as that . . . not the Shadow of Morgoth's kingdom in the North stretching over Beleriand, but the Shadow that's everywhere in Ea, even in my own heart -- the temptation to harm another, for his own good, and change myself into someone who cannot pity, -- for pity's own sake, or else my fear hiding behind a deceiver's mask of mercy: that fearing loss, fearing pain, I should grasp and take and lock the one I love fast into a form that I desire, hold and bind unchanging, and freeze my heart to stone, to ice, that his anguish and weariness might not melt me into freeing him --
[with a bemused, ironic smile]
-- what good is power, if it cannot give happiness, -- or freedom?
No, I don't want to suffer, to ever feel such agony as I did at losing Beren, that hunger, the lonely heartache that no one can understand who hasn't lived it -- but what I'm offered, here, this bliss of Aman where no pain or risk or loss will ever happen to me -- how could I take that? It's no different, can't you see? It's the same thing as it would have been, if I had wielded my magic to force some earthly immortality on him -- to heal him again and again, never to die beneath the Moon, just as if I were to demand that he be rehoused here, a thousand times, while I never grew old: only in a way it's worse --
[incongruously matter-of-fact, our Luthien from Nargothrond again]
-- though of course it isn't, because if I let you send him from here, he wouldn't be tortured --
-- but for me it would be. I would be giving up the power to love, to feel, to care along with the pain, becoming like Melkor himself, imprisoned in my own heart, afraid of loss, and losing everything.
[shaking her head]
That's no temptation.
[she turns and looks at her fellow Elves instead]
You understand, you who have lost, or thrown away, and now regret -- and you are united in judgment, that I ought need no judgment to decide, or little -- that honour and desire both point the way with no uncertainty or doubt. How can I tell you that it isn't that simple, choosing not only rightly but for the right reason, when it certainly looks like it?
How much of what I wish, what I demand, do I want simply because I have wanted it, and been denied? They're right to ask me that, wise to question me when I would rather not question myself. There comes a point when one resists only because one has been resisted, and defiance alone becomes all its needed purpose. Have I come to that?
The only way to answer that -- is yet more questions. I'm good at asking others to face the truth -- so how do I stand up to my own regard? We've done little but battle now, for our time together, spent as much time it seems fighting each other as the Enemy, or more, very likely. What is it that binds us, when all's said and done, besides pride? Or not knowing what else to do? But that isn't enough, when the fight's over: one can't build a life on defying the disapproval of others, that's no footing to stand upon.
[with a somber glance at Aredhel and Eol]
Love that's no more than possession, than the will to keep what's mine, because it's mine -- what's that but hunger, truly? Is it no more than a beast's desire for prey, that binds me to him, like a wildcat snarling over her kill, when some other predator is by? Or a jackdaw snatching off some bright strand of beads hung on a branch by one bathing, stealing and keeping for myself what I've no right to? If there's no more to it than that, it would be right for me, and best, to give him up, freely, to freedom, and content myself with what I am, always . . . and never face the cold, sharp truth: how much of it is merely fear, hidden under pious duty and noble renunciation --
[she looks meaningfully at Amarie]
-- fear that a life where love's but grasping desperation is what I'd find, if I chose the other path, and no matter how brief its span, the cold of it should be killing, more bitter than the air of Angband, with every heartbeat a reproach, every breath tainted with regret --
[slowly, almost reluctantly turning to look at Beren finally]
It comes to you, in the end, to you and me alone, as it was at the first -- and we, we are different people, you and I, than loved each other in that half-forgotten Spring. The leaves that were green then have fallen and died, carried away by Esgalduin to become unknown loam all down from Neldoreth to Brethil, and his waters are not the same either: new rains have fallen, snows have melted, and the tides of change swept unending, even over Doriath. And us too. You've hurt me deeply -- kept a great secret from me --
[glancing at Aule, who looks away, downcast, before resuming her solemn fixed regard of Beren]
-- even if it was meant for my good, not from your pride or any wish to rival me, and if any of my words and deeds to you have matched yours to me, then I'm glad for my own pain, for you've passed a hell of a time, going by my own experience. At least we've got that in common. I thought I could trust you, after Minas Tirith, and yet you fooled me and fled without my suspecting a trick, and still you wouldn't learn, still you let your pride and feelings of Doom herd you to your death like a stag chased by wolves. And now, what's to stop you from making some similar choice, again, always with the best of intentions? How can I trust you, Beren, after all the change that your battles have worked on you, when I hardly know you now?
[looks down, shaking her head]
In the end, that isn't the real question, is it? To trust you, or not? Rather, do I still trust myself -- for it's my own judgment of you, not any proof you could try to give me, that I must rely on. Not daydreams, not foolish hopes that some chance will protect me from harm despite myself, and you, but that my Sight is true, my Vision of your heart the reality, however dimmed it has become in the mirks and fires of the World.
[lifts her head, staring off into the distance]
To love, more than to fear -- that's the secret, that's all -- so easy to say! and so hard, so unutterably hard to live.
[looking over her shoulder to Beren, profoundly meaningful tone]
-- Wait for me.
Luthien: [faint smile]
Not that long.
[looking up at the Judge of the Dead]
I know my own mind.
You understand that this is the real thing -- you will return to the world you left, and there are no guarantees that your lives will be safe, or happy, or long, or that anything will go easier on you than it has before, once you leave our realm, and our ability to protect you?
[before either of the lovers can answer]
There were guarantees? Guarantees were made, and I somehow missed them?
-- Finrod --
Finrod: [going on as if he didn't hear]
Edrahil, do you recall any guarantees that slipped my notice? I can't imagine I was ever that preoccupied.
Steward: [shaking his head]
-- Only the ones we are all most familiar with, about living to regret it and dying horribly overseas. -- Unless, perhaps, there were guarantees made to Middle-earth of which I have never been informed.
Not that I ever heard of, sir. -- Unless the Lady Melian . . . ?
Mom never said anything like that.
I didn't think so -- I thought I'd remember. My lord, what guarantees are you speaking of? I'd be interested in --
-- Finrod, please!
[glares at him. Finrod shrugs, as his father and uncle share looks of bemused sympathy. To Luthien and Beren:]
We mean that -- as my colleagues have tried to make clear -- the exceptions we are making will take you out of our jurisdiction and place you back into the war-zone you have just left. We won't be able to assist you, once you're back in Middle-earth, beyond the ordinary means at our disposal.
Vaire: [grim emphasis]
And even if no disaster happens, no matter the odds -- you will not have very long together. Thirty, forty, perhaps fifty, winters, and then no more, permanently -- that's what you're taking, in exchange for what you're giving up.
If that. -- It would be just like them to offer you this "solution" and then -- once you'd so happily accepted and given yourself into their control, to send you back into some such disaster, so that your bargain was essentially worthless, and you pushed along without any further recourse or claim upon them, my young cousin.
[the other Elves are much more indignant at his insinuation than the Powers, though Nienna sighs and shakes her head]
Oh, they don't want me back here any time soon --
Trust me, he's the last person we want to see --
[they break off and Look at each other askance, one Hunter grinining wickedly, the older trying very hard not to]
Aule: [ignoring Eol's slander, as do the rest of his colleagues]
Luthien, don't you realize that if you take this second chance, you will lose this world forever?
I thought we'd already established that any "forever" that doesn't include Beren in it might as well be Angband, as far as I'm concerned.
But have you not thought about the future? It is not only your own risk and doom that troubles us, but his, as it should trouble you: what will happen, how will you respond, if he should grow sick, or be injured, or old age strike him down in advance of you, and you be forced to care for him without even hope of his recovery?
[those immortal and Immortal, currently embodied or not, cannot help but look at Beren at these words -- the mortal shade is not fazed by any amount of attention, however, now.]
Luthien: [giving the Lord of Lorien the Evil Eyebrow]
You mean like when he was in a coma for weeks? Or the last time he died?
But Luthien, you also shall grow old -- and who can say, how the weight of days will fall upon you, taking on a burden that no Elf ever has before, the severing of your self from this worlds-realm which is part of mortality even before you leave it -- whether you will remain unchanged until the time comes to depart these Circles, or become in all things as one of the Secondborn? -- And if the latter should be the case, will your consort still value you the same? If even the affections of the Eldar can tarnish and fray --
[with a sad look at Nerdanel and the rest of House Finwe]
-- do you not fear that his love will prove as mortal as the rest -- and shorter-lived -- if you should grow frail and grey, no longer silver-voiced nor graceful, if your powers to enchant do not wisthstand the change, and make all your memories, and your generosity, and love itself, a cause of depression and hatred for the one who caused it? Men are fickle, Luthien, and human constancy unreliable, even if they cannot fully help it: there's ample documentary evidence in Vaire's spools.
Nessa: [to Tulkas, but embarrassingly loud]
Fickle? Beren? Are they talking about the same person, or what?
You mean like when I was a bat-demon? Nothing in the world could be uglier than I was when I was Thuringwethil. -- Or weaker. And no one ever cherished me more than my husband did, on that journey while we were transformed.
The saddest thing was, you could tell she'd been beautiful once . . . but never happy. Never content.
Tulkas: [whispering discreetly -- or trying to at least]
Does anyone know who she was Before?
[Nessa shakes her head with an unusually serious expression]
I think she was one of Varda's, but it was too early in the Music -- we never got to know her properly before she went over, there's no Record to scroll back to, and now she just lurks about in remote corners and clicks at anyone who tries to talk to her.
Give her time.
Vaire: [a bit testy]
Well, we have to, don't we? It isn't as if there's an alternative.
Irmo: [hurriedly, trying to head off another digression]
But at least you knew that it was only temporary --
Luthien: [shakes head]
No. We thought that was it, that we were never getting out alive. We had no illusions that what we were trying to do was rational or possible, whatever Huan said to cheer us up.
-- I thought you made a very handsome Wolf, though.
[he ducks his head, embarrassed]
Beren isn't superficial.
[Aegnor turns away with a stricken look]
She doesn't mean it that way, sir.
So what? It's still true.
-- Part. Not all. -- Let the past remain so, my lord. The present is for doing, what's done for remembering. Don't mix them up. Or you'll have more to regret.
[before anyone can say anything else, a bright point of light appears in midair overhead, expanding in size and intensity to a blinding radius whose boundaries are a hungry, outward-reaching corona. A voice comes from it, female, furious, and with the overtones of a cutting-torch at full blast (could be voiced by classic firebrand actress Maureen O'Hara:]
-- Where is everyone? No one at mission control knows what's going on or where the Chief is -- everybody's underground, how am I supposed to reach there? What's going on, I ask you!?
[as the assembled company, regardless of ethnicity or embodiment, flinches collectively, the corona's flares calm down somewhat]
Oh. There you are, Sir. -- Are you getting this?
We're receiving you loud and clear, Narya -- a little too clearly, I'm afraid.
Sorry, Sir -- how's that?
[the radiance dims slightly, leaving a blazing circle with a brighter figure silhouetted inside, like a view of molten metal inside a smeltry, flickering and vaguely feminine, with eyes like glowing sparks -- and angry ones]
What's the matter?
You've got to do something to stop him from drifting into my flight paths. That idiot eclipsed me again! If I hadn't jinked Voidward like that --
[snaps her fingers]
-- I don't know what would have happened, but it wouldn't have been pretty. He bounced off the air-ilmen surface layer pretty hard but I don't think he's learned a thing from it this time either.
Is the ship okay?
Anar's fine. You'd better check out Isil, though. I moved as fast as I could but it was a close one. I've already shouted at him, but you know how he is, he doesn't listen, he just says "Sorry" and does it again the next time. I tell you, I've about had it, you don't know how tempted I am, if it wasn't the only Moon we have I'd let him run into me next time and explain about it himself. I'm off Upstairs to report, but I want you to do something -- anything, I don't care what --
All right, all right -- calm down, Narya, I'll call him in and we'll have a serious conversation when he gets back.
Not that he's going to listen to you either --
[she gives an exaggerated sigh and vanishes]
Beren: [almost inarticulate]
That -- that -- was that ranting person -- Her???
Namo: [looking into the depths of his teacup]
Only partially manifest, but yes, that's who you're thinking of.
Beren: [looking at Luthien]
Okay, I know why your mom said Morgoth was scared of Arien now.
[glances towards the Thrones]
And it doesn't sound like I'd be winning any contest for most boneheaded, either, not with the Archer around. Stubborn, sure, but not stupid.
Teler Maid: [puzzled]
Surely you have seen her, for you know that is the captain of the Sun?
Um -- never that close. I can't believe Isil still gets in her way.
We do have other concerns than your problems, if you hadn't realized.
[the mortal ghost shrugs]
Yeah, but we don't, right now.
[as they stare at him]
Look, I'm sorry for being rude --
Irmo: [aside to his sister, rueful smile]
Can you believe he was able to say that?
-- but are you gonna let Tinuviel make up her mind, or not? 'Cause if you aren't then it isn't fair to give her a choice, if you didn't really mean it, and if you're not --
-- we've got places to be.
[he whistles shortly to Huan, (who sits up with gleaming eyes and anticipatory wagging,) and gives Luthien a mischievous wink, making her laugh despite everything, as he nods towards the distance]
Seriously, Barahirion -- do you really think this plan of yours has a chance of succeeding?
Dunno, Sir. But whatever happens --
[with a jaunty grin]
-- they'll be makin' some grand songs about us, I'm thinking.
[dead silence. Even his best friends are appalled at what he just said, and who he's echoing. The Doomsman, however, just looks at him expressionlessly over his teacup, for several long seconds -- and then flings back his head in a loud guffaw. Everyone stares in astonishment, living, dead, Elf, god, or mortal, as the solemn Lord of the Dead gives in to laughter. When he finally regains control:]
Namo: [shaking his head]
You two. In one day she's moved me to tears, and you've made me laugh -- things which have never yet happened in all of Time since the Beginning.
Well. -- Luthien Tinuviel. You've made up your mind? You're determined to choose mortality?
Luthien: [quiet voice]
[lifting her head proudly, meeting his stare]
I choose -- eternity.
[reaching out her hand to take Beren's arm]
I will not let him go, where I cannot follow.
[silence -- broken by loud cheers, whistles, and clapping from Tulkas and Nessa, who are alternately applauding as at a sporting contest and hugging/shaking each other excitedly (and making her deer bounce about the hill in playful alarm)]
I told you, I told you! I told you so, I win!
Yes, yes, beautiful -- so did I, you know. -- What do I win?
What do you want? I know what I'm winning.
They really have gotten into this Middle-earth stuff, haven't they?
Eh. Tell me about it.
No, you go first -- you bet first, and I bet second, so that means you won first, and I won second, right?
But -- that -- that is not how it works. You can't both hazard on the same outcome.
And one is supposed to determine the object of the wager before the bet is ended, or else it is not fairly made. Otherwise the participants do not know what they are in for, until it is too late.
Nessa: [glancing sidelong at her spouse, snuggling]
Oh, we always know that. -- Hey!
[waving her hand sharply for attention]
-- congratulations on figuring it out. You've got a ways to go, but --
[grinning at the Teler Maid]
-- she'll teach you to dance yet.
[with a little snort]
Took you long enough, didn't it?
So what? All that matters is getting there in time.
[as the mortal shade looks at him (jumping a little at the shout)]
Ain't that right? -- We Latecomers have to stick together.
[he raises his drinking-horn to them both, winking]
So can we go now?
But you said --
Now we have figure out how we're going to manage it.
We know it's possible, or we wouldn't have offered you the choice. But no one has ever attempted this before.
You really don't want us to make any mistakes, do you?
Namo: [bland aside, looking into the depths of his cup]
You mean "more mistakes," surely.
[most of the Noldor have the grace to look a bit embarrassed]
Apprentice: [trying to cover, diplomatically]
Besides, what's the rush? Not as though you had any irons on the fire to be watched under one roof, right?
Did I muddle a metaphor again?
It's partly a matter of figuring out the differences between rehousing Elves, and rehousing Men, and partly a matter of power -- timing is also a factor, in making sure that we have all optimum cosmic forces Working together for us.
You don't think we want you around any longer than necessary? Who knows what you'll think up next.
Well, I suppose that's better than nothing.
[Beren, eyebrows raised, takes hold of her shoulder and turns her to face him, leaning his forehead against hers]
No, no -- Tinuviel.
Beren: [eyes filled with mirth]
[she glares at him for a moment, before reluctantly smiling, very wry, and turning back to the dais.]
Luthien: [sulkily amused at herself]
[pause -- she lowers her eyes demurely and then looks up at the Doomsman and his fellow Powers with a smile of sincere gratitude and understanding]
-- A lot.
Assistant: [grumpy aside]
Don't look so pleased with yourself, even if you did get away with your bluff. It's inappropriate.
We weren't bluffing.
! ! !
[gestures towards them in "can you believe this?" appeal to his superiors]
Merely reasonably certain that the Wise of Arda would find their way to doing the right thing and make such extreme measures quite unnecessary.
Condescending as ever, I see.
That was a compliment. When have I been condescending?
When haven't you, lad?
Oh, let's see. -- What about when you told me you were sorry our feelings had been hurt by the rebellion?
I wasn't -- How was that being condescending?
Oh? Should I go pull up the threads and show you?
Namo: [staccato emphasis]
Reducing the whole of our response to you people's accusations concerning prisons, slaves, pets and the insinuation that we robbed you of your territory in order to replace you with the -- ahem! -- more docile mortal species, to a matter of "hurt feelings" -- ?
Finrod: [genuinely baffled]
I merely meant that I finally understood how you must have felt when we rejected your gifts and service with sarcasm and resentment.
I'm sorry you misunderstood me.
[the Valar look at each other; Nienna covers her mouth with her hand]
He is after all Noldor, gentles, or fractionally so, and one must make allowances. We always did.
[Elu Thingol's three nephews all wince a little, though there is a good deal of amusement from their friends and relatives]
However, my Lord, as it happens, I do have a matter to take up with you. -- Why did you not inform us of the drastic changes to our homeland, if we were intended to return thence in the near future? That seems a lamentable oversight, though some would no doubt ascribe it to unworthy vindictiveness (but I'm not one of them) and I do wonder that you said nothing. You might have mentioned something about it earlier.
Finrod: [politely adamant]
No, I'm sure you did not, Sir, I'd remember it if you had.
Correction. I tried. -- Don't you remember interrupting me to inform me that of course things were different, after all you'd deduced shifts in language even before you'd encountered them, and did I think you were that ignorant, really? before resuming your explanation of why Melkor's former court favorite is still going to be a Dragon even when the Universe is put to rights, according to the system you've delineated for us, and how the perfection of the hexatonic chord indicated a transcendent quality in those capable of hearing it which supported your views on the eternity of spirits?
[sloshing his teacup meditatively around]
Not to mention that your retinue inevitably cut me off with complicated explanations about why they weren't responsible for some other act of mayhem that I hadn't even brought up, yet, before vanishing.
[the Ten look slightly embarrassed; Finrod rueful]
I'd like to say I don't . . . but I'm afraid I can't.
[self-amused smile and shrug]
[Luthien clears her throat]
Are you ever going to get started?
[Beren shakes his head, trying to keep a straight face]
Patience is a virtue, as I'm sure you are well aware, Luthien.
Irmo: [small laugh]
Not one that runs in her family, though. I remember an assistant of mine who couldn't wait until the Children arrived but had to go off and see the Elves for herself, even though the Enemy forces had barely been put down and it could hardly be called safe over there yet.
So? What are you all waiting for?
The arrival of certain of our colleagues whose experience and Art will be particularly helpful, and who should be arriving about --
[Yavanna and Vana (in their mundane guises) stroll through the hall door, arm in arm]
[Vana breaks away from her sister and runs to her husband, leaping up and clinging to his neck, swinging off before sliding under his arm, leaning against him with her own around his waist. The Hunter's sardonic expression vanishes and is replaced by one of fond delight and admiration. Yavanna follows more sedately, looking around the room with a bland expression]
What happened to all the furniture? -- Oh, but I like what you've done with the floor, Vaire.
[Nessa smirks as the Weaver rolls her eyes, suppressing a smile. The Earth-queen looks over the assembled company with friendly interest -- and winks outrageously at Beren. To Namo:]
I understood from your message that you need our humble assistance? That you've a problem that no amount of pure logic or technology or good will alone can fix?
[her mild tone fools nobody]
Namo: [just as bland]
[smiling sleekly, Yavanna comes to stand next to the Lord of the Earth, who gives her a worried, hopeful Look]
How are you doing?
Oh, I went to the coast and eroded cliffs for a while and then Uinen and I got together and had a good cry, and then I went for a long walk. -- Oh, and look at what I found on the beach --
[she takes out a pocketful of smooth stones]
They feel like amber, but they look like white jade. I thought maybe you'd know.
It's definitely petrified -- it isn't jade, but you're right, it doesn't really seem like amber either. I wonder what it is . . .
-- I could make you something with them, if you'd like -- ?
Good, I was hoping you'd say that.
[rubs it on her sleeve and brushes it against his hair]
See? It charges up like amber, but it's completely opaque. I was thinking gold, not silver, and I don't know if it should be carved or not.
Aule: [very placating]
I think it could be, but I'm not sure if it wouldn't look better to leave it as it is -- there's a very nice natural polish to it . . .
[Finrod notices what they are looking at and goes over]
Can I see? -- Ha, look at that, it's winter-amber. It's very rare, because it needs low temperatures to cloud up like that, but if it's too cold then the sap doesn't flow at all. It only happens with sudden fronts coming in -- it can't freeze straightway, either, or the crystals don't set properly. I tried making it once, but it didn't come out right.
It was all the same, all the way through, and it just looked dull. Even though it looks like it's all the same colour now, it's actually about a hundred different shades, at least that I could measure, only I didn't realize that until I'd made some. You see, it seems totally random, but I'm almost certain that it isn't at all, but more complicated than anything we've ever done. I started mapping it out and the results looked a lot like cloud formations, which suggests some kind of fluid process to me, but I didn't have time to keep up with it . . .
[His family and friends watch him explaining what, given enough time and attention, could become fractal geometry.]
Angrod: [shaking his head]
Look at that, would you. There he is, lecturing the Lord and Lady of the Earth on how Arda works. He doesn't even seem to notice how wrong that is.
And no more do they, hast not marked? -- Belike should we have paid more heed unto them, the whiles less unto our own notions. We shall have honored them in the ways we deemed most fitting -- and he standeth to and doth argue even as to ask and yet museth on what's passed and doth return and argue full measure more. And whilst all of us stand in great amaze before such manifest disrespect -- he receiveth that which hath requested. If any be wrong -- I think it be not him.
He's completely crazy,you know.
Belike that be'st prerequisite.
Amarie: [keenly attentive]
For to be a demiurge. -- Wherefore they get along so well . . .
Well, now that we're all here, we shouldn't dally.
Otherwise we'll keep hearing about it from somebody.
Excuse me, Holy Ones.
[the Powers wait for him to speak]
Don't you think you might see your way to restoring Beren's hand? Surely that isn't too much to ask, for what he's done?
[pause -- the Valar look at each other sadly, as the mortal's friends share apprehensive but hopeful glances]
I fear it is not likely.
Why not? Why should it be harder for a mortal, than for us?
It isn't a matter of power. We can only work with what we're given.
Your friend is strong of will and holds the image of himself in memory so clearly that to reknit from that pattern will be far easier than for many another who yet reside within these Halls, whose memory is not healed. But by the same token that pattern is fixed as it was before he died, both marred and healed. We cannot change that, unless he himself can.
[Yavanna meanwhile says nothing, but she shares a long Look with her Champion]
I'm sorry, Beren, to raise your hopes. You were right before.
[raising an eyebrow, with that defiant, jaunty grin]
Just have to be twice as good, is all.
[the Hunter chuckles dryly; Vana smirks and blows a kiss at him]
Luthien: [challenging, like someone driving a hard bargain]
We will remember ourselves, won't we?
Of course. You're being rehoused, not reborn. There may be some temporal dislocation -- almost certainly -- but though intense at first, it should be of short duration.
Luthien: [looking worried for the first time]
It won't hurt him, will it?
[her bearing is very protective towards her consort]
No more than your first enfleshment.
Oh. That's all right then. We all managed to get through birth, after all.
You all really remember that far back, huh.
Being born. -- Not conceived; that was the jest.
Youngest Ranger: [deadpan]
Speak for yourself.
[the Warden of Aglon looks very much askance at their cheerful banter, not to mention bewildered, as much as at the Powers' indulgence]
Finrod: [sternly, putting a hand on Beren's maimed wrist]
And he will be healed, otherwise, when you send him home? He will not suffer anything further from the injuries which killed him?
[the Lady of Spring looks suddenly fierce, like an angry goldfinch]
Vana: [very offended]
Of course! And not -- we Make things properly. Don't you dare say we'd do a shoddy job putting them back together!
Nessa: [flips another grape at her sister-in-law]
Calm down, girl, he's only worried for his friends.
Irmo: [reassuring tone]
And with so many of us working together, dissonance will be damped to the utmost minimum.
Luthien: [somewhat mollified]
Well. I just don't want anything more happening to him, whether it's my fault or not.
Nor do we.
I trust you to be careful with us. You're doin' okay so far.
I'm not sure which of the lot of them is most patronizing.
Vana: [playing with the grape as if it were merely clay, drawing it out into a rope]
He's teasing us, can't you tell?
There are other aspects of renewal that are not unlike birth, as well.
[she gives Beren a knowing look, and he starts to grin and look embarrassed, trying hard not to]
Oh -- the freshness of dew, the first touch of warming daylight, the soft stirring of the wind's breath on stretching limb, playing on hair and skin --
Beren: [losing both battles]
She means no clothes.
Oh? -- Oh.
[trying equally unsuccessfully not to smile at his discomfiture]
Oh, poor you.
[giving his arm a little shake]
You don't need to feel awkward: Beleg and his team cut you out of your gambeson to perform field-surgery, remember. And Mom's assistants helped us lay you out. No one's going to think you're being deliberately disrespectful, or stare at you for being made different from us.
Beren: [closing his eyes]
Reminding me that most of the court of Menegroth has seen more than enough of me already doesn't exactly make me feel better.
Well, then, we can just pretend it's a swimming-party.
You go right ahead and do that.
I'm not sure why you're so worked up about it. -- Personally I think it will be very nice to see you not half-starved or beaten to a pulp or bleeding to death for once. Since everyone says human memories aren't as clear nor permanent as ours, I'm going to make the most of it and enjoy every opportunity.
[he breaks down & can't help laughing]
Beren: [embarrassed plea]
[ducking his head against her shoulder]
But it's good to see you smile. I've missed you.
"We only embarrass you for your own good." -- I like that.
But why -- ah, but 'twas said, his folk are possessed of an uncanny shyness.
[she looks at the mortal curiously]
There is also a different meaning, in the Marred lands, in the language of War, whereby undress signifies unhousing -- the power to take from you all that is you, and leave you without protection or shelter, without going so far as to take away your life, and thus your power to labour in the Seen realm for the one who has defeated you.
[the Valinorean Eldar are dismayed at the concept, but not completely shocked, by this point]
Moreover it can be repeated many times, such involuntary disvesture, as corporeal destruction -- fortunately -- can't. Between severing and lasting shame -- I do not find much to choose. Much has changed in the usage of our Sundered speech.
Teler Maid: [shivers]
[though saddened, neither of them is now incapacitated by the issues of violence]
-- Sorry, Lord Beren.
Steward: [steering the topic to safer depths]
Moreover, the climate and weather are vastly harsher and far more uncertain on the other side, no less, so their customs differ from practical causes.
Poor Beren -- it's a good thing they're going home to Doriath, not staying in Valinor. He'd spend half the time being too embarrassed to speak to anyone.
Beren: [sighing in mock-exasperation]
No, it's okay, I already figured that Westernesse was more of a clothes-or-bodies-optional place. I'm not a complete hick. I know there's different customs in different realms -- I've seen some of 'em. And you know, I just don't think whether you wear one tunic or two or none is quite on the same level, as serving people for your main course.
[disconcerted silence from living, dead, and Immortal]
Namo: [raising his mug in a slight toast]
Beren: [to Luthien, thoughtful frown]
I don't think you've maybe thought about it all the way, though. How's it gonna look, after everything else? I mean, each time we show up, it's with a little bit less. You get to do the explaining this time, 'cause this is getting old: "I had a country but I lost it -- , I had a Silmaril, and another hand, but I lost those" -- now we don't even have the rags on our backs, and you're mortal. This'll be fun.
[Luthien starts to look a bit chagrinned]
It won't -- be like that . . .
Beren: [manic humour]
I mean, yeah, on an objective level, clothes aren't on the same rung as a country, but in terms of what's obvious at a glance, nobody seeing us when you brought me home the first time would know that I lost my realm, sure they wouldn't say outstanding success but it's not like you can tell I had a lot of property once and the same thing for the Silmaril. I could have always been a loser instead of a really spectacular failure, for all they could see.
Luthien: [getting very embarrassed now]
Oh, stop it.
Beren: [lifting his right arm]
Even this wasn't obvious at first. Showing up mother-naked'll be kind of hard to disguise, though. I don't think anybody's gonna miss that.
Luthien: [through her teeth, trying not to smile]
Beren: [shaking his head]
"Hi, it's us again, do you happen to have another spare tunic I can borrow permanently for starters?" -- I'm not even wanting to think about what he's gonna say this time.
Nay, shalt have no words, I vow, for very tears.
All I'm saying is, you get to come up with the story this time, 'cause walking up to your parents wearing nothing but daylight -- I am not going to be able to say anything at all appropriate.
Yes, but are you going to be able to not say anything inappropriate?
Beren: [raising his eyebrows]
To your dad? The way things have been going -- you'll probably have to forcibly prevent me.
Then I'd better practice, hadn't I.
[she gives him a silencing kiss, to the amusement of their friends and the raucous applause of the Dancer and her Husband.]
Elenwe: [to Luthien]
In all thy praise of this thy true love thou didst not show how mirthful and lightsome he, no less than witty.
I'd be surprised if she remembered, the way I've been acting.
I'm Beren Barahirion, by the way --
[bowing towards the Vanyar shade]
-- I don't think we got introduced in all the chaos.
I hight Elenwe, that had Turgon Fingolfinion to husband, in happier hour.
Oh. Hey -- you're the Lost Queen of the Lost City!
Nay, I ne'er did reign in any land saving only mine own hall.
But you would've been, if you had.
. . .
[she nods a little uncertainly; the Ten share grins]
Eol: [to Aredhel]
And of course the High Elves failed and continue to fail to introduce myself or you, now that you've lowered yourself to my level, you notice.
I'm not unaware of slights, thank you.
No, we are -- all of us -- merely unwilling to admit the connection.
Beren: [looking between them to Luthien and House Finwe]
Let's see -- family resemblance, family resemblance, slightly crazed air of pending violence -- yup, you must be my lady's cousins from Nan Elmoth. I heard about you, you might have heard about me. I'm Beren.
[the Princes grin; Fingolfin clears his throat and tries to look elsewhere (that is, as if he was elsewhere.)]
Just ignore him, -- he'll go away soon enough.
Vana: [eagerly to her sister]
You know, if we followed my suggestion, it would solve that problem too --
No, it really wouldn't --
Beren: [giving the Ever-Young a Look both amused and wary]
You don't want to know.
Oh, like that ever works!
I thought we could reuse your original bones, instead of starting from scratch. That would save us a lot of work from the start, and your clothes would still be around you.
Yavanna: [mild exasperation]
Sweetheart, no. You only think about beginnings, but I have to think about everything. By this time their garments won't be in much better shape, and any residual organics will probably be consumed in the reconstituting energy, regardless. There's more to earthly life than growth, even if you don't like dealing with those aspects.
You needn't talk down to me. You're not that much older than I am. -- And I still don't see why it wouldn't be better, at least for making it easier.
[she switches the now-leafy vine in her hands petulantly]
Because lots of beings, not only large carnivores but also your mice and even smaller life-forms, make use of skeletal materials. The amount of energy saved by recycling in this instance won't be as significant as you think.
Not to mention the necessity of moving large volumes of inert displaced fill to open their -- what's that word? barrow?
[glances at Finrod, who nods affirmatively]
-- barrow, and more than likely canceling out altogether any savings over rebuilding and transferring in the open, Vana.
Okay, you were right, I really didn't need to think about all that.
[the Ever-Young looks disappointed, frowning down at the grape-leaf garland taking shape as she continues working with the organic material]
Yavanna: [trying to console her]
It's not a bad idea, but it's better for symbolic reasons -- and to forestall any confusion or challenges regarding identity.
[the living Eldar are not completely thrilled with the turn the discussion has taken, either, particularly Amarie, who sways a little, automatically reaches out her hand to the nearest shoulder to steady herself, and quite fails to connect with the Royal Guard in front of her; with a start she pulls herself together, taking several deep breaths, and tries to look dignified and unaffected. Nienna leans across and taps the Doomsman on the knee; he nods]
Let's go finish this properly, in a place where we can work without quite so much interruption.
Dear, while you're all working out the physical processes, I'm going to make another quick sweep for our stray.
[she nods, patting his shoulder, and he vanishes. With a wry smile she dismisses the mug left behind on the arm of the Throne -- then glares dauntingly at the Elven shades.]
Vaire: [ominous, with a hint of power]
Stay away from the Loom while I'm gone. -- Far away.
That goes for you too. -- And you.
Aegnor: [dubious, meaning his eldest brother]
You weren't trying to take it apart, were you?
Just looking at it --
Not take it apart --
[they break off, with guilty grins, as Beren looks at the ceiling, and the Princes shake their heads, giving their elder relatives apologetic looks]
Assistant: [to his boss]
Sir, you will be needing my help, of course?
No, thank you, I think not, this time.
[aside to his wife]
I admit I didn't expect this outcome -- it rather surprises me.
Yavanna: [raising an eyebrow]
Surprised that Melian's daughter should give up safety and peace and paradise, for a life of adventure, risk, and the one she loves? -- Why on earth?
[he smiles acknowledgment and carefully, courteously takes her hand and kisses it]
Hey! Do you need us for this?
What he said.
Well, let's see -- do you have any experience that would be relevant to the problem of rehousing humans?
[raising his eyebrows, the Wrestler shakes his head, as does Nessa]
Will you get bored halfway through we've even begun, the way you usually do when people are talking about healing -- or anything that isn't sports or war or parties?
[Tulkas gives a shrug, admitting the probability]
Then no, I don't think we need to have you fidgeting in the Mahanaxar, really.
-- When we need someone or something hit, we'll let you know, don't worry.
[they vanish. The Smith's Assistant sits down on the far edge of the dais, looking cross and resentful, his arms folded. Nessa and her spouse nudge each other and chortle in glee]
We got out of that one, didn't we?
-- Not that we don't want to help you, but we're not very good at technical things, we're better at making things happen, so you wouldn't want us involved, really.
I thought you already did.
Well, that too.
-- How did you know?
I kind of got that impression from stuff people have been saying to me. -- Especially the stuff the Lady of Spring said about her sisters, and the Earth-queen about us being your type of folks.
Dead giveaway, huh?
[his wife elbows him hard]
Your jokes are awful.
You weren't making a pun with "dead"?
No! I don't think that's a pun, anyway.
Nessa: [putting her forehead against his]
Yes it is --
No it --
[their round of contradiction fades into a different sort of diversion, leaving the divine lovers quite oblivious to anything beyond their liplock, to the amusement of everyone else]
Well, that was a bit anticlimactic.
[he takes off his helmet, tucking it in the crook of his arm, and runs a hand over his hair]
Thou art disappoint it came not upon contention?
Disappointed? No -- it's more just that it's so rare that anything unexpected happens around here.
-- Unless you're starting it --
Amarie: [even more dryly]
Surely thou dost ken how hard it shall be to carry off yon "pitiful and wanting" business when thou standest more daunting-fine than Feanor himself in that thine armour, for all thou art but a shade --
I'm sorry, I quite forgot --
[dismisses mail back to civvies. Pause -- with a sidelong look:]
-- Dashing, eh?
I ken not whereof thou speakst. Thou art full well aware how I am utter pacific and full opposed to all manner of violence and every martial thing. Wherefore might I never be swayed by aught so outward-shallow as a shining armour, far less the least simular phantasm of the same.
[Finrod grins, trying not to]
Nor might I conceive for what -- for it passeth all understanding -- thoud'st find flattering such compare unto the most notorious lunatic our race, nor merely thy family, hath e'er produced.
You mean to say I'm not ranked first yet? Amazing -- the way people have been talking I'd never have guessed.
[the disguised Maia turns to Nienna]
You aren't disappointed with me, Master, are you?
Have I said anything to cause you to think so?
[he looks relieved]
Why were you coming back? Had you something useful to report?
[nods towards the dais]
-- solution to Lady Luthien's dilemma. If I'd been quicker I could have headed off all this confusion.
Why weren't you?
All those walls and stairs and so forth, between. One can't just fly through them.
Finrod: [apparent whimsy]
No. Not without violating the laws of nature.
Ah. One does have an obligation to avoid unnecessary tampering with the universe, I suppose.
Finrod: [struck by a sudden thought]
Speaking of obligations --
[turning to the Ten and assorted allies]
We ought to do this properly, to the end.
[he manifests a heavy armlet of twisted metal braids and beckons his siblings closer]
My faithful lords and regents of the Northern Provinces -- I thank you for your loyal service to Our cause.
[he places the ring upon Angrod's wrist and embraces him before presenting Aegnor with a similar honour; as he continues to give out honours to his following, the camera pulls away to Nienna, who rises and approaches the Healer's ghost, who is standing awkwardly and a bit lost in the cheerful company, on its fringes]
Nienna: [in a confidential manner]
I've got a mission for you, if you're up to it. I don't think anyone else can handle it. -- There's someone I'd like you to listen to.
Ex-Thrall: [looks very uncertain]
Who, Lady? -- And why me?
She used to be an angry young demigoddess, and now she's a bitter, disillusioned old ghost. I'm hoping that she'll be able to identify with you, rather than feeling inferior and resentful as she does with us, and open up a little, at least.
Ex-Thrall: [realization hits]
A demon. -- A vampire.
[disgust and indignation creep into her expression]
Nienna: [quiet emphasis]
A lost soul.
[the Healer looks at her for a moment and then her look of righteous pride is replaced by daunted uncertainty as she nods]
But I don't know what I'll be able to do . . .
None of us does.
[puts her hand on the Elf-woman's shoulder; they both vanish, melting into the shadows again]
[bored again, the Teler Maid is teasing him by dipping the flag lower and lower over his head, tempting him to snap at it, but being a Good Dog he knows he mustn't, but his ears are definitely saying otherwise. Noticing this, the Steward gives a quick, definitive headshake and she stops at once, looking guilty. He doesn't say anything or take any further notice, though. After a moment she turns the staff sideways and starts rolling up the banner neatly and without any difficulty -- it's a lot smaller than even the smallest sail, after all. Huan meanwhile creeps up, wagging his tail hesitantly, offering to be friends, if he's forgiven -- which reminds her that she's still angry at him, but her righteous indignation has been undercut by forgetting and playing with him. She tries to frown, but is having a hard time of it, and ducks the question by taking the furled standard over to her no-longer-ex who checks the bindings and lets it disappear.]
And we see once again what really matters to the Noldor, and how cheap their nobility and valour.
Yes, of course, we only do it for the shiny jewelry.
[but the comment wasn't really directed at them. Fingolfin only shakes his head, but Aredhel looks furious.]
If it isn't bad enough that they were willing to commit murder and treason over real treasures, we now find out they're willing to commit crimes for pretend trinkets.
[Aredhel cannot pretend to be unaffected any more, but the Captain responds before she does]
Worse than crows and magpies, really.
Finrod: [pleasantly, with an iron edge]
Come now, this is a friendly family gathering among family and friends. And so it shall remain.
Aredhel: [ignoring him, to Eol]
Who was it who got us both killed over a stupid sword, hm?
Well, if it was something he made, that's different. It's only useless beauty that isn't worth killing for, you see.
You know, Commander, I could require you to wear all your battle honours. This is also a semi-formal occasion, after all.
[the Captain's eyes widen and he checks the sarcasm at once.]
Got a lot of 'em, huh, Sir?
Ranger: [admiring his own new ring]
There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not they'd outweigh his hauberk, all together. Right, Halmir?
[the newcomer shade nods, still a little diffident]
A few. Huh.
[as Finrod offers a prize to the Teler Maid, she gives him a narrow Look]
Promise you, it shall not change into some queer thing that startles me?
[he shakes his head, smiling, and adds to her collection of wristlets]
Steward: [aside to Beren]
If you ever should really wish to embarrass him, in just retribution -- ask what they were for.
Just standing around like this, I assure you; Himself keeps handing them out, when the fancy strikes him.
In such wise and fashion, declarest thou?
[he smiles knowingly]
My uncle had a couple like that. I heard stories.
Eol: [as the Teler Ranger steps forward for his reward]
I don't expect anything better from the Lords of the West, who early proved themselves incapable of resisting any bright lure, even that of hearsay only. But it is rather sad when one of the Free Children forgets himself so far as to become no better, and to crave the gifts of the invader so much as to forsake all sense and decency. There's more than one kind of slavery, I see.
[the Sindarin Warrior gives him a taut glare, but dutifully says nothing to escalate matters]
I'll thank you not to insult my people, cousin.
So the truth is now an insult?
Why, that your arrogance dragged a hapless villager into yet another risk and hazard for no better reason than that you willed it, and were unwilling to try anything but to forcibly impose your will upon even the gods -- without regard for his own wishes, let alone consideration for his safety?
[the Youngest Ranger looks up at the ceiling in disbelief]
If he had any objection, would he not have said so, even as others did?
Of course not -- the poor boy is too overawed by your glamour to say anything.
Finrod: [very dry]
Any awe that manages to survive three staggering defeats, witnessed close at hand, calls for awe itself, I'd say. It's hard to maintain any semblance of High-Elven dignity, let alone kingly grandeur, when one's covered in mud to one's ears and too injured to walk unassisted, let alone defend one's self, or being despoiled by Enemy minions while unsuccessfully disguised as one of said minions, -- or being mocked and humiliated and stripped of one's authority by one's own family before one's entire people, believe me.
[to the Youngest Ranger]
Lieutenant? Would you have dissented, had I asked you?
Well, your Majesty.
[he looks uncertain and troubled, and Eol looks satisfied. Finrod gestures encouragingly for him to continue]
With regards to the Pattern of your Work -- I did wonder that you weren't meaning to make use of that vein of quartz there.
It seemed as though it would have made it easier, a bit.
The problem with that is that there's an inclined seam nearby, and the resulting overburden would very likely have caused the masses above to slide down and fill in the aperture I was trying to open.
Youngest Ranger: [solemnly]
I thought that might be the case, Sire, that you had a good reason for it. Seeing that you've been building caves since before I was alive and all.
Nothing else? No other objections?
I'm afraid I haven't any, my lord. Not yet, at least.
If you think of any, please do let me know.
I knew I could rely on you.
I should hope so, Your Majesty.
[Eol snorts in contempt at their by-play, unaware of the context, as Finrod clasps the arm-ring on the Sindarin Warrior, who meets his King's gaze without, or in spite of, the embarrassment born of the remembrance of their shared ordeal, before turning to the Lord Warden. The former Kinslayer objects:]
Warden of Aglon:
But I'm not your follower.
Hm. Fooled me, there.
My family has not done well by you, though I don't claim that fault as well as others not my own -- but I'd mend it, so far as might, in our shadow realm. Since you have been abandoned by your proper lords, you may claim my lordship, and I'll gladly own up to it. We but play at matters, in these halls, but I speak seriously in this. If you'd rather not -- still, I thank you for your assistance, and would make it plain to all how much I value it.
[the Lord Warden does not resist as he slips the bracelet on, but his expression is troubled]
Warden of Aglon: [soberly]
There's ill-will between myself and one of your folk, Sire.
[all of the Ten look dubious at this, but it is at the Teler Maid that he looks now]
If I am to place myself under your protection, in spirit, if nothing else, then such a state cannot endure. I ask the lady's forgiveness for my previous discourtesy.
[he bows; the Sea-elf looks quite disgruntled]
Teler Maid: [to Finrod, resentfully]
Must I pardon him?
-- Will you nevertheless?
[she walks away somberly and sits down at the waterside, her elbows on her knees, her chin in her hands, frowning hard. (Note: although subsided to former levels, the water of the Falls is still glowing throughout, the flames having been incorporated into the Working by yet another artist...)]
Warden of Aglon: [uncertainly]
Ought I go speak to her there?
[Finrod only gives him a Look, and turns up his hands, either in uncertainty or dismay]
That depends on whether you wish to be forgiven, or merely to content yourself that you made the effort.
Warden of Aglon:
How coldly you dismiss my offer!
Do you prefer my temper flared up past quenching?
[the Warden presses an unconscious hand to his midriff, grimacing]
Warden of Aglon:
[he walks the short distance to the Falls, squaring his shoulders to an unpleasant duty. Huan trails along after him, crestfallen. Standing stiffly before her -- and looming over where she is seated on the stones at his feet, not occurring to him to stoop to her level -- he addresses her very formally:]
Please -- I know my behaviour has been without excuse. I don't expect you to understand, but, at least -- if you can -- understand that I regret having hit you, and would undo both blows, if time might be unwound.
Teler Maid: [wrinkling her forehead]
You ask pardon of me for striking me -- but not for your part in my death.
Warden of Aglon: [softly]
I'm sorry that I cannot say that -- yet. And I am sorry . . . that my deeds must cause you to look at me with fear and disgust, sorry, because I am not worthy of your respect. But I cannot reject that -- that killing, yet. I have spent far too long justifying it to myself. If I throw all that away, like so much rust -- will there be anything left of me?
[she looks at him with a very wry expression, as if she'd just bitten accidentally into a persimmon, and snorts a little in exasperation]
You want me to forgive you -- and so do you the same.
[she looks suddenly and sharply at Huan]
I have been wronged, yet ye'd have me show ye mercy.
You are proud and wish not to be held in derision, even by one like me.
You are one of the younger gods but had rather be a simple beast.
I think -- I wonder, shall ye still wish my pardon, if it ask some hard sign of ye in turn?
Warden of Aglon:
What, are you afraid of me? I am not kind-hearted -- but I am not wanton-cruel.
[points to the floor by the water's edge]
Kneel down there and let you wait for me to finish.
[slowly, very bewildered, he does so. She knots her fingers through her braids in thought.]
Warden of Aglon: [apprehensive]
How hard a sign shall it be for me to make?
[the girl from Alqualonde leaps to her feet and stomps over to stand in front of him, looking down her nose at him]
Teler Maid: [tartly]
Why, as hard as being shoved aside like a sack of ballast, as hard as being treated like a dumb post before one's friends. -- do you not trust my mercy?
Warden of Aglon: [wretched]
Go on and strike me -- I deserve it, I admit --
Teler Maid: [fiddling with her bracelets, nervously if you know her]
Hit you? You did partake in working my death, and will not concede me that. Thus -- I think that any thing less than slaying you outright, shall count as mercy.
[she puts her hand on her little eating-knife, toying with the hilt]
Warden of Aglon: [uncertain]
You are too gentle a maid for such violent thoughts or cruel blows.
[he does not get up, but he is looking very daunted as he kneels in front of her]
Teler Maid: [coy]
But I need not myself.
[turns to the Hound]
Huan! Hound are you? Then let you be a hound indeed and do as I say without thought of your wisdom.
Huan: Warden of Aglon:
? ! ?
Teler Maid: [shouting]
Harry him, I say to you! He is no better than the wicked beasts you did hunt afar, and I would have you bite him. Set upon him and tear him like the hungry flames, no less!
[the rest of those present are looking on with varying degrees of shock and horror, (though none more than the Lord Warden, kneeling there in frozen dread) but the Elf-maid ignores them all]
[loud distressed barking]
[the racket makes Nessa's deer spring up in alarm -- she manages to grab one of them, but the other bolts away before she can fling herself on it, vanishing out the door in a flash of white. With an exasperated exclamation she shoves the caught fawn at Tulkas who scruffs it one-handed like a puppy, and goes sprinting off after the other one]
Teler Maid: [angry-sounding]
What are you to question, when given command? Did you not wish me to approve you? Then do as I say, else be a bad dog!
[the Hound contradicts her still more noisily, tossing his head up with each denial, a growl creeping into his voice]
[fierce objecting barks]
Good dog! Good dog!!!
[she has to shout several times before getting through. Huan stares at her, panting; she points to the radiant surface]
Get you into the water, then.
[ears flapping, the Lord of Dogs dashes straight for the basin of the fountain -- and not coincidentally, the Warden of Aglon, who has been placed directly between. He careens full-tilt into the hapless Feanorian, carrying him over into the spill-pool with a tremendous splash. The Sea-elf watches with delight as they flounder about, clapping her hands in glee, while the rest of their audience is overcome with relief. Huan heaves himself up to the bank, shaking himself, grinning and wagging his tail; as the Lord Warden crawls slowly onto the rocks, bedraggled, at her feet]
Do you know what it is to be small and helpless and your strength and wit nothing to avail you, now?
[he looks up at her from hands and knees, mutely wild-eyed, like someone who has no idea what is happening to him or is about to, and nods a little.]
I could have told him as well to hold you 'neath till you dreamt of drowning, as much as to tear you even as the Wolves he did hunt. But he would not, because he knows better. And I would not because I know better.
[she is very smug]
So now you have seen what mercy is, for I have shown you it. Does it hurt you greatly?
Warden of Aglon: [whispering]
A -- a little.
Are you sorry you did ask me then?
[he shakes his head]
[with careless abandon she propels herself with an arching dive into the water (while Huan barks loudly and echoingly bouncing along the rocks,) and resurfaces to pull herself out of the shallow end like a seal, dashing over to fling her arms around the Steward, oblivious or unconcerned with the daunted Looks she is getting from most of the Eldar present. (Huan trails her, hunkered but hopeful.)]
-- Were you frightened for me?
[her true-love nods once]
And I. -- Are you proud of me, then?
[he nods again]
So too am I.
-- Oh. You are all damp now.
And you likewise. Do you remember our first meeting?
[her expression changes to half-apprehension, half mischievous delight]
Someone hid upon a cornice of the house, and had a wineskin filled with water -- coldest water -- and spilled it over someone sitting in the garden --
I thought it was Lord Turgon, seeing but the hair, and not his face --
And spoilt a page of verse that was but newly-done, and the ink not yet fast --
And you were very angry --
And accepted your apology with a very bad grace. -- The poem was wretched.
Teler Maid: [sadly]
But the illuminations had been pretty, until I spoilt them.
Others have done better. But your eyes were brighter than any foil of gold or electrum, or gemstone color, and I could not put them from my mind, nor capture them in paint, or verse, and from that hour on, I fought the truth like a hunted fish.
[she smiles at his deliberate teasing phrase]
I am done with fighting. -- If it please you, would you fetch my harp from the ledge there?
Teler Maid: [blinks]
You would scarce let me glance on it, far less touch its strings, before.
It is a much sturdier one, than the one which left this shore.
[her sidelong glance shows she takes all his meanings -- before she can go, however, Huan turns and canters over, picking it up in his mouth carefully and brings it up to them, bowing down and looking up at them with I'm-such-a-good-dog expression. The Sea-elf takes it from him, giving him a knowing Look, and then kisses him on the nose before passing the harp to its inventor -- who instead raises his hands]
I thought you might wish to try learning it.
Teler Maid: [wryly]
You do not longer fear I will better you in your own chosen Art, then?
No. Every teacher should hope that his student will surpass him, and go where he cannot. -- Another truth I learned, in the mortal realm.
[he sits down on the lowest step, drawing her down next to him, and begins positioning her hands on the strings; it should be obvious that an awful lot of closeness is required in this method of teaching, as he murmurs explanations in her ear with each quiet chord. . . As Finrod resumes the recognition ceremonies with a very sober expression, Huan goes to lean on an old friend -- but the Apprentice, instead of contending vainly with a wet dog, discreetly indicates the sullen figure of Aule's Assistant, sitting grouchily on a corner of the dais, as someone needing a bit of canine consolation -- with predictable results]
Gah! Stupid beast! Get away!
[Huan's ears are penitent -- but his tail isn't. Tulkas gets up, leaving the now-calm deer and ambles over to the Falls, whistling Huan to heel. He stands over the Lord Warden, who is still sitting where the Sea-Elf left him, looking thoroughly bewildered]
Leave your wits in the water, kid?
Warden of Aglon:
I -- I thought she was going to demand that I grovel, in public, and abase myself before her friends, and -- and mine; and then --
[with a shaken look at the Hound]
I thought --
[he shivers involuntarily]
But all that happened . . .
[slowly as if struggling to make sense of it]
. . . was humiliation and nothing worse. I -- I didn't get what I deserved -- at all.
That's what this mercy stuff is all about, see? Now, if she'd asked me to take care of you -- well, just be glad she didn't. I wouldn't have a problem with punching you into next year, and it wouldn't do me any harm. -- But if you feel like you were let off too easy, just say the word --
Warden of Aglon: [quickly]
Um -- no, that's quite all right, Sir. I'd much rather just be humiliated.
But were you, eh?
Warden of Aglon:
? ? ?
You know. What I saw was, you were just dunked in the water. Whether you choose to be humiliated by it or not, that's your look-out.
[he chugs down a drink from the mead-horn]
Warden of Aglon:
But -- would it be a punishment, if -- I didn't?
Tulkas: [giving him a shrewd look over the mouth of the vessel]
What makes you think it was supposed to be punishment?
Warden of Aglon:
Ah . . .
Punishment would be if I kicked you through next week, not getting a bit damp. Looks to me like she gave you a good scare, put the fear of Somebody Bigger into you, and then played a practical joke -- on you both.
[as the former Warden of Aglon thinks about this, frowning, the Wrestler calls Huan close and begins tussling with his head, grabbing his jaws and shaking his head until his ears flap and his tail whips like a pendulum]
Warden of Aglon:
But it seems so . . . silly. And undignified. I killed people.
And now you want a solemn ordeal, to fit your crime -- or to fit your self-importance, eh?
[with a sly Look]
Bet you don't know, either -- and I bet I do. Melkor hates looking a fool, too. The thing about being surprised and surprising -- jokes and all that, horseplay, what you call "undignified" -- if you're able to do it, you're not thinkin' about yourself from the outside all the time.
[gesturing expansively with the mead-horn while he scratches Huan's ears with his other hand]
Not standing still worrying about if you're going to look funny to somebody else who might not even be thinking about you, is.
[as he is expounding, Nessa appears silently behind him, with a delighted, worrying grin on her face. She is holding the stray fawn in her arms, but sets it down so she can sneak up on her husband . . .]
Not trying to control everything around you so nothing ever happens to trip you up or make you jump and spoil your precious dignity with a --
Nessa: [digging him suddenly in the ribs]
! ! !
[he grabs her to try to stop her from tickling him, without dropping his drink, and it turns into an unbalanced, messy romp that ends with them both rolling off the edge of the pool into the water: Nessa gives a loud shriek, abruptly cut off in a splash as they go under. Huan bounces up and down beside, barking, while the Warden looks utterly bemused.]
A pity so few of us can be blessed with such agreeable consort.
You should talk!
As I did. You're given to stating the signally evident, my love.
You know what I meant. You're so impossible.
No -- I merely attempt the impossible, which is to say -- loving you.
If that's the case -- why do you dream secretly of being rescued by me?
[he stares at her aghast -- she has gone very much too far, and knows it, but doesn't care. Then he recovers, in his damn-all, dare-all way:]
If you will bring yourself to recollect the facts of the matter -- my demi-divine cousin's injunction was to us both. Therefore the question is equally applicable to you, my lady: why is your dream one of searching for me, and finding me, with grandiose visions of being my savior?
If you weren't always pushing me away, and leaving me for your own concerns, and being so aloof, then I wouldn't have to content myself with dreams.
I rest my case. You are indeed, impossible to love, and you know it full well; otherwise you would not hold it so that only one caught and helpless, and grateful, could welcome your company.
[they are neither embarrassed, nor aware of everyone else's embarrassment at this point]
You twist everything around, as usual. I hate you.
What strange things you Noldor have done with our language, to make "hate" mean its opposite.
So what does it say about you, that your greatest longing is for someone to come to you freely, without any spells or traps or lures? Who doesn't have any self-esteem or confidence of his own worth?
First Guard: [aside]
I prefer it when they're trying to kill each other.
Soldier: [shaking his head]
How can they have been married so long, and not get it?
And with you for a consort, is it at all surprising?
[the Noldor Princess glares at him, too angry even for blows]
Aredhel: [low savage tone]
Don't you come near me again! I mean it this time.
[she storms off towards the exit; he calls after her:]
But for how long?
[she doesn't stop, turn around or even look back. Awkward silence. Abruptly the Dark Elf clenches his fists and gives a frustrated exclamation, then glares around at all of his relatives-by-marriage. Savagely:]
Don't say anything.
[angrily he hurries after her]
If ever two people needed to be turned into rocks, like those strange tales from Brethil, so that they'd only get away from each other and themselves for a while . . .
Beren: [equally bewildered]
They never even think about their kid, do they?
Only as a piece in their game.
I fear I must conclude that I have a duty in this business, to at least attempt to bring some peace in our House where I might.
[glances at Luthien]
I realize now that my disapproval of 'Feiniel's choice does not much matter, no more than were I to refuse to recognize that I am dead. So, that being so, it falls upon me to extend that recognition to her consort, and thus perhaps to deprive him of some fuel for his temper and meat for his galling words. -- Regardless of how I loathe the fellow. Perhaps, as well, it might set Ar-Feiniel a better example, and thus on two fronts bring reconciliation closer.
I'm afraid it's rather a lost cause, uncle.
Well. I do know something of those, also.
[to his younger sibling, with an earnest, pleading expression]
Think kindly on me, I pray you, Finarfin, and blame me as little as you might, bearing the task I have thrust upon your unwilling shoulders -- and yet, though the Fate which brought us to this respective pass has been a Dark one, and much in the chronicle of former Days should be unwritten, had I the power -- still I think, of all the chances that have fallen out of that division, that you should wear our father's crown is best. For a High King must possess not only bravery in all contests, but wisdom too, and the virtue of generous dispassion that rules both in judgment, and our folk -- for all our folly -- deserve a true-hearted lord.
[he bows, and goes resolutely after his child and her spouse. As the Lord Warden and Huan drift up to the group, the former looking rather pitiful, the latter cheerful as only a thoroughly wet and/or muddy dog can be:]
Did I in truth hear . . . ?
[he looks off at the doorway in amazement, and back at his remaining relatives]
Aye, good my brother, thine elder did verily praise thee for thy wisdom as thy courageous.
Nay, look thou not thus amazéd, gentle Finarfin, for my father in love hath most greatly changed since ye and I were acquainted with thy brother in our lives. His heart is broken of the wars, and what Ice did but harden, Fire hath melted most complete. Of former pride, I deem there be none -- else, such as doth remain were transmuted all into pride for others.
He loveth thee as thou wert his elder -- his most admiréd elder -- no more the younger nor the weaker. Be thou glad for him, even as dost mourn, good mine uncle.
Ingold, I take my leave of thee -- thou needest naught of me longer, I think.
Elenwe, thank you. I'm sorry to have drawn you into all this chaos --
Wherefore? Not so, I. But greatly wearied of contention.
[she looks around at the company, living and dead]
Friends, I'll haply meet with ye again, in bright day under the Sun, an it be not here. Save ye --
[facing Luthien and Beren]
I do thank thee for thy Song, kinswoman, and bless thy days untold. Secondborn lord --
[smiling at Beren]
-- thy coming doth waken e'en some hope in my breast that all our folly hath not been in vain, nor all good deed eat up in Darkness yet. Fare thee well.
[she courtesies towards them both and vanishes]
I expected something more in the way of family feeling from her, really.
Finrod: [shaking his head]
You don't know how badly the Crossing affected her. She's told me a little, on the rare occasions when she's been willing to see me: it turns out that after the Darkening she could no longer Hear anything of the Song --
[Amarie looks suddenly startled]
-- as if she were suddenly deaf, and doubted that it was ever there, or only the consequence of the Trees, and so it no longer seemed to matter what she did, to stay in Aman or follow the mocking, greedy crowd, so long as she was helping the people she loved. And she couldn't even do that, on the Ice. To be Vanyar, and cut off from the World-Music -- it's been a very long Work to build that retreat of hers, stem by stem and paving-stone by paving-stone, as the one small certainty she can believe in, something that was both good and real. I regretted very much having to ask her to leave it, even for a short while.
But you did it anyway.
Yes. That's my job -- part of it at least, to wield those I love as tools for making or defense. And I'm sick to death of it. Even when it isn't in vain.
[to the remaining High King of the Noldor]
Believe me, Father, I'm tired of being King -- I don't want this job any more.
Yet Elenwe did answer thy behest, nor reproachéd thee that it perchance wast needless, nor any of these beside, the which doth make me to hold thou art belike better at such task than givest self credit thereto.
I could have done worse, yes, I'll grant as much.
Oh, not another of these moods!
Nerdanel: [not impressed with Finrod's melancholy]
Aye, certes, nephew. So too we all.
Nay, then I'll not ask thee this, to take up my burden of rule from me -- but an thou will't, my wiseling, when thou art returned among us, I'd entreat thee lend to me thy counsel, betimes, when cares of state weigh heavy upon my thought.
Please don't tease me, Father. I'm not up to it at present.
Wherefore should I mock thee, or thou hold it so?
Finrod: [brittle laugh]
You're going to ask me for advice, on ruling, here in Aman? You've been King longer than I have, and done a better job of it -- at least, no one's kicked you out yet, and I can't say as much. All my judgments have been in error, it would seem.
[this occasions exasperated sighs, Looks, headshakes, and a disdainful sneeze from his siblings, friends, cousin, and Huan]
Well then, I'll gladly learn of thy mistaking. Yet I deem thou hast experience of greater strife, as conflict, and aye peaceable resolve the whiles, than I or e'er shall, belike -- nay more, perchance such matters as seem most intractable-rough to me, to thy Sight be less insoluble, by compare, and shouldst thou walk a little to hear me disburden my cares, 'twould lighten my spirit -- aye, and go some way to ease thy fair mother's heart, for she doth hold that I do fret overly upon the least matters, yet dare not to look over any, for fear I'll not espy some greater grief while yet in seed, to be more easily removed than rooted forth hereafter.
You're not -- you're not joking.
I -- Of course, Father. I'll be glad to hear your concerns, and -- offer advice, if you really think it might be useful.
Beren: [distracted aside, glancing at the fountain]
When are they going to come up for air?
They're gods, Beren, they don't need to.
[the Ten smirk at their friend's discomfiture as he fights a grin]
Finrod: [cheerful again]
Of course, that will have to wait upon Amarie's will, but I'm sure she won't mind.
[he smiles playfully at his consort]
Nay, for what mattereth now Amarie her wishes?
Well, you'll have first claim on my time, naturally -- though being all under one roof will make it easier to divvy it up between you and my parents and other kin.
Amarie: [shaking her head with a disbelieving smile]
Still thou dost presume, Ingold, and wilt thou ne'er yet learn?
[she sighs deeply]
I did support thee in this venture, for duty's own sake, and thou dost treat as all else that lieth betwixt us were undone, else ne'er did transpire, for that. Such reliant step thou setteth on my good-will! -- that hast so lately chid me for the lack of't --
Finrod: [taken aback]
What do you mean? I thought you were with me, now.
Aye. So didst.
I don't understand what you're saying.
Amarie: [still patiently]
When thou dost, then seek me.
[she walks towards the hill, without looking back, and ascends it, as if fascinated by the roses to the exclusion of everything else]
But I don't. What was I supposed to say, I ask you?
[Amarie doesn't answer or even look at him]
Belike a word of thankfulness? For I did hear me nary a one.
Angrod: [turning the armlet about his wrist, noncommittally]
You didn't even give her a ring.
Finrod: [frowning at his brother]
What, I should treat her as though she's a vassal of mine, as if she's just keeping up her end of the bargain, thanks so very much for showing up, good job there?!?
Captain: [looking at the ceiling]
Oh no. Unexpected allies who show up to the rescue out of the blue, above and beyond where there isn't strictly speaking any duty (at least given your repeated remarks to the effect that she is not bound) -- not even worth mentioning --
-- Particularly when the last specific things one said were insults, indirect and otherwise.
But I thought I was paying her a compliment, by simply relying on her, not acting surprised that I could trust her. Now it seems as though she's willfully misunderstanding everything I say!
For someone who's supposed to be the world's greatest interpreter, sometimes you do a bloody poor job at communication, Ingold.