Part VI of Act IV is dedicated equally
to the authors of
“Smith of Wootton Major,”
Journey to the West,
The Great Divorce.
ACT IV. BELOVED FOOL:
BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA
retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script
(with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare)
- Part VI -
VI (continuation) - VII - Epilogue
[the ex-King of Nargothrond looks around helplessly at his closest supporters and friends]
What do I do? I can't fix this.
[he is on the edge of tears and shouting]
The more I try, the worse I break it --
Beren: [gripping his arm]
All right. All right. Calm down.
[he looks at Amarie standing calmly on the hill, feeding rose-leaves to a fawn.]
Ah, just one question, is that ordinary everyday clothing for Elves here, or is that as fancy and all as it looks? I mean, it's plain, but I can't guess how long it would take to spin and weave something that looks like it's made out of clouds.
Luthien: [rueful aside]
Partly it depends on whether or not you rest at all.
And the jewelry . . . doesn't look like much, but it looks like it's not supposed to look like much, if you understand what I'm saying.
No. For Vanyar -- that's overdressed, or was when I lived here. Festival attire. What --
So she comes to see you dressed like it's a party -- that says she wants to impress you -- she cares how you think of her, or else she'd just show up anyhow, since she had time to get ready. At least, that's how it would be for us. I don't know really -- I don't know so much about Elves.
Finrod: [half smile]
Beren, when you're alive, are you going to start thinking before you speak, or does it not trouble you at all?
What? What did I say --
[Finrod looks at Luthien, pointedly]
. . .
Luthien: [explanatory, coming to his defense]
None of us know that much about Aman, except what we've heard from others.
Finrod: [flings up his hands]
But it doesn't matter if she started out with such intent, now that I've wrecked it by my stupidity.
You haven't wrecked it. This is nothing. Wait until you've said that someone might as well never have woken up if all he's going to do is sit there like a stump and not talk and not do anything and not even try to get better, it doesn't seem to have made any difference --
[she smiles apologetically at Beren]
And then go away and agonize over every possible way she could've meant that and how much so.
[takes her hand and squeezes it with an equally rueful smile]
I'm out of my depth.
Sire, you kept peace between six clans of the Eldar, three of mortal Men, and both Great Houses of the Dwarves, for how many years? Would you claim that excuse to my lord your uncle?
[Finrod, looking cornered, turns to Beren]
Look, I would say -- be weak. Only not.
Oh, now you're being cryptic!
No, no, it makes sense. You're hurt, you're afraid, you're scared you'll wreck it, you're scared she really hates you after all, and you're confused. So don't pretend you're not.
[Luthien nods earnestly]
Oh -- ask your da, too.
[the ex-King turns and looks at the living King of the Noldor, who has been looking on with the silence of one not simply older but wiser now as well]
Father, how -- how did you convince Mother to take you back into her good graces, after -- you returned?
Finarfin: [raising an eyebrow]
Thou dost entreat my aiding, my son?
[his eldest simply nods; he smiles ruefully]
I did recollect me of our first meetings, as that I did learn withal her native tongue, that I might comprehend her as she mine own thought, and thus in all our privy dealings, I did bespeak her ever yet i'the Teleri, that she might recall perchance that earliest brightening of our love, nor yet doubt that I but minded me ever of the same. Yet --
-- be thou nay overcertain, for what hath prevailed in one heart shall not sway another, as 'twere no variance twixt Elf and Elf. Nor thou and I, nor she and she, be in all wise the same. Assuredly I'd have thee succeed, for this hath been most great discomfort in our House, that thy lady, that hath this long time past oft dwelt with us that her family no more reproach her for her faithkeeping unto thee, now cometh no more, for this dissension.
This just keeps getting worse. Amarie was staying with you to avoid being hassled for my sake, and now -- what has Mother been saying to her? About us?
Finarfin: [wry grimace]
Nay, ask thou not -- nor thou nor I would to hear it, trust thou my word.
And you're caught in the middle again, aren't you?
Aegnor: [elbowing Finrod]
Sounds like someone else has succeeded in causing chaos without even trying, eh, brother?
[the late King sighs, nodding gloomily]
But returning to my difficulty -- she did forgive you, you said, when you spoke to her in Teler?
Aye, in time.
How much time?
Some half-dozen of these new Years, less one, ere Earwen did turn to me in aught that was not of our duties regnant, when that we were not in view and service of Tirion's populace.
Mother wouldn't speak to you for five years?! Grinding Ice!
I can't wait that long. -- I'll go stark mad.
Second Guard: [consolingly]
It's better than a yen, Sire.
[this doesn't help]
Tempers, as coals, do cool with passing time; but howsoe'er thou dost, thou must bespeak her.
[his eldest nods, looking daunted, and half-turns to go -- then checks, frowning uncertainly]
I had not ever thought to conduct my wooing before a multitude.
[unfortunately nobody shows any signs of disappearing]
But that's good, too -- it means you're making up for publicly humiliating her before. Not trying to hide it from anybody.
And if she spurns me?
[his foremost counsellor looks up from the music lesson, which seems mostly to be an excuse to sit very close with his arm around a certain person]
That is the risk, yes. Are you so proud, my lord, that you will lose all rather than risk losing face -- or, if I might put it in other words: are you more arrogant even than I?
[his expression is very strained as he turns to her]
What do you See in me?
[she looks at him solemnly -- he flinches a little under her scrutiny, but does not resist]
Luthien: [sad smile]
You don't need me to tell you that truth. At first I thought it was all weighted one way, but watching you two, together -- she can't forgive you, because you don't think you deserve to be pardoned -- only not the way it's usually. If you really thought so, you wouldn't apologize with an excuse every time, but you really don't think you did anything that needs to be forgiven, and everything about you says so.
But I was right.
But you did wrong.
[he doesn't say anything]
-- Do you think it was Good to hurt her so, little cousin? Duty notwithstanding, was that right?
[Finrod bows his head, wincing]
Unless you can say it without justifying yourself again, there's no point in saying you're sorry another time. "I'm sorry you felt offended and misunderstood me" isn't the same thing at all.
I know you don't like to think of yourself being as proud as the rest of your family, but it is a -- a nobler sort of arrogance, to care about not having done badly, rather than looking bad.
But they're partly the same thing.
[she nods. Heartfelt:]
[he closes his eyes, taking a deep, ragged breath, and then straightens]
Time for me to break my spear, kneel, and sue for peace. I don't want to.
[he pulls himself together and lifts his head, grim-jawed as if going into combat]
Luthien: [looking at Amarie]
-- Oh, and she's frightened.
Why would she be afraid of me?
Maybe 'cause you're a ghost?
Beren, I'm sure no rational adult in Aman is troubled by such Old World beliefs.
[missing the Looks shared by his living elders, and the Ten]
Things are different back home than they are back --
[checks, realizing, is verbally stuck for an instant.]
-- Things are different in Middle-earth.
Youngest Ranger: [emphatic and slightly indignant, to the world at large]
See? It's not just me. Every single one of us does it.
[as attention shifts to him for the moment he keeps ranting at the rest of the Ten]
You've all called Beleriand home as many times as here, and you don't even hear yourselves doing it! Even the King! I wish I had made a bet on it, because I'd've cleaned every one of you out! It isn't me.
[realizing he's been nearly shouting, very embarrassed]
Erm . . . Sorry. -- That was out of line, Sire.
Finrod: [a little stunned]
No, that's -- quite all right, Lieutenant. At some point -- we might wish to consider why we -- avoid noticing that lapse, but -- that can be deferred. -- Where was I?
Nigh to be interrupted, by me. To say that you are so changed from what you were, a king and a warrior and a terrible sorcerer, that you are a stranger to her, and needs must show her that this also is one whom she might care for.
[after a moment Finrod sighs heavily, nods, and turns towards his consort -- then looks over his shoulder at his friends]
You're all quite, quite in error, concerning who is afraid and who isn't, here.
[he climbs up the little slope and stands next to her, bracing himself, but before he can manage to speak Amarie opens conversation:]
Amarie: [casually, running her hands over a spray of branches]
I did hear the Lady of the Gracious Tilth declare on a day, how that such blooms i'the lands our elders forsook do grow sharp, set with many close-pointed needles that do fence each stem most roundly, that th'intemperate beasts of hoof and wing and paw, that do strive beyond moderation in the Shadowed Lands, might not despoil all, that some shall yet endure for growing.
[gazing at him]
-- Hast beheld such, in thy travel?
Aye, 'tis thus -- yet no less fair be they, for all their weaponing, nay more -- some do aver that such small risk of danger as is hid, doth add thereto the choiceness of the rose its buds, that art both fair and strong, arrayed so bravely as they be.
[she raises an eyebrow, giving him a sidelong Look]
So. -- Hath the rose of far Beleriand so sweet a fragrance, or more or less, than of this our sheltered realm?
I cannot say. For me . . . these hold none, saving that remembrance supplies -- supplieth, and that, perchance, beguileth me. For spirit alone might not taste, as flesh alone shall not perceive the tasting, lacking spirit, and so there's but imagining, and fancy betimes dimmeth, betimes maketh brighter, as reflection. Or, belike, 'tis consequent upon upon the bodily lack no less, so that naught of form shall impress upon the shifting thought, to hold memory upon the ground of earth. -- Even as my words, that do flit far past the purpose of my will.
[this gets a smile, if a melancholy one]
Let not thou temper thy speech unto mine own -- for hast truly spoken: Time hath changéd all, nor might be undone.
-- Yet that thou shouldst strive thereto, doth touch my heart most profound. -- What wouldst declare, my lord?
Amarie -- I don't know what to say. I keep making things worse, every time. I'm not sure what else to do, except to ask you to trust me, that I wish you well, and that I had not said many of the things I did say to you -- but that others are true, only your anger to me makes them appear the worst, and I cannot make you think me true.
[he holds out his hand helplessly]
What's burnt cannot be mended. I know that. But --
[looking at her steadily, blinking back tears]
-- if the blaze was not beyond all natural power, then the land does grow anew, forest and field, when the rains return.
[she raises an eyebrow, not giving anything away]
Thou'd have me cast aside my . . . bloody sword of hate, mine icy shield, then, and let thee free -- to trample my heart, an thou wish it, else otherwise?
[he winces, but nods; she makes a throwing-away gesture with her empty hands]
So. 'Tis done. The Pass standeth guardless, the Gates unbarred -- what wouldst thou of me?
Pardon. And welcome. And leave to be at your side without reproach -- past reproach, at least, obviously if I do anything offensive hereafer I'd expect you to tell me about it, and I'm talking too much again --
[he stops abruptly and kneels down on the grass at her feet]
Whatever you will to give me, my lady, I will take. -- Gladly.
My pardon, thou hast.
Finrod: [rising to his feet]
I'm afraid I cannot offer you much else besides apology: I'm no longer a king, and everything I had, is lost to me. Whatever shall be mine, in days to come, will be another's gift -- even the heart I offer you, and the roof, though royal, only by my father's kindness.
Amarie: [quiet intensity]
It was not a King I did love, nor yet a King his son.
[the Teler Maid looks very smug at this]
Whom did you love, then?
[she looks away, sighing]
One who came riding upon the hills in the Hours of Gold, who sang aye more sweetly than e'er did bird or water, whose mirth was sweeter yet, whose joy gave me greater joy -- aye, I'll proclaim it so! -- than e'en the Lady Tree, the Tree of Gold, her light upon the blowing earth: one that was wise, nor of lore and cunning only, but in heart's truth and love no less. -- But he's dead, in a far country.
[she picks one of the roses, looking at it consideringly]
Could you love him again, if he returned?
Amarie: [still distant]
Belike -- but then, he's dead and rotten now, and cold his bones lie yonder.
But not forever.
Amarie: [turning to face him, very serious]
Yet still, Doom hath touched thee, and how shall I look upon thee, living, and think not of't? Shall not death be ever yet about thee?
Finrod: [rubbing his chin, thoughtfully]
I suppose it's only natural you'd have some such feelings, not having encountered the thing itself, but really --
[she raises an eyebrow at him combatively]
Amarie: [cutting him off]
Wherefore presumest so?
Finrod: [sinking realization]
You -- were also at Alqualonde with our mother and Turgon's. -- Helping.
-- To bury the dead, aye, as to find, and part dead from quick. 'Tis so.
Finrod: [very quiet]
-- That's why you're not merely objecting to the home defense forces, but banging on the doors of Taniquetil and shouting at people.
What, didst hold me too dainty-fine for such rough work, or but that mine ill-considered singleness of thought did send me unwitting counter to the multitude?
I'm afraid so. I have a hard time thinking of you and the ugliness of violence together.
'Tis not such doth chill my blood.
Finrod: [still more realization dawning]
You could have set me down far more harshly, many times in the past hour, when we spoke of war, or Swanhaven, or -- you could have mocked me with your knowledge of death, and silenced me. But you didn't.
Amarie: [rueful smile]
I do not wish thee ill -- only for to beat thee about the head, betimes.
Thank you for that mercy.
Make me no thanks that hath not heard the rest.
[she holds up the flower in her palm: in this environment it is already disintegrating, the petals wilted and falling from the center now that it has been cut off from its source]
Thou wert devoured, as time devoureth this poor rose, as a caughten fish, as plank in blaze: how, then, shalt that passing dissolution be not as much of thee, as all else that resideth in thy mind's recalling, when thou art flesh again? Nor how might one, beholding thee, not hold the same -- 'tis not he, himself, for he is gone, and this but counterfeit of him?
Finrod: [anxious reassurance]
I was not, in point of fact, eaten -- only mauled, if that helps at all.
[Amarie doesn't say anything, at all; his acquaintances cringe, with headshakes and groans, too late and unnoticed]
Ye gods, man!
He should have appointed a viceroy.
That has its limits: in the end one must speak alone.
[sharing a Look with the Teler Maid]
Thou hath missed the mark of't -- thou art unhoused, howso 'twas, thy flesh in ruins, nor mought a second raiment change that ever.
[Nerdanel closes her eyes, and some of their hearers also begin to realize the nature of the real problem here]
But you must have encountered some people at least who have been rehoused, if you've been living at my parents' home these years.
Aye, yet . . .
[she pauses, biting her lip, but still meets his gaze despite discomfiture]
I never thought to lie with any of such others.
[he stands perfectly still, expressionless]
I had thought -- to grow accustomed to such notion, with passing of years --
That won't change anything. It will still be as true then as it will tomorrow.
-- But let me make effort of't --
Finrod: [fierce, humorless grin]
Do you want to make me as mad as they proclaim me in Tirion? How do you think it would be, for me, not knowing if your smiles and caresses were the truth, or but illusions, hiding your horror at my undeath, as if I were some monster of our Enemy's making, more vile than his phantom lures -- that every time I touched you, 'twas but a corpse's cold embrace in your thought?
[his voice is shaking]
That's worse than your wrath, worse than very death, for there's nothing I can do to change it, no more than did deserve it.
[he turns away, his face a mask of anguish, mastering tears with great effort]
We are Cursed, and all who meet us, cursed with us --
[her own expression filled with longing and misery, Amarie reaches out her hand towards him, as if to stroke his hair, but draws back in the instant of doing so -- but not quick enough: he spins around, putting his own hand up to ear and cheek]
Was that you?
Howso . . . ?
[her right hand is clenched at her breast, defensively]
You did. -- You touched me.
How moughten feel, where's naught of flesh to sense -- ?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
How might I not? For is it not our souls that intertwine, clad in these earthly garments, as arm presses arm through the barrier of a sleeve, not the tunic of itself embracing? Or indeed, rather which infuse, as light within a stone, filling all facets of its solid shape? And how might not my soul sense yours, that is my life, that is the unbroken mirror in whose bright surface I am but reflection, having no being of mine own apart from you, a ghost in spite of flesh all those Exiled years, severed from your self? If these dwellings are but image of our inward being, as the template on which our new bodies shall be reformed, then the margins of your spirit which impinged on mine, in the same space and instant as your flesh, did so perceive mine, being so attuned itself, and that direct impress was what we each did startle at.
There's a theory, if you will. And here's another -- that where one touch was felt, in truth, another also shall be perceived no less.
[his tone is unconcerned, but wistful under the brittle lightness]
If it does not trouble you to touch me, thus, lacking any flesh at all, perhaps then, might it not as well follow, that some hereafter might not be entirely disagreeable? I think it might be possible, at least, to make a trial effort.
Of course, I could be wrong, in which case we'll look a proper pair of fools. But I'm not afraid of that, if you aren't.
Nay, of folly's seeming ne'er shall be.
[he moves towards her, lifting his hand as if to brush her cheek -- and she retreats a step. He freezes]
It's true then -- you are afraid of me.
[her face is pale, eyes wide]
Teler Maid: [troubled]
I am glad now that I did die, if that I had not, should have made me so towards ye --
[she looks from her true-love to his comrades and back]
At least, if I had power to choose, that I might not have been unhoused, but for that would think you dreadful and turn from you as the unquiet dead -- I would not change what's past.
[they are equally disturbed by this turn, though the Captain's grim humour is reflexive]
Well, the unquiet part's true --
'Tis not that I would turn from thee --
Perhaps you hold I have changed in the lands beyond, grown harsh in their harshness, forgotten all gentility? Perhaps indeed, you recall old fearful tales, half disbelieved, but half-remembered, from the dangerous days in the distant East, and the wild roadless journey of the March? I assure you, they are quite true. There are those of our kind who when slain, for madness, or dread, or angry vengeance unfulfilled, do indeed seek to take what is not theirs by right, and dispossess the unwary and the weaker -- the substance of those stories, of changeling children, old friends, lovers grown strange and unfamiliar, though all their features be the same.
Thou hast seen!?
[Finrod gives him a nod, but doesn't turn from Amarie]
Seen, though thankfully seldom -- seen, and sent them hence -- or rather, hither . . . even when the kin of those whose house was stolen still pleaded otherwise, preferring the illusion of a loved one's life to the cold truth.
Wherefore . . . ? If they would not have vengeance . . . why not let them live?
And what of justice?
And what of mercy, for those who'll come after? For who has stolen a life once, and found it pleasant, if not the doing then the reward, shall surely rob again. I banished one who had taken six lives to guard its own -- for the Houseless no longer remembered whether he, or she, was born male or female -- five dwellings, and the sixth murdered and made seemingly an accident, when the older sister knew her little brother did not return from play, though none else suspected. Six! By one spirit, and with each the deed grew easier -- and the taken lives less valued, and heedless risk embraced for pleasure -- until all the village knew, and feared to speak, fearing to be the next.
And yet there are many that have slain more, that live still, for all thy justice.
I have slain none of our own people -- Firstborn or Secondborn or Fosterling -- with my own hand. -- Nor is dispossessing one of the Undead killing, though the body perishes after. But I have sent to death in battle many, and not merely by error -- and I have dealt harsh justice of banishment in the Marred Lands to living and houseless alike. Make no mistake of me.
[pause; to Amarie]
-- So, then, is that what you fear? That I might lure you to destruction with a kiss, stealing you from yourself in ravening hunger for warmth and color and taste and substance, and the morning sunrise over the ocean that I have never seen, and the stones of Tirion that I have never forgotten, and birdsong and bellsong that are not mere memories -- and every bodily thing that is bereft me by my choosing -- and take your flesh and fling you hence naked into the cold and the dark even as the ghosts I have driven forth?
[his father flinches, but does not look at him with any less affection; Amarie stares at him with huge eyes]
I deny it not: there is some such about it.
Finrod: [same iron tone]
Then let us end these games at once, and call it quits, my lady. For if you truly believe that I should ever do such a thing to any soul -- then never, never should you wed me.
[her lips quiver, but she does not look away from his gaze]
[but Finrod does not pay attention to him]
Finrod: [gently, to Amarie alone]
Do you not know that you might brush me aside like the mist of a morning, and disperse me with a careless wave of your hand? -- Or else hold me fast, that I should stand for all time, until you might release me from your clasp -- for you are real, and whole, and I have no presence, set against thee, unless you most graciously do allow.
I know that I have hurt, and would never to do so again -- but know, too, that I shall, being who I am, and sorrow for it ere it's done. And yet such faults I'll seek to mend, knowing I shall fail ever, but for your sake. I have no power to touch you, save you do grant it -- I cannot hold you back from leaving me, if you go from here, but must wait until such hour as you return, who are mine own Arien, that I must love despite disdain and mine own follies, like the random Moon -- and give me life once more.
Amarie: [fighting tears]
Thou art weaving a spell to steal my heart again.
[he shakes his head]
Of truth only.
And what is stronger than truth?
[she reaches out, her hand shaking, and presses her palm against his cheek. They both start and recoil in an instant, staring at each other:]
-- And thou, ice --
-- and music as of trumpets --
-- Aye --
[she is crying now]
-- Did I hurt thee?
[he shakes his head again]
I have, I ken it well. -- When I sent thee into darkness alone and withouten mercy for mine anger -- and again, when I sent thee word forbidding thee my light, knowing thou wouldst obey, and guessing well thou'd stay in shadow all the whiles. I have used thee cruelly.
[before he can deny it]
-- I meant to make thee suffer so long as I have waited --
Finrod: [shaking his head]
-- And yet you laid but a tithe of that on me in charge. Say not that Amarie is cruel -- or say that I am so as well.
[he reaches out to her shoulder, and she shudders, and he flinches back, looking away. She catches his hand, however, before he can pull completely back, and draws him towards her.]
Thy touch is cold, and flesh cannot help but shiver, when the wind bloweth northerly.
[she holds out her other hand, open, and after a moment he gives her his, expressionless]
And art thou truly held?
Aye -- for otherwise I must deem myself shadow, and how can I, when you hold me fast? No more might I refuse to believe you real --
Then let's put thy theorem to the test --
[she leans forward and kisses him: he remains statue-still meanwhile]
Amarie: [sounding a little disappointed]
Have they changed such custom in the Old World as well?
I feared to give offense.
Offense? -- else affright?
That as well.
Callst thou me coward, then? Come, try my courage, my lord --
[she kisses him again, Finrod meeting her halfway (at least) this time -- she is flushed when they break off at last.]
Strange, that so cold a touch should such a blaze ignite -- !
[she gives him a shrewd look]
Thou art affrighted.
[he does not deny it]
Where's that old vaunting confidence of thine?
Finrod: [low voice, looking directly at her]
Across the Sea, upon an island in a river there, under earth and stone.
Amarie: [not flinching or looking away]
And will it return, when thy bones be wrought anew?
I fear it may.
Good -- timorousness becometh thee ill. But I'll reef thee hard, an thou makest overmuch to windward, for now hast my heart for cargo, and I'll not let thee break it again, that twice hast stolen it away.
Say not "thief," for it was hard-won.
And what wilt thou do with it, now thou hast won? Keep it coffered safe in treasury?
Nay -- I'll make a setting, and bear it about with me that all may marvel at it, and I'll cry, "Behold! Amarie does love me!" and seeing the light of your heart shining over Aman's verdure, they'll deem the Sun has risen out of her hours for the bright generosity of your soul.
Amarie: [shaking her head]
-- Oh wretch, to make me laugh at such a time! -- And what wilt thou give me in return for it?
Nothing . . . for it is yours already. Did you not mark it when I returned your ring?
[she slowly takes out a thin gold band from inside her sash and looks at it]
Now I mark it -- 'twas most cunningly done.
I see you've kept it well these years.
And shall keep it still -- but this ring I'll give thee again, when thou hast flesh to wear it, and to fashion thyself another to give to me.
Nay, no other -- it shall be the same, it wants but that which I also lack --
[holds out the semblance of a shining circlet]
They could not take the memory of my love from me.
[making as if to put it on her finger]
Amarie: [raising her hand to stop him]
Is't not illusory?
Is the tengwa an illusion, or but that which stands as placeholder for the thing itself?
[he opens his fingers -- the ring vanishes, and he traces a symbol in the air, which glows as if made of white-hot metal]
Is not "ore" as real, or illusory, as the meaning we give it? Whether it be sign of seeing, or of voice, that stands for heart's dearer heart --
[he scoops up the light and closes his hand around it, then upturns it to reveal the ring again]
-- And canst thou give me that slight trinket, here?
Believe you, then, that it is real?
[long, long stare between them -- they both know what exactly he's asking]
[she lets him slip it on her finger, and turns her hand to look at the band of light]
I cannot tell, if 'tis meant to be of silver or of gold.
When we change it, 'twill be gold.
Thou'lt return with us? -- When this set is played through?
When my work is done here, I'll home with ye.
Whichever you best please. To my parents' hall in Tirion, or thine in Valmar -- if you think they'll not beat me from the door like a prowling thief.
Nay, they'll scarce mark thee to reproach thee, in their haste to hurl recriminations 'gainst mine own self.
Finrod: [incredulous but troubled]
Your parents are still angry with you?
Not yet, -- aye but yet e'en so, for 'tis ever and again renewed, and in deed hath builded high upon that first foundation of their discontent.
Because of your protest activities?
[she makes a dismissive gesture, and sits down abruptly on the grass, folding her arms forlornly around her knees; he sinks down cautiously next to her, waiting for her answer.]
That's but the last, and aye the least.
What -- else -- have you been doing, while we've been abroad?
[she sighs, as the rest of their friends and family gather around on the floor and hillside to hear her]
I did go unto the venture of Alqualonde, there to give succour and such labour as might haply be required.
Surely they weren't upset with you for that?
Most assuredly not so, 'twas held no less of esteem than for all others that did likewise help to make complete the City of its needs; yet, I trust thou kennest well such work it never shall be done.
[Finrod gives a rueful smile]
And therein lieth the gall.
I'm sorry, I'm probably being really obtuse, but I don't understand.
Thy lady would convey that since that work hath yet not ended, nor hath she gone forth from there, or from our halls in Tirion, to high Valmar's streets save upon the visit, and 'tis even for that changéd state that her kin are much disappoint -- though for the moster part I think have given off their 'plaint.
Thou wert not at table, I fear, at yon latest sojourn in their halls.
Now dost comprehend in full the poison sweetness of thy words' bitter jest? Mine elders be less wroth than aggrieved, and all my kin -- yet that is little less gloomsome than the other.
Finrod: [completely confused]
You never went home? Why?
[before she can answer]
You're not one for building, or masonry, or carpentry, or -- what help could you be, once the injured were cared for and the rough work of clearing out debris was finished -- ?
[closing his eyes]
Someone hit me for that abysmal display of Noldor arrogance and wrong-headedness.
And thou willt, my lord --
[she lays her palm across his cheek, not in a slap but a soft caress, and he starts convulsively but does not pull away, keeping his eyes closed as he leans against her hand]
-- Most glorious and fiery-souled -- !
I think thy spirit hath less of the grave-cold on't, in truth --
One finger's tip would summon me if I were less sensible and colder than these stones -- for it is not the house that gives warmth, but the flame within it, though without walls to hold and guard it, that heat is swiftly stolen by the night. I am those coals, that you have breathed upon, to burn anew -- I am the darkened land, but sleeping, waiting for Anar's rising that now wakes lilies with her touch -- I am --
-- a mad Elf, forsooth, that shall ne'er hear the answer to his questioning, dost thou not cease from lauds but a moment.
[reluctantly he pulls away from her touch, smiling at them both]
Indeed, I would like to hear it -- if you will of your mercy consider the question as it were asked in a manner less ill-mannered, as it should have been.
Amarie: [shaking her head, amused]
'Tis only thus: I found many things there that I had not dreamt of, beside grim death and broken flesh and bitterest hurtings of the heart, that wound themselves against my heart, as the wayward sea-ferns do twine upon the pier, and did hold me fast there. I saw houses, as ne'er had seen before, and roofs, and the rounding curvet of the wavelet's foam, and ships --
But you've seen boats before --
I am really going to have to work hard at not talking over people, aren't I. -- I don't suppose I can convince you to hit me again, to aid remembering?
Amarie: [shaking her head]
Thou ranting fond fool -- I had not cared so for such things, beyond merest usefulness, that they be serviceable as fair, but of all the deeper matters of craft and comprehending, little care had I -- so much thou kennst well, my lord, for surely thou hast not forgot how thou wert disappoint, that I but gave thee tolerance when thou wouldst speak of thine inventions, though --
[she smiles sadly over at the Steward]
-- such uninterest made me not a whit less jealous, that thou shouldst seek other companioning, that shared thy desires for worldly wisdom. Yet in Alqualonde I learned me of such loves -- for 'tis strange, but in mending of things wrecked, I found me curious of the manner of their making, that had not drawn me when they were whole as wrought.
So, now, indeed they do say that I am turned Noldor, in Valmar, eke that I do forget mine own self, aye, that I am dimmed, and do forget the purer Musics, for being all consuméd up in stuff and trifles.
[pause. Somewhat worried:]
What are you making?
It can't be weapons, too -- ?!
Amarie: [deprecating shrug]
Ships, and sails, and sundry necessaries that do befit them.
[the Teler Maid stares at her in amazement]
Oh. That's nice.
But I don't really see why it's such a matter of noteworthiness -- though I suppose it's different if one's born Vanyar.
Tell him, daughter, of the vessels aeronautical.
[Amarie looks away, embarrassed, waving her hand]
Aeronautical? -- You mean -- flying?
Amarie: [deprecating, a little exasperated]
They do not fly, good my lords.
Then my eyes do fail me, I fear -- for I did behold daylight under's keel, I did vouchsafe.
Not far, at the least. Nor much of height.
This is a joke, right?
[he looks at them]
You're making flying ships?
[Amarie looks diffident; his father nods, with a slight smile]
Thy grandsire did give to me a wharf, set aside for mine own especial work, when that I did finish mine apprenticing, that I might carry out my designs and put them to hard test, with those my company of friends that are most glad unto the striving.
[sad, but calm]
No longer are there made any such vessels of greatness nor so fair as were in the first days, for their makers were slain, and must relearn their skill from such as once were student of their mastery, and joy is less, to set such heart's grace into the working, for ever's thought that it be ruined after, that once was ta'en. -- Yet we do make anew.
Aye, and things most fairly strange, that never did ride wind nor wave in bygone Day.
You're telling me that while I was gone, my true-love became a shipwright and inventor of things barely dreamt of? Like -- ships that fly.
'Twas no great invention, after I did see Isil ascend upon the Night. 'Twas but that I did dream me of other vessels lofting, and how bird's wings be like to sails, so that it seemed me how a ship might rise from off the surface of the Sea.
You're a genius.
Amarie: [shaking her head]
'Tis yet but a dream, aye, belike shalt e'er be nay but so -- Sealark XII hath made but a furlong and a little more, nor shall she, until that I do find some means to fashion sails of greater lightness that shall not tear.
You're a genius.
[his expression is bemused and a bit forlorn]
Are you jealous? -- Ingold?
N -- Yes. -- What happened to the first eleven?
Fates -- that doesn't sound promising.
The last as latest but for one, I did unmake for to remake, metamorphosizing each into the latter.
[her tone is too innocent]
What about the other ones? -- What about the sundry?
They -- flew not.
And perished, and did sink. Or so did I hear tell.
But not with you?
You weren't on them, surely?
-- Not as they slipped beneath.
But you were when they . . . fell out of the sky?
Thy grandsire, lads, did recount me how his heart did fail him, when the sixth did turn as upon a wheel, and thy lady must dive will-she, nill-she, to the waves' welcome, and must eke perforce swim far from out beneath, where the web and wrack did lie outspread upon the waters like fair Uinen's tresses.
Then I had not countered the sails' weight for their greater increase with sufficiency of keel. It hath not befallen since.
Brother, I take back every last word I've ever said, about you being the craziest soul in Valinor.
I withdraw any word I might have uttered concerning or implying any lack of courage, boldness or temerity. -- Amarie, are you quite mad? Why do you persist in it? Why don't you stop if they keep hurtling into the sea?
For the glory of't, that might ride upon the vaunting winds as wild horses tamed to mine own thought, for there's naught like to it in all Aman --
-- until the silks doth rip and spill me on the green like to careless rider, and all to be fished out that might, and hie us home to the yards once more.
Couldn't you just ask the gods to fix it so that they would stay up, instead? -- Like Isil?
Nay, where's the Art in that? Belike, but I had liefer learn of myself, else fail, of mine own skill, than be granted such as favour, like toy unto child that hath not skill of knife nor needle -- !
[sighing, as the Noldor nod in understanding]
Yet I do come to fear that none might comprehend full well the winds' riding save that hath done so, a-wing.
[to Luthien, forlornly]
I envy thee thy time misspent in vampire form, beyond all power to tell't.
[to Finrod, earnest]
Fear not for me, I am most particular of care in all mine endeavor. They be light, and little as kites, nor do I bring them nigh the rocks, but only to the calmest deeps. 'Tis only the winds have been unseasonably changeful of late, these past years twain, that hath cost us much of spar as line, nor only for my little gossamer-seeds, but so to our greater vessels, so that mine own great ship wherefrom I loose the lesser, and many more besides, have been compelled to rest in harbour, and repair.
Er . . . that's my fault.
[stares from all of them]
No, really -- it was.
Finrod: [enormous sigh]
Yavanna said so.
Well, okay, I -- well -- not like I did it -- I didn't mean to get killed or be the target of the world's largest manhunt and I didn't know she'd be upset about it or that the heavy storms and the early winter the year before were anything but luck.
I mean, it felt like an extremely mixed blessing at the time -- yeah, the torrential downpours sure cut down on the forest fires, but I still couldn't get much sleep with all the flash floods and the hurricane winds . . .
[he trails off, flustered]
I think I can safely speak for us all when I say that we would be very much obliged if you didn't occasion any more such weather patterns in the immediate or rather more distant future.
[they look at each other for a long, meaningful moment]
-- Flying ships.
[he sighs; Amarie looks at him in concern]
Thou art envious.
[he shakes his head, gazing at her with rueful amusement]
My love has made a flying ship -- a little baby flying ship, but a flying ship nonetheless -- ! And there are things in the world that I never dreamed of, and shall be, and so much that I have yet to learn! And I am not sure where to begin, and I feel rather as though I have been tricked.
[laughing at himself]
I thought I came home to a place drear and narrow, where I should have no place save some small pittance made for me in pity, and it galled my spirit -- and now I find that it is changed, in ways both terrible and splendid, and I do not know what my place shall be in it, -- save that it shall be among those I love.
[he lets himself fall backwards onto the grass, stretching out his arms with an exuberant grin]
Aye, that is truth!
Finrod: [folding his arms behind his head, smiling at Amarie]
And you will helm your caravel, and I'll sit upon your deck and play for you and sing, and there'll be naught but music about us, of wind and wave and the birds' cries, and we'll have perfect peace and laziness the whole day long and the starry night --
Until they sail around a headland and he shouts, "Oh, what a perfect place for a castle! Let's stop and put one there! -- And there!"
It didn't happen like that.
Angrod: [looking at the vaulting]
Your sister said it did.
Aye, and Lord Cirdan, too.
Finrod: [ignoring them]
And you'll teach me how to steer your wingéd ships, and perhaps we'll find some way to sing a stronger fabric for their sails --
Belike thou'lt find it most troublous, nor care for such unquiet voyaging, nor uncertain speed, for even do they not lift above, my larks do dart most swiftly o'er the foam, and many of my folk like it but little.
I suppose I might, at that.
But most like thou'lt take to it like a bird to the wind and better me, I fear.
Probably. -- Will you forgive me for it?
Amarie: [sidelong Look]
Aye, and in advance of thine offense, if thou'lt but pay me forfeit of it --
Of what matter shall this forfeit be?
Of no matter at all -- but of thy fancy . . . and remembrance . . . and desire.
[he starts to sit up]
Hold: be thou still, and yield me my due --
[she kneels and leans over him, trapping him between her arms, and bends to kiss him, not perfunctorily. Their companions are amused as much as pleased by their reconciled state; but a look of dawning uncertainty begins to creep over the face of Nienna's Apprentice.]
Amarie: [sitting back]
Dost doubt me now?
Never. -- Shall I not further pay, against such offense as I shall surely make?
Amarie: [a bit unsteadily]
Nay, I've had my forfeit, I'll not rob thee --
Plunder me, love, and I'll hold myself rich to be so dearly robbed -- !
[she does not wait for further encouraging]
Apprentice: [dismayed aside]
Can they do that?
[his teacher appears behind him (or was she there all along?) stepping forward through the darkness like a fine curtain]
Please don't try to be cryptic, you haven't the knack for it yet.
[as he recovers from his start]
Obviously they can, so I assume that isn't what you're asking.
But how can they do that?
I've really no idea. You could ask them.
But he's discorporate! And she isn't!
I do think they're quite aware of those respective facts, don't you?
But he's dead! It's just . . .
[he trails off, his teacher just looks at him]
Was not this harmony in accord with our aims?
Well, yes, but -- in here? It -- it seems so disrespectful!
Of whom, exactly?
I'll tell you what -- why don't you go and explain it to my brother and see what he says. I'm sure he'll be overjoyed at being interrupted in the middle of his spook-hunt and delighted to have one more complaint to handle.
Er . . .
Or you could find Vaire and see if she rates public displays of affection between incarnates and discorporates on the same level as unauthorized structural renovations and what she wants to say about it.
. . .
Nienna: [growing enthusiasm]
I think that's an excellent idea, actually. Why don't you go and ask them both?
Please, m'lady, no -- I'd rather do the thing with the candles again.
But it wouldn't mean anything to you this time. This would be a new challenge.
But I already know that you're trying to make me realize that some situations really aren't worth getting upset over and that one should meddle carefully or not at all and that the consequences of trying to fix something may be worse than the original mess and so I wouldn't actually be learning anything.
Hm. You're being far too clever for me.
Master, I'm sorry -- I didn't mean to sound arrogant and snide, I just couldn't help it.
You're getting bored, I can tell. Why don't you go and find some other trouble to solve, then?
If you're up to the challenge.
But of course!
[he leaves, gleeful, and she sighs and shakes her head, hiding a smile, before turning to approach the solitary Maia sitting resentfully on the dais. Amarie straightens, putting a hand up to her hair, which is all disordered and falling down on one side.]
Where's yon comb? Whence this undoing?
[frowns at her husband, who sits up and rests his chin on his hand, smiling at her innocently]
I'm only a shade. How could I take out your hair-clip, particularly without your noticing it?
Didst but now pledge to shift a thousand-weight else more of stone, then assuredly might lift but a pin. As for marking it or no --
[she tries unsuccessfully to scowl at him]
-- dost not ken?
[running her hand lightly through his hair -- he shivers, closing his eyes. Adamant]
My comb, my lord.
[sighing, Finrod points to a nearby tuft of grass; she siezes it and begins pinning back the loose side -- but when her head is turned away, he reaches up and brushes the other comb, which falls out. Luthien starts giggling helplessly, as Amarie turns and glares at her ghostly consort, who only smiles as she gives up the attempt in disgust.]
Angrod: [mock seriousness]
Amarie, are you sure about this? He's twenty times worse now that he's got no life-and-death responsibilities.
Yeah, but not crazier than me.
Ah well, then well-matched shall be we twain.
Finrod: [shaking his forefinger in emphasis]
Note, note, note ye well -- I did not say she was crazy, I've never said that --
Nerdanel: [sighing, smiling]
Hath a one broached some casque of wine etherial, that ye all are come jauncing as foals of a mid-Summer?
Nessa: [appearing on the hillside above them]
No, but it sounds like an excellent idea.
[she and the Wrestler are dry, but somehow indefineably more disheveled than before]
-- Where's Measse, love?
I dunno -- she was wild for some hunt your brother was organzing, and I wasn't paying attention when they said what they were going after.
We'll just have to fend for ourselves, then --
[a wide calyx-like cup appears in her open hand, just as a tremendous blaze as of lightning rips through the Hall -- three tall, shining, warlike figures appear in its glare (Note: their armour and weapons can be utterly fantastic, in fact, the more elaborate and unrealistic the better). One of them is female, all of them rather terrifying. (Classic adventure stars John Justin, June Duprez (The Thief of Baghdad, 1940) and Anthony Bushell (The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1934, Dark Journey, 1937) could play these Maiar.)]
Oh, there you are, how convenient --
[interrupting, oblivious, all talking at once in commanding tones]
Why isn't anyone answering?
We've been calling and calling for Ages --
Not Ages, don't exaggerate --
Alatar: [looking around]
Where's Lord Namo and Himself?
Are you having a party while there's a rogue elemental on the loose?!?
Measse: [even more indignant]
-- Without us!?!
-- Don't know -- Really? -- Ring of Doom -- Yes -- Want to join us? -- Got any more questions? I'll answer 'em.
Beren: [to the Nargothronders, deadpan]
More friends of yours? 'Cause otherwise I think we're in trouble.
Huh. Bunch of lightweights, all gussied up in shells like turtles. Don't know nothin' about real fighting.
[the three Immortal warriors roll their eyes at this familiar strain, and somehow seem a little dimmer and diminished after his words]
Measse, could you be a dear and run home for us, and fetch --
I'm sorry but we've got to go find them and tell them we've finally found him --
[with another flash they disappear, leaving behind a moment of stunned silence]
I guess I'm glad they're on our side.
Maybe Mom emigrated looking for peace and quiet, you think?
It seems a distinct possibility, strange though it is to say it.
I'm surprised they didn't just ride in here.
Nah, Vaire'd pitch a fit. Hey, who's making bad puns now? "Be a dear and run home?" Huh?
Nessa: [exaggerated sigh]
Love, you don't understand what a pun is, do you?
[she takes a sip from the wine-cup -- which upon inspection is of the "mastos" design, a round vessel similar to a calyx but with no base, which therefore cannot be set down, once filled, until emptied -- and passes it to the nearest Elf (it does not matter if shade or living.)]
I fear I do not think that any of the Ainur do, my Lady.
You're probably right. You keep changing all the rules around, how do you expect anyone to understand that language game?
[helping himself to some of the grapes]
Like all those letter-whatsits that Feanor made: pretty, but why can't people just remember stuff? That'd be easier than remembering other things to help you remember stuff, right? -- Here, have some mead, we'll just all make do 'til my cup-bearer gets back.
[he too offers his drinking-horn to their "guests" -- but is intercepted by a naughty Huan lunging between to sample the contents]
[the focus shifts to to the shadowy corner of the dais where Nienna is listening to Aule's aide with a very concerned expression as the other Ainu goes on and on (and on) about the unfairness of his life:]
Assistant: [injured dignity]
I tried -- no one can say I didn't, or that I could have tried any harder --
But what were you trying to do, exactly?
Assistant: [not listening to her question]
I don't expect to be given preferential treatment, but I do expect fairness. And it is not fair by any standard or definition, that that clown who's been assigned to you for correction, milady, should be able to bumble his way along, making no efforts whatsoever to bring about order or discipline but rather the reverse and not even be reprimanded for negligence, while I, for trying to do what is right and nothing else, am reproached for following directions! -- It isn't just.
[segue from Nienna listening patiently to his indignant soliloquy to focus on the Steward, listening attentively but not happily as his true-love tries to convince him of something, their hands laced on the upper frame of the harp they hold between them]
Teler Maid: [earnest Look]
But it might well be that they have changed no less than you, and will welcome you now that you are come back in pardon and honour.
I had rather live in a driftwood hut on some distant salt-marsh, and you had rather I live in a hut on some such strand, than dwell again in the halls of my family, whether they pardon me or not. For there is nothing I have done that has answered any of their expectations, nor will they understand, no matter how much you nor I nor any seek to explain to them, what it is that my life's Work has been.
You do not wish to see me in such perpetual ill-temper, trust me. Visit them, yes. My father will feed you and my mother adorn you with delight, and they will seek to paint your image in those fine gifts and gowns, and praise your piping and reproach me that I never brought you to visit them, instead of the contemptuous scions of House Feanor, and I shall be able to endure it a season, perhaps, but how long you will be able to stand seeing me set down, and compelled as child and guest and failure not to answer, I dare not guess. I must live elsewhere -- anywhere else.
But what will you do, when we are Outside?
Not live at my parents' homes.
I do not know. But my place is not in Enedir's workshop.
Teler Maid: [forlorn]
Are we quarreling already?
No. Only disagreeing. Friends do that, upon occasion.
[her smile returns]
You know what I think we should do.
Oh yes. I know.
What is it?
We find us some horses and convince them to come along, and we start travelling, not just in the parts where everyone lives, and -- we see what there is to see.
And where do we sleep?
Wherever we stop.
What if it rains?
I suppose we can make tents, though it seems unnecessary baggage to me.
And what do we eat?
Whatever we catch, or find that day. It would always be different. -- Doesn't that sound like fun?
That's what he thinks too, except he always finds that he likes it. It's the natural life for Elves, not this foolishness of living in stone boxes.
But I like our cities!
And you'd like camping too, if you'd give it a chance. It's easier than living on a boat, that's for certain.
Teler Maid: [doubtful]
-- Sometimes perhaps.
You just wait and see. We'll get Suli' to come too. Who knows, I might have nieces or nephews by now, to make it a proper party. It'll be grand.
Steward: [looking at the ceiling]
That means you'll come home to find all your gear being rummaged through by a maniac who happily announces, "We're off to Himring! Why aren't you packed?" as if it were a walk to the plaza, not a journey covering three-quarters of the subcontinent, and in pouring March rains and wind, to boot.
Oh, come on -- it wasn't like that, and besides if you hadn't been dawdling around trying to do everyone else's work for them, I wouldn't have had to take care of your luggage for you all the time. I swear you deliberately waited to the last minute every time we set out so I'd end up packing for you. -- At least it wasn't hailing.
Teler Maid: [dry]
And you did abide with this for all this Age?
[the Steward only shrugs]
-- I see now how you did learn patience.
[the Captain gives her an affronted Look, as Finarfin cannot help chuckling at their turnabout, while the divine vintage is circulated ever more freely about the gathering. Perhaps a little too freely: Finrod, propped up on one elbow to take the wine-cup, suddenly turns to Beren, with an expression of barely-suppressed mischief...]
Think of this, my lord of Beor, to console yourself -- now that we're related several times over --
No, you're not -- we sorted this out, remember?
-- Edrahil did, at least.
No, I thought of another way. -- You're going to hate it.
[to Finarfin and Nerdanel, quickly]
Father, Aunt 'Danel, just pretend you don't understand our dialect for a moment. It's amusing if one's dead.
[the living Eldar look somewhat disconcerted]
Amarie, I beg you, don't be angry: we're just laughing in daylight at past nightmares again.
[she touches the back of his hand, giving him a rueful smile, and he continues in lecturing mode:]
You know the Lindar custom of forging a blood-bond between those with no kinship ties --
[his brothers start correcting him (and each other) before he can finish]
That's Sindarin originally, I'm fairly certain.
No, they absorbed that from the Haladin, it wasn't originally a custom of our people in Beleriand --
Finrod: [cutting them off with a risky gesture, given the wine-cup in hand]
As a matter of fact, you're both wrong and both right, because the Secondborn learned it from the Singers on the other side of the mountains, and brought it with them in their travels from Estolad, whence it was taken up along Doriath's marches, but the fraction of Denethor's following who stayed in Seven Rivers have also maintained it to some extent, so precedent and ownership of the custom are pretty tangled by now. Regardless the point is --
[looking at Beren quizzically]
-- when we were fighting over you, between teeth and claws and us trampling you, enough of my blood must have mingled with yours to bind us three times over.
. . .
Finrod: [to his siblings]
So you see, Beren's not just related to me as our cousin's spouse, and I don't have to count anyone twice, either.
[dead silence as everyone tries to figure out if they can change the subject yet or not or how]
Beren: [with a sidelong glance]
I don't think it works that way, Sir. Otherwise everyone who died on the same battlefield would be related. I think it has to be deliberate, for it to count.
But if we had thought of it, we would have intended it. So when you're worrying about annoying or scandalizing Elu in the future, think of it as rather the upholding of a long family tradition, as our blood-brother --
[Luthien and Amarie exchange a wry Look]
As was but lately pointed out to myself, Ingold, none of us have any blood, now, so you've got to say former, and I don't think that our uncle will be greatly impressed by a retroactive claim.
But it isn't retroactive, or past-tense. It's the same as any investiture of office, like regency or stewardship: it holds even if the physical symbols of that office are destroyed or lost.
Aegnor: [taking the wine from his distracted brother and handing it on]
I'd love to have seen you try that one on Lord Namo.
You don't think he would have gone for it? I suppose it's too late, now.
All thy jests hold them an edge, like to the wind i'the east else northerly, to us that be full-blooded.
Alas, not only to the living.
[he takes a deep draught from the cup as it is passed]
Angrod: [looking disturbed]
Besides, that would make him not just Luthien's husband but also her cousin, and that's not right.
But a generation removed, like 'Tari and Celeborn, so no problem there.
There's a much more troubling aspect everyone's managing to overlook.
Dare we ask, milord?
[Beren shakes his head, but without much expectation of it working]
Well, it seems from what's been said -- granted I wasn't present, at least not in any meaningful sense, but still -- it seems to me that the next conclusion which would follow would be that of kinship with Werewolves.
Or hadn't you thought of that yet, Sire?
[the Lord Warden cringes where he is sitting a little apart from the Ten, and not alone, either. Amarie sighs deeply, while her true-love ducks his head down with an embarrassed grin as the conversation careens on out of control:]
But then again, he was one for all practical purposes, as her Highness recounted.
Yes, Beren -- why didn't you mention that you were being Draugluin when you infiltrated Angband?
Uh . . .
Did you think we'd be revolted and dismayed?
Um . . .
Well, he was right -- we were.
Youngest Ranger: [definite tone]
No, we were not.
[his subordinate stares at him disbelievingly]
You honestly weren't revulsed by the idea of him shapeshifting into the Wolf that ate you?
[the Warden of Aglon flinches again, and seems torn between covering his ears and listening in morbid obsession]
Youngest Ranger: [stiffly]
I don't think mine was Draugluin.
You didn't look and you're avoiding the question.
Youngest Ranger: [defensive]
I -- didn't think about it like that until you said it that way. -- I was thinking about it from Beren's point of view.
So you are revolted, admit it.
Youngest Ranger: [urgent]
But it doesn't diminish him in my regard, at all.
Of course not. I didn't say we loved him less for it, only that his keeping quiet about it was utterly understandable.
Right -- think of all the funny looks we've gotten for explaining about King Felagund's ruse. This is infinitely more disgusting than braiding orc-hair into one's own.
[catches himself just as the Youngest Ranger cuffs him, with an exasperated glance towards Luthien]
Er . . . Ah.
I didn't mean to imply that you were disgusting, Lady Luthien.
Teler Maid: [nonchalant]
But why not? For so she did say no less.
[her cheerful innocence is just a little too perfect]
Nor might you say that 'tis repugnant for Lord Beren to be clad in werebeast's fell, yet not herself's own self.
[her unfortunate former coworker hides his head in his arms, while Luthien tries to stop laughing and can't, as even Aegnor smiles a little at the general silliness. The Captain reaches across and tugs on one of the Sea-elf's braids, straightening before she can turn to see who it was -- but she isn't fooled, and makes a face at him]
Beren: [feeling the left side of his face and ear]
We might not have any blood, but that doesn't seem to help any -- I can remember blushing just fine anyway.
Tulkas: [leaning over and nudging him]
Want that drink, eh?
Yeah, I -- think I'll take you up on that offer now.
[the Wrestler passes him the mead-horn, considerately keeping his hand on the vessel's tail to support it while he takes a draught. Judiciously pausing while the patron of friendship waits anxiously for his verdict:]
Not bad, but -- is it real?
[Tulkas guffaws loudly, slapping him on the back -- at his laughter his Lady's deer startle again and go bounding off into the further reaches of the Halls, both of them this time]
"Is it real?" -- That's a good one --
Nessa: [shoving her husband's arm]
I'm not going after them again, you go since you set them off.
They'll come back.
They'll get lost. And worried. Go find them, please.
Tulkas: [snaps his fingers]
Huan, go round 'em up and chase 'em back here, okay?
[without needing further encouragement the Hound sprints off into the dim corridor once more]
I don't think Vaire's going to appreciate that very much.
I know she won't. She thinks we traumatize people too much with our rowdiness, and we've never held phantom hunts. Huan baying down the halls thrice in one day is going to get complaints, I'm sure.
That's all right, a little excitement's good for the soul, I always say.
[batting her eyelashes at Tulkas]
Not just the soul, either.
Fourth Guard: [wickedly passing the role to another]
Uh-oh, Beren's getting embarrassed again.
[leans over to look at the mortal shade]
Oh, how cute!
Beren: [glaring at his friend]
I will get you for that. -- I think maybe I should explain how this ritual of dunking your kinfolk really works, with a demonstration?
Well, you could try.
Nuh-uh, not just try.
Fourth Guard: [snorts]
Only if I let you, Beor.
That's what you think. See, you're gonna be thinking I'm crippled and not take me seriously, plus you can't help being careful because you don't want to hurt me, and I'd take advantage of that and trip you before you had a fair chance. I don't fight fair, even for fun, I just win.
[leaning back comfortably on the grass, raising his eyebrows with a smug grin]
-- That's why I had the biggest price on my head of anyone here, present company included. -- Want to go a round? Betcha I can throw you two falls out of three.
[the Youngest Ranger's friend who died at Serech looks at him in surprise]
You really are crazy, my lord.
Beren: [frowns, thinking about it]
Nah, just a bit tipsy, right now.
I think you're bluffing. Only way you could do it is if you pushed me when I wasn't looking, the way Maiwe likes doing.
Okay, I'm game. Let's see who's the better wrestler.
[reaches out his hand]
Help me up?
[in automatic chivalry the royal Guard starts to offer his hand in turn -- then checks, catching the glint in the other warrior's eyes]
Fourth Guard: [indignant]
Beren! I'm not that naive.
Beren: [wicked grin]
Almost got you, didn't I?
[one of the Guards addresses his colleague from where he is lounging back against another comrade's ankles]
Don't be stupid, you're not going to win, and it's far more pleasant to sit here on the grass and remember peace in the quiet.
[as if in ironic contrast to his words, Huan comes galloping in chasing Nessa's deer, who are pronking in great leaps and bounds, and who proceed to take turns chasing each other around the pillars of the Hall]
All right, I'll let you off this time.
Fourth Guard: [dry]
If I didn't know you thought that war-for-fun was rank insanity, I'd think you wanted to fight.
This ain't war, this is revenge. No, wait, I mean a learning experience. 'Sides, you said you were gonna win.
If it weren't untoward to sponsor internal rivalries, I'd stake my wager on House Beor against all comers.
And of course I'd bet on my lord's prowess against any challenge.
Fourth Guard: [plaintive]
What, will no one support me?
If their Highnesses will not, then I shall -- but I am certain they would back you, for we are most experienced in the matter of lost causes.
[to Tulkas, as cheerful groans and jeers come from the Ten]
And no, you cannot wager on both sides at once. Even if both contestants are your friends.
Nessa: [poking him with her toe]
Warrior: [to the Guard]
Wait, wait, I've got it -- accept a general challenge, for then you get to choose the manner of it.
[hefting the mead-horn as it comes around]
A contest of endurance, to the first that drains it dry.
[confidingly, as Beren directs a humorous scowl at them]
-- If one sip of ambrosia does that to him, I don't think you have to worry.
But it doesn't empty unless I want it to.
That's the point. He'll be flat, first.
Beren: [waving to Tulkas]
You'll just have to help me out, one Latecomer to another.
But that would be cheating --
Beren & others in chorus:
-- And -- ?
[move to the lower tier of the dais, where Nienna is still listening patiently to Aule's disconsolate servant lamenting the injustice of the universe]
He doesn't do any job satisfactorily, but you keep entrusting more tasks to him, even when he hasn't troubled to finish the last one! Like not monitoring communications, as we just saw --
[waving towards the once-again-glowing palantir without looking around]
How hard is it? Well, without dedication or an attention span longer than a gnat's, that becomes a rhetorical question I suppose. It isn't as if he had any real responsibilities that would have legitimately kept him from noticing --
[catching sight of its light he leaps up and hurries to the Throne to answer it, in the manner of someone taking an old-fashioned long-distance (or "trunk") call on an old-fashioned phone, loudly and impatiently:]
-- Yes? Certainly it's me; who else would I be? -- Well, of course he isn't at the Mahanaxar. You didn't -- If you'd asked me instead, I could have told you that he was going out on a sweep of his own and saved you the trouble of going all the way over there. No. -- No. Here's what you should do: return here, and stay put, and I'll go and have him located for you. Otherwise there's only going to be more chasing around in circles wasting time. -- I know. Yes, I know, Pallando. Don't worry, I've got the situation under control.
[shaking his head as the seeing stone goes dark]
[his good humour and confidence restored as his grievances are forgotten in a new task and the opportunity to make others look incompetent, he turns briskly and starts off the dais towards the corridor. As he is on his way out, a shining Maiar figure comes in, not with a dramatic entrance, but wandering in through the door with a hint of a slouch. He is lightly (& fantastically) armed, most notably with a sweeping silver bow and quiver. There is an odd mixture of cocksure swagger and sheepishness in his mannerisms. (Perhaps Donald Woods (Charles Darnay) from 1935's A Tale of Two Cities?) Looking around worriedly, he addresses Aule's servant in a confidential manner:]
-- I say, do you know where he is? They told me the Smith was here, but I think they're wrong.
Assistant: [cold satisfaction]
Tilion. You are in such trouble.
Tilion: [defensive innocence]
Don't tell me that Lady Arien neglected to inform you of your transgressions!
Tilion: [dismissive and bitter]
She's always yelling at me about something.
Well perhaps you should listen once in a while.
The ship's fine. We were hundreds of leagues apart.
That's not far enough -- and you know it.
I just wanted to see what was going on --
But that isn't your job. Other people have that duty. Your task -- which you chose or rather begged, to accept, might I remind you -- is to pilot your vessel.
Tilion: [narrow Look]
I thought my job was to guard the world from the skies above, and to guard the Moon from attack. Something interesting was going on Below and I thought it might be important, it isn't my fault that Narya's such a stickler for procedures and routine and won't vary her course --
Well, you can explain all that to Taniquetil, then, can't you?
Tilion: [as the other Maia walks away]
You don't understand --
Yes, but . . .
Do you think I can help that? -- Don't you think it's inconsistent, to complain that you're misunderstood, and then that someone understands you far too well?
[he can't meet her eyes]
If you'd rather stay where you are, I can't help you.
Nia! That isn't very kind of you.
I'm not blaming you for preferring to stay miserable. But you have so much pity for yourself, that anything I offer would be superfluous, wouldn't it?
[he scuffs his boot on the floor, doesn't look at her]
Aule's in a meeting right now, but he'll be returning here presently. If you're willing to hear my advice -- I don't recommend that you go interrupt him right now, unless you really want a reason to feel ill-used and put upon.
Where are you going?
Where I am needed. Which isn't here, at the moment.
[she fades from view. The Archer looks around disconsolately, and at Nessa's encouraging wave, slopes over to their hill.]
What's wrong now?
Tilion: [sitting down cross-legged on the floor]
Not even Nienna feels sorry for me.
Yes she does, she's just bored out of her mind by your nonstop moping.
Hey! That was brutal!
You should know better than to go fishing for insults, particularly here.
I should never have entered Ea. Nobody wants me about.
That isn't true, nobody wants a gloomy melancholic of an Ainu about. So -- either you stop being all doldrum-y, or just ignore the fact that you're annoying people the way you usually do.
Can't have it both ways, y'know.
[Tilion heaves a huge sigh and leans his head on his hands. Softly the Youngest Ranger goes over and kneels down next to him.]
[the Archer looks up at him sadly]
If you'll pardon my boldness, sir -- I wanted to tell you -- I've always admired you greatly.
Youngest Ranger: [nodding]
Yes, sir. You were one of my heroes when I was alive.
You mean that -- you're not just saying so to cheer me up?
[beaming, cheering up instantly]
Thank you. That's so very kind of you.
[looking at the Sindarin warrior's gear]
So you're a bowman too?
Yes, my Lord. I -- I used to think of you as my patron, when I was fighting Wargs.
Tilion: [very pleased]
Oh? How flattering. -- Where are you from?
Youngest Ranger: [abashed]
Oh, you'd not have heard of it, sir.
Probably not, but I bet I've seen it.
Well -- do you know the marshes in the west of Beleriand?
North or south?
South, my Lord.
Where all those willows are?
Um, yes, those are near . . .
[track up from the flattered Sindarin shade, to the increasing frivolity of House Finarfin's dead]
Angrod: [to Finrod]
Are you happy now that you've contrived to make us all look like savages and lunatics and completely foolish? -- Give me that.
[he confiscates the wine-cup again from his elder brother and leans quickly back out of the way before the other can jostle his arm in return.]
Finarfin: [bemused, but tolerant]
I recall mine own children being none so fey else foolish, not even the whiles they were but infants.
Nay, mine own halls were ever filled with pups: this I ken well. Oft and aye shall the youngling hounds, of eyes new-opened, tumble and fret their ways out from den, to roll and yelp and verily another's leg to gnaw, that a moment since, as hence, shall be licking ears and noses.
[Luthien, slyly, reaches over as Angrod is drinking and gives his elbow a push, making him splash himself]
Behold what thou hast loosed, Ingold, and canst thou call't back? I hold not so.
[grimacing, she reaches out her hand patiently for the goblet to come around]
Finrod: [earnest sincerity]
What, you doubt that I have always acted in perfect and complete foreknowledge of the future unfolding of my actions, with total clarity of insight?
-- Stars, I hope not!
I didn't say anything.
You thought it. You're supposed to be supporting me, not working against me.
Oh, did I get it wrong? I thought the plan was to convince her how helpless and pathetic you were without her, -- not impresssing her with your competence. Did you change it again and forget to tell me?
No, you're the one who makes things up on the spur of the moment: "-- Oh, let's just grab another while we're here!" Brilliant, Barahirion, just brilliant --
-- Hey, at least . . . huh. I think you've got me there.
I just hope nobody's keeping track!
Beren: [wide-eyed innocence]
-- So we are going for competent, then?
Look, Beren, I don't know what my cousins told you, but I never employed any of your ancestors in the position of Fool -- I've never seen the need for a dedicated professional of that nature in my organization.
Oh, oh -- you expect me to walk away from that one? At least I never thought I could take on an Immortal openly single-handed.
Well, obviously, since you'd not have been able to manage it with both, either --
[instead of retorting, Beren reaches over and collars him, hauling him over in a headlock -- this doesn't last more than an instant as Finrod breaks loose but can't quite manage to pin him, and they tussle like a much younger pair of siblings, trying not to knock into anyone else; meanwhile the three participants in four- footed tag come thundering up to the Hill, one deer being chased by Huan, the other chasing the Hound. The first deer leaps over the company to some annoyance and a futile protest by Nessa, and is about to be followed by its playmates, but the former owner of one of the miscreants raises her hand:]
Nerdanel: [to Huan, severely]
[the Hound freezes drops to a crouch at once at the foot of the hill looking guilty, as does the other deer -- the first fawn only circles around and starts bounding back and forth over the other two beasts, while the former King of Nargothrond and the former Lord of Dorthonion sit up and disentangle themselves looking (only slightly) abashed.]
Now we're in trouble.
Finrod: [trying to get his braids back into some kind of order]
My aunt wasn't scolding us.
Yeah she was.
Nerdanel: [lofty tone]
Mine injunction I made unto all creatures that did require such mandate.
[one of the fawns ambles up the hillside picking its way between people, to see if her hair is edible]
Beren: [elbowing Finrod]
[he works on straightening his lent cloak and tunic while the Elf-lord frowns at him with narrowed brows]
You ambushed me, Beor.
Yeah, you know, I'm surprised you Elves are still falling for that one. Hundreds and hundreds of years, you'd think you guys would've figured out some caution by now.
You're a caution and no mistake.
[he makes a darting grab at Beren, but catching at his maimed arm, fails to connect as the mortal easily slips free and then wrangles him again, disarranging his hair and knocking him over once more before they break off the scuffle, panting and laughing, leaning against each other's shoulders.]
Ah, you're a disaster, Beren! Should I throw sticks for you, next?
[(Huan looks up hopefully at this.) Amarie is having renewed doubts of their sanity.
Luthien is enjoying it as are the present Powers, immensely.]
What has gotten into you, brother? You never were like this before: sarcastic, flippant, -- silly! -- nothing seems to matter to you, now --
It's me. I'm a bad influence on everyone.
Oh come, I'm sure there's someone out there you couldn't affect --
Yeah, I doubt anyone could make Curufin worse than he already is.
Now there's a terrifying thought.
[Luthien clears her throat -- Beren checks, and looks more sincerely penitent. To Nerdanel, who is now feeding roses to the deer now sprawled across her lap like a greyhound puppy]
Oops. Sorry about that, ma'am.
Nerdanel: [benevolently dismissive]
-- Whelps, said I.
Besides, it's only the White Lady who'd hit you for that. And she isn't here so we're safe.
[enter Fingolfin, accompanied by Aredhel on his arm -- with Eol on her other side, in a shockingly civilized and amicable display]
When will you learn not to say such things?
[the company rises politely, if warily, as the scions of the elder branch of House Finwe approach. Fingolfin waves towards the couple in a formal introductory gesture:]
Fingolfin: [very seriously and courtly]
Gentles: my daughter, Aredhel, afternamed Ar-Feiniel, Princess of the City of Gondolin beyond the Sea, and her consort, Lord Eol of Nan Elmoth, of the kindred of Kings Olwe and Elu, Master Smith of Beleriand.
[bows are exchanged on both sides, in ritual courtesy, with an edge of uncertainty and disbelief on one side, and of uncertainty and defensiveness, on the other]
-- I request your gracious welcome to them both, as for myself, being kindred spirits of your own.
We bid ye welcome, then. Will ye sit down with us, so to partake of the refreshment our sweet Lady Nessa hath provided for our pleasure?
[there is an air of immense satisfaction and a point proven about both of the younger shades.
Eol: [inclining his head]
No, cousin, I think I will view the . . . interesting collage your relatives and associates have put together and attempt to discover some overarching theme or structure in it.
[to Aredhel, nodding towards the waterfall]
Care to join me, my lady?
[his consort looks narrowly at Amarie and Finrod standing together]
Mm, I'll follow . . . in a moment.
[he nods with a pleasant smile and saunters over to the mural, as she approaches her other kinsmen]
Aredhel: [in an undertone]
So she took him back, hm? What happened?
[none of the Lords of the West look at each other at all, before answering:]
He put a spell on her, like the Beoring did to cousin Luthien.
Then she slapped him again, just like at the wedding.
Then they had a swordfight.
Followed of course by a passionate kiss.
[the White Lady cuffs the nearer of her cousins]
Come on, what really happened?
Ingold apologized abjectly, on his knees.
Amarie couldn't help crying, much though she tried.
Then they kissed.
Then we heard about her shipbuilding projects, and my brother decided to give up the idea of being a hermit on a mountain in favor of life as a harp-playing vagabond on a houseboat. At least for now.
Aredhel: [giving him a shake]
No, tell me, what really happened? Stop making jokes!
Every word's the truth, Your Highness, my word upon it.
[Aredhel makes an exasperated exclamation and gives up, going over to survey the fountain sculpture instead -- the three ghostly lords of House Finarfin look at each other and shrug before breaking into laughter].
Luthien: [to the Ambassador, amazed]
Did you ever in a thousand years imagine that he could be that civil?
Finrod: [to his uncle, as his father nods agreement]
However did you manage it?
[the late High King of the Noldor sighs]
It came clear to me in these last few hours that for all his scorn of us (and others), he is but a proud Elf who desires respect, and to belong amongst those he deems his equals, and yet is too proud to temper his ways, lest he seem weak. I am -- somewhat familiar with the type.
How didst convey thy meaning, that did not give affront?
It was not so hard. -- I told him he was welcome, and though I should never like nor approve of him, still, as my daughter's choice, he now is family, and I might not deny his kin-right, without denying the truth of things, little though I cared to concede it.
It pleased her, that I ratified her choice, and that he yearned for recognition, as much as it pleased him to have the High King of the Noldor bow before him, and he . . . humoured her in her superiority to his yearning, and she permitted it. They were both . . . quite ironic, both to each other and to myself.
Amarie: [shrewdly, but a bit surprised]
And thou didst permit.
[Fingolfin nods; pause]
It requireth greatest strength, the stiffer a neck for to bend.
This present amicability will not last, for she is too hot and restive of spirit, he too cold and stolid of his ways -- but that's their lookout, as mortals say, not mine.
Belike on a day they'll waken, and behold themselves from a backward pace, so that seeing thus, remember that there's a greater world beyond their own thought of each the other.
[as everyone stares at her]
'Twas dull and drear, the whiles apart. -- Ingold, I blame thee greatly.
[she gives him a severe Look; he grins. To Fingolfin:]
Belike thou'd while away some of our slow-Doomed hours in this diversion thou dost cherish, and lesson me in this Art thou dost name chess, betimes?
[he is greatly touched by her act of compassion]
I would be pleased to entertain you, daughter, as perhaps you might betimes entertain myself as well, when the weight of thoughts of my past life burden me with reproach, and show to me these fair memories you have wrought from times with those we both well love --
[the Vanyar shade smiles, bowing her head almost shyly -- the Lord Warden of Aglon clears his throat]
Your Majesty? -- If I might be permitted to make a suggestion?
[at the High King's encouraging nod]
Teach her the mortal version -- the one where you win so long as someone survives to carry on the fight. Not ours, that's all-or-nothing.
Teler Maid: [approving surprise]
That is a most hopeful and cheering thought, of yours.
[he gives her a wary Look, but she is not paying attention to him -- nobody is, in fact, it begins to dawn on him. As the party reconfigures around the pair of newcomers, and slowly settles back down on the sward, the Lord Warden slips over to where the Princes are standing and beckons the Captain aside -- but then stands with clenched jaw, trying to bring himself to speak]
Can I help you, gentle sir?
[with an effort the Warden of Aglon returns, almost politely, except for biting off each word:]
I believe this is your cloak. Do you want it back?
[the other Elf looks him up and down]
No, that's quite all right.
[Aglon snorts and defiantly tosses it back over his arm in what would be a dashing look if the cape weren't a sodden mass. Pause.]
Look, I truly am sorry about your brother, but I've not encountered any sign of him here, and I don't have any helpful things to say. -- Except -- have you considered asking the Lord or Lady of the Halls?
I was going to ask Nienna, but she's vanished again. -- But that wasn't what I was trying to say.
[the Captain frowns]
-- Thank you.
Er -- I'd say "Welcome," only I'm not sure what it would be for.
Not for blows, I assure you.
Good learning experiences, assuming you survive 'em. And you got me a few times, don't forget.
Aglon: [suppressed fury]
One of you people shot me.
Well, yours did us, at that. Or are you complaining about someone cheating and using a Mark X back in "Under Stars"?
Aglon: [through his teeth]
Not games. At Mithrim. It had slipped my mind, until -- until the King brought it all up.
Not fatally, obviously.
No, but deliberately.
And laughed about it.
-- Anything more specific than that?
I was riding patrol on our side of the lake, morning twilight, and thought I heard something. As I rode over towards the rushes where the splash came from, an arrow came out of the fog, on the water, from a -- boat of some sort, some kind of a primitive vessel like a narrow tray --
-- hollow-log skiff, traditional, we did have those, used them in shallow draft --
-- and clipped me along the side of the head. I was nearly -- I was unseated, lost my balance and my horse spooked, and the spy -- spies -- took off across the lake before I could return a shot. And I heard laughter. Is that reminding you of anything?
Yes. I -- did hear something about that.
Who loosed that shot?
Captain: [looking up into the arches]
I can tell you this much -- the Elf who loosed that dart was only trying to startle, not strike, and had no idea that air density could vary so much and so unequally in the Old Country. In other words, it was partly an accident. The shooter was quite shaken up at the nearness of the miss, and rather ashamed of the whole incident afterwards, accidental kinslaying being quite as much frowned upon our side of that puddle, you see, and strictly avoided and such stupidity from then on.
Who was it?
Does it matter? The watchers were reprimanded by our lords and strict orders given concerning further sniping.
You know who it is.
Who? You're protecting someone, so he's got to be dead.
Or she. I didn't say.
It's one of you, isn't it? There's only one of you it couldn't be, and there's only a few of you who are likely suspects. You know.
[they match Looks, Aglon's suspicions plain in his face. The Captain maintains his innocent expression]
Or else it's you.
Does it matter now?
[the Lord Warden looks uncertain]
As compared to other things, at least. -- If you really won't have peace without knowing, I'll find out if I can tell you. Or go ask Himself, since that's what I'll do. But I'm wondering what getting dumped over your horse's haunches into a thicket and having a nick taken out of your ear amounts to, in contrast with . . . getting killed, for example.
[Aglon closes his eyes, though the Captain's tone was offhand, not reproachful at all. Brief pause.]
How will I ever face the people I -- failed?
When you know, you'll be ready to.
[reaches over and tugs the wet cloak over his shoulder and reclaims it, wringing it out (SFX - the water, as before, vanishing before it hits the floor) thoroughly]
Couldn't you have thought to take this off before dealing with the Sea-Mew? She doesn't think a day's well spent if someone hasn't ended up drenched by the end of it.
[folds it up into a small bundle, grimacing, and slings it over his shoulder]
Aglon: [reluctant admission]
I suppose it was pretty funny . . . when I tipped heels-over-head like a duck diving into that marsh.
So I heard.
[the Lord Warden grudgingly smiles, knowing he can't win this game; the other Elven-warrior looks at him thoughtfully, then nods towards the thrones of judgment.]
A suggestion -- ask the Lord himself your question, see what he knows about your brother. -- If you're up to it.
I'm no coward!
[gesturing to the grassy sward]
Sit down with us and have a drink. Or not, as you please. But I vow I'll not mock you -- any more than anyone else, that is.
That doesn't inspire much confidence.
[he goes along with the invitation, however. On the dais the Doomsman and Aule's Assistant reappear, Namo sitting down and taking out the "pager" version of the palantir looks at them together, shaking his head]
Of course he wouldn't have been able to make something that works, Sir. Invention should be left to professionals, not -- enthusiastic amateurs who have never devoted themselves to the necessary studies!
No, it works -- it's just that it's been scaled down so much that it's not noticable. That's the problem with reality versus planning -- some things don't become obvious until you actually try them out.
[to the security folks on the other end of the connection]
-- I understand you have our stray?
[over on the Hill, Finrod notices the activity and excuses himself from the conviviality to come over]
-- Ah. But you have him pinned down, at least, right?
"So to speak" -- ? What's that supposed to mean?
Yes, I'll wait here until you come explain in person. Right here. I promise. -- I don't see why you're being so mysterious about it.
[Finrod comes up kneeling to look at the palantir up close as its glow dims]
Obviously someone's slipped again and things are worse than they want to admit.
How do they work?
[Aule's aide gives him an arctic Look, to which he is totally oblivious]
I don't know. I didn'tMake them. I'm tempted to say "not very well" but that seems to be partly a paradigmatic problem involving the users as much as anything.
[the Assistant, with an offended sniff, vanishes.]
Finrod: [abstracted frown]
Hm . . . I wonder . . .
[looking at the stone intently, holds up his hand and makes it rotate slightly where it is resting on the arm of the Throne]
Can't tell without another one to test it against, anyway.
[looks up at the Doomsman]
Excuse me, my Lord, but I was wondering if I might trouble you with a small request?
You. You threatened to blow a hole in an exterior wall just a little bit ago. You turned my living room into an armed camp. You presumed to lecture me on moral philosophy as though I were one of your deranged relatives. -- Now you're asking me for favors?
Well -- yes.
What do you want now?
I was thinking I might dig around in storage and try to find the rest of those far-seeing gadgets, if you don't mind.
Oh no, just sometime, when things are settled. It isn't critical.
Do you know how much stuff is down there? I'm not going to spare anyone to go hunting up the things for you.
That's quite all right. I'm not in any hurry, and I'm not afraid of work. But it seems a shame to let them go to waste.
Okay. You can poke around there whenever you want. -- Just don't rearrange any of the walls. Do you understand? That isn't a suggestion.
But what if I notice some way that things could be more conveniently organiz --
Take it up with my wife, if and when that happens. -- Before you do it.
Yes, my lord.
[he bows flamboyantly and goes back to the others]
Namo: [sighing, shaking his head]
That kid . . .
[returning through the ordinary entrance and seeing him, his sister's Apprentice comes up to him, looking perplexed and troubled]
There you are. -- You don't have to apologize.
Er -- what for?
[the Judge only looks at him until he gets embarrassed.]
Ah. Yes. I -- wasn't, actually, my Lord.
I gathered that. What do you want?
I -- I don't want to seem critical, Sir, of how you handled things, but --
You're going to anyway. What do you think I should have done instead?
Apprentice: [waving towards the Elves]
It just seems rather -- unfair. You let them all talk thinking that things were one way, when you knew quite well that they weren't that way, and you could have told them so at the very start.
You mean that I should have cut them all off before they'd had the chance to have their say, overawed them into silence and just made them listen, instead of letting them tell me off?
Well, I -- but they wouldn't have had to say those things, and been forced into defiance -- apparent defiance -- or apparently forced into defiance, um --
And that would be a Good thing, eh?
[he looks consideringly over at where House Finwe is enjoying a convivial partial reunion, and back at his sister's follower]
I -- suppose it's better, this way. I don't suppose, I mean, it is better; but there was an awful lot of anguish and difficult personal decision-making involved, as a result, and pain which could have been forestalled if -- surely there must have been some way around all that?
That's not my job.
Did you know what she was going to choose?
Namo: [raising an eyebrow]
I've told you, I have no way of knowing in advance what mortals will decide.
[the Apprentice nods and continues towards the Hill, but then stops suddenly a few strides off, his expression changing to that of someone who just realizes that the joke's on him, and glances back at the Doomsman, who regards him calmly over his teacup. Shaking his head, the Apprentice goes off to the party just as the three Maiar demon-hunters show up again.]
So what's the deal?
We can't get at him, my Lord, without blasting. And we can't tell how far back he's gotten. Someone --
[gives Alatar a Look]
-- wanted to just start hacking off slopes from above, but fortunately wiser heads prevailed. I don't know anything about fault lines and shear planes, but at least I'm aware of that.
Where is he, exactly?
[they "unroll" a map of light and point to an area of topography. Flatly:]
Right outside my front door?
Afraid so, sir.
And it took you how long to find him?
We didn't expect he'd be hanging about here --
-- and it wasn't that long really, we reported in right away but no one ever got back to us.
And -- someone -- was suggesting the use of overwhelming force?
They were saying it was impossible to chivvy him out --
Without starting earthquakes, Swordboy.
[shakes her head in disgust, leaning on her spear]
Pallando: [putting away the map]
Your people have the cleft surrounded, and he hasn't shifted while we've been monitoring him, so we're pretty sure there's no other egress.
It's too narrow, though, to send in a squad with enough power to take him out.
And your first idea is to start blowing things up, of course!
[he tries to step on her foot, and she sidesteps and cracks him on the ankle with the spear-butt -- the Lord of the Halls clears his throat and they stop roughhousing guiltily]
Pallando: [dignified, trying to contrast with his teammates]
Before we sent for the Smith himself to open the earth, and our own C.O. to prod him out afterwards, I thought to ask you if you'd be available to try Summoning him first, Sir.
At last --
[he bangs his cup emphatically on the arm of his chair]
Someone asking for help instead of resorting to violence from the start. Maybe there is hope for the world.
I could have used this diversion earlier.
[he stands up abruptly, the teacup in his hand changing to a tall black staff, not a spear, but more impressive than the weapons of the three Maiar for its understatement, as his plain black outfit changes to something cloaked and flowing and heavily embroidered with silvery designs reminiscent of mystic sigils down the front of his vestments -- all very wizardly and striking in comparison to the glimmering armour of the demigods seeking his help. They vanish with another flash of light, causing those who are not regular denizens of the Halls to start and look over at the dais again. (Tulkas and Nessa are so caught up in each other that they're not noticing anything at all, though their displays of affection should evoke Botticelli-era-classical art, not a beach blanket movie . . .)]
What's going on?
Nothing much --
[as they are speaking Aredhel and Eol come up finally from their "museum-gallery" critique of the wall sculpture and join them; it is clear from the arrangement of the listeners that Finrod has commandeered the discussion again and is expounding at some length, and with some lack of reserve, on favorite topics:]
Looks like more'n that --
Just another rogue spirit scouting around the perimeter: probably one of Morgoth's unbodied followers given up on trying to eat the Sun and Moon and looking for an easier way of causing mischief.
That's "nothing much" -- ? And you give me grief for understatement?
They show up from time to time. Either they get driven off, or the Doomsman bags them and hands them over to Nienna.
Captain: [thoughtful frown]
-- Though there usually isn't this much excitement about it.
Well, usually, it isn't --
Finrod: [disregarding him, going on right over him]
As I was saying, the question is not whether but how --
[as the Steward is rather fixedly preoccupied in tuning his harp, and therefore Not Listening, the Sea-elf turns and tugs hard on the sleeve of the nearest of the Ten:]
Teler Maid: [urgent whisper]
What is a dragon?
Second Guard: [sighing]
Long story. -- Several centuries.
Like a Balrog, only different.
Finrod: [as the Apprentice twitches but restrains himself from speaking]
Nothing like a Balrog, by all accounts. -- Except for the fiery element in common.
-- Are you still going on about that foul monster?
Finrod: [calm emphasis]
The Dragon is beautiful.
Aegnor: [biting off his words in turn]
The Dragon destroyed us.
And was he not beautiful, as he did so?
[they cannot deny this; he goes on confidently]
When the Music is sung properly, the Golden One will be a bright and glorious strand in the Great Theme.
Morgoth made him. How can you think he belongs in the Song?
Morgoth gave him a body. He did not make him, nor his beauty, which must be a reflection of something in Glaurung's nature no less than his flame. What is good in him will endure -- must endure. You'll See.
I think -- I'm not the only one who's had too much to drink, Sir.
Fingolfin: [waving his hand dismissively]
No, no, my nephew argues this all the time. -- Usually with a modicum ofspurious modesty to ameliorate his certitude, but this claim is nothing new.
I would really like to hear you try to tell Fingon this!
Steward: [revealing that he has been listening despite himself]
Not all the time -- I calculate it as one fifth part of total debate, with an insignificantly-small variance.
See, I'm not the only one who exaggerates.
It's only the most easily-grasped, and hence objectionable, aspect of all the theory, in popular understanding.
I am not much more at ease with this thy fanciful and speculative theorem. How, in truth, sayeth Lord Namo concerning thy words?
Ah -- increasingly loudly, until he has to go do something else and we agree to continue the discussion another time. -- How do you and Ulmo manage to get on, with your stance on war? He's no pacifist, you do realize.
[she looks him in the eyes with lurking irony in her gaze]
We speak not thereupon.
-- What a novel idea.
What, not trying to verbally arm-wrestle people into agreeing with you? Who'd have thought of such a thing among the Eldar?
[he leans over and presses a penitent kiss onto his wife's bare shoulder, making her shiver deliciously]
I'll have to try it -- someday.
[she gives him an amused smile]
Next you'll be saying that Morgoth Bauglir is going to be renewed and given a part in this Second Music of yours.
Holdest such, my wiseling?
I don't know. I haven't Seen that.
Nerdanel: [very emphatic]
Oh, fie! Out on thee, malapert! Thou art surely not so noble as to have mercy upon yon black-hearted Fiend, that's less deserving of't than my poor wretched husband, else any that did haste them in his train -- forasmuch as thou wouldst lessen his suffering in aught of kind, even as to degree, thou dost mock all that his Theme have done to death, or pains endured, or endure them still! 'Tis no kindness in thee, but veriest unkindhearted, to wish an end to justice!
[she tosses her head angrily, in a striking display of passion for Feanor's reserved consort]
Finrod: [not offended]
My Lady Nienna pities him. When you condemn me, do you not condemn her no less?
[off to the side where the Youngest Ranger and the Archer are talking quietly, the latter suddenly checks as if remembering something, looking slightly alarmed]
Well, I should be back at work. So nice meeting you --
[he grabs up his quiver and bow in a rush and disappears summarily]
Youngest Ranger: [wonderingly]
I never thought of the phases of the Moon having anything to do with him losing track of time, too.
Do you even pity Celegorm, then?
Most times I don't think of him at all. It's easier.
I admit that I am weak. -- I don't hate him, though.
Angrod: [fierce aside]
Will you embrace him, too, and Curufin, if they ever return home, the way you seem to think we should welcome the Golden One in your after-the-after?
Finrod: [quiet smile]
I suspect that by then . . . we shall understand each other far better.
I must concede, the thought of you giving them future hell for me does not -- regrettably -- give me quite as much regret as it ought.
Aredhel: [seizing the wine-cup as it goes around before her spouse can]
Look at you twisting your way out of things again -- you're as bad as a wyrm yourself! You're not supposed to want harm for anyone living, but you can get away with it by having someone else want it for you.
Finrod: [shaking his head]
No, I'm not intending them harm. I merely have a different perspective: one outside our limited give-and-take of earthly necessity. I can admire the neatness of events -- the conservation of momentum, so to speak -- that will bring their Doom full circle, creating ironic justice in its fulfillment, without desiring it in the least. I won't be able to stop my brothers from doing what they like, once I'm alive. And, thanks to their actions, I can't do anything to keep my cousins alive now, either. There's Fate, for you.
Admittedly, it's just as well for all of our sakes that my involvement will be a moot question, by that time, so that revenge will not be a challenge presented to me.
Not you alone. I'm afraid the temptation would set me back a few thousand years -- unless they change beyond recognition by then.
[at this instant the Lord of the Halls of Mandos reappears, his brows drawn impatiently, his robes flaring as if from great haste.]
[this unexpected intrusion sends a spasm of alarm through everyone present: beverages are sent flying, animals scrabble wildly in all directions, various people shout in reaction, or lunge for weapons, or duck, (a few vanish briefly, even) while Tulkas leaps to his feet looking around for enemies -- unfortunately for Nessa sitting on his lap!]
Beren: [falling backwards in exaggerated relief]
Yeargh! Aahh --
[half-laughing, looks ruefully at the Lord Warden, who is hunkered down nearby with his arms folded defensively over his head, looking self-consicous]
Teach me to let my guard down, huh?
[short reproachful barks]
Teler Maid: [defiantly big-eyed as she sits perfectly still]
I was not frightened.
[Elenwe doesn't say anything -- her sardonic expression is perfectly eloquent as she helps Fingolfin put back the pieces of the chess game they had been working on between them]
Captain: [shaking his head, as he puts away his sword]
Sweet Cuivienen! Can't you have a little consideration for people's nerves?!?
[the Doomsman just Looks at him]
Er . . . I suppose we aren't the ones to complain, at that . . .
Finarfin: [blandly to his sons]
Naught but common matters, ye said, did ye not?
[Finrod, having been the unlucky party with the mead-horn when the interruption occurred, is coughing too hard to answer]
Oh, this happens all the time, Father.
Only usually it's Vaire shouting "Finrod!" instead.
Luthien: [frustrated, wringing wine out of her skirts]
You know, I really cannot wait to get home.
Tulkas: [to Nessa, desperately as he bends over her solicitiously]
I'm very, very, very sorry -- even sorrier than that, too --
Oh, stop it. Sit down again and kiss me.
[she smacks him on the shin, and glares at Namo]
You did that on purpose.
[Namo only leans on his staff, looking abstracted and impatient, not answering. Orome appears, with his two assistants]
You have a good fix on him?
[before Namo can answer, Tulkas' cupbearer also reappears, looking a bit rushed]
Gentles, Aule will be along in a moment -- they're just going to get the Chain now.
[Vaire and Irmo appear beside the Loom]
I'll set this up so that we can see what's happening and coordinate things better --
[Luthien gets up and stalks over to the Powers; Beren scrambles to his feet and trails after, followed by the rest of the party in combined curiosity and disgruntled outrage]
What is going on, and does it have any bearing on us, or can't it wait?
Yeah, that too, 'cause I was gonna ask if anyone was planning on shouting like that again and if so give us a warning first.
I heartily agree, milords.
Well -- ?
Namo: [regarding them with a strange smile]
Funny you should ask that. It seems we have a little problem. The being formerly known as Carcharoth, the Dreadful Thirst, "greatest wolf that will ever walk the world," et cetera, has ensconced himself not far from here and is . . . steadfastly resisting every effort of my people to extract him from his retreat. In fact, since you have some experience in that regard, Barahirion, perhaps you might be willing to . . . lend us a hand?
[Silence. Shocked stares.]
That was a joke.
[More shocked silence.]
Guess I'd better go saddle up.
-- Ready to finish the job, Blondie? Or you going leave it to me this time?
What? Just because I made a joke -- it isn't the end of the world.
No, -- it's just unprecedented, darling.
And not in the best of taste.
[he looks equally disbelieving and horrorstruck]
This rogue you've been chasing all this time -- is my Wolf?
Well, what's left of him.
[as everyone present has heard the story to some degree by now, nobody is looking particularly happy]
Finrod: [glares at him]
What use is it to know someone in the know, if they never bother to tell one what they know?
I started to, but you didn't let me finish.
[drawing himself up]
You got off on one of your rants again and there was no checking you.
I assumed you were just going to say something we already knew.
The Dreamer's right -- that was an abysmal joke.
No . . . no it wasn't.
[as they stare at him]
Not a joke. Our paths keep crossing -- there's no escaping it.
Beren! Don't you dare go all fey on me again.
Beren: [to Namo]
Why is he here? Don't Morgoth's servants have to go back to him, when they're killed?
Most of them do choose to take the easy way and stay in Middle-earth, yes.
Luthien: [angry and worried]
So why is he here?
A very good question.
[looking at her levelly]
Why did he not return to his Master's thought, in the usual manner, to be reembodied at Melkor's pleasure? Why, alternately, did he come most of the way, but not all the way, here, in answer to my Summons? Very intriguing.
Could it perhaps be that the fact that someone recently showed him mercy, while at the same time remaining his enemy, thereby confusing him? As well as the fact that the augmentations and enhancements bestowed on him by various means made him strong enough to resist both Calls?
[Luthien scowls, not liking the implication]
Whatever the cause, I now have on my hands a powerful and savage ghost who also happens to be suffering from an existential crisis.
So why doesn't he just give up and let us take care of him, then?
[Nienna appears, unruffled]
He's angry, and in pain, and feeling very betrayed, and quite fed up with existence. I can barely reach him at all. He needs a few eons just to sleep and heal, but he doesn't want to trust anyone right now, and he's mostly insane.
I can relate . . .
Where's he hiding?
He's found a crevice next to the foundation and is holed up there. I could drag him out, but that would set him back -- a great deal. But I'm afraid that's what we're going to have to do, for his own sake, because gnawing his wounds in the dark for a few Ages is going to be worse for him in the long run.
He can't hurt anybody now, can he?
He can't hurt us. Not permanently. I honestly don't know if he can do anything to you. He's discorporate now -- but so are you. I really was just joking. I wouldn't ask anyone else to do this.
It isn't your task.
I know where he's been -- I've walked the same path.
It's almost like we're the same, in a way -- he's his King's hereditary champion, he's the one who guards the way to the realm, the one nobody else could come near to, doing what he was born to, and all because of the Silmarils -- and getting killed for it, in the end.
[Finrod recoils again at the reminder -- but this time Amarie puts her hands on his shoulders, steadying him and snapping him out of his self-reproach at once]
Only he didn't choose it, at all. He had less of a say in it than me, and if I hadn't of gone for the Stone, he wouldn't've been made to stop us. It is my fault, in a way. And -- I was his sire, in a way, and so there's kind of a kin-thing going on between us --
[as his friends, living, dead, or Deathless, shake their heads urgently]
-- anyway, it falls to me, somehow, 'cause I do understand some, and I owe him somehow, and maybe I can go and talk him out of there. Maybe there's a chance that we can do this without another battle.
[looks at Luthien]
Will you help me? 'Cause the other thing I know is, I surely can't do it alone.
Beren. Don't be stupid.
[he looks crestfallen, all at once, giving up his plan; she shakes her head fondly]
Of course I'll help you. You don't have to ask that.
-- Yeah, I did.
I can't let you do this.
Can you stop us?
No. Only hinder you.
Do you think you should? After everything -- it only seems fair that I should help finish this.
Finrod: [very tense]
Isn't that what you said before? And look where it's gotten you, Beren.
Beren: [looking over his shoulder at his friend]
I learned from the best.
[small, knowing smile]
Hard example to live up to -- but I have to try.
[Finrod tries to say something and cannot]
Very well. In justice, I will let you go.