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A Boy, A Girl, And a Dog: The Leithian Script

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A Boy, A Girl, & A Dog:

The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project

aka “The Script,” “The Play of Leithian,” and “This Madness”…

(with apologies to Messrs. Shakespeare and Tolkien)

 

 

“For every minstrel hath his tune;
and some are strong and some are soft,
and each would bear his song aloft,
and each a little while be heard,
though rude the note, and light the word.”

—Lúthien Tinúviel to Morgoth, The Lay of Leithian, Canto XIII (J.R.R. Tolkien transl.)

 

 

 

 

The Leithian Script —— Why?

Well, it's more fun than the Cliff Notes…

Seriously, it was forged out of a combination of several consecutive retellings of the story, set into the wider Arda Mythos context on the fly, to younger, teenage Tolkien fans who had either not read Silmarillion or not lately; several particularly inane Usenet statements and a general tone of obliviousness cluelessness as to character motivations; and a free morning when I didn't feel like cleaning the house…

It had started as nothing more than the cartoon which accompanies it, the mental exercise of imagining how the throne room scene would appear if one were actually there to witness it having caused me too many fits of giggles not to inflict it on — er, share it with — others. Unfortunately, the rest of the scene insisted on playing itself out, and thus The Script was born…

Then, although it was only conceived as a one-off short sketch, I was urged repeatedly to keep going, which didn't happen until I finally figured out how to do this — it truly is a very complicated architectonic and stylistic construction, and not a simple matter of translation at all. Then a way to make it work, as a unified drama, occurred to me, and the madness went on…

Here I show you the ropes and pulleys, the gaffers and grips, making it all happen — that is to say, the textual citations, in-jokes, obscure/obligatory references, and terrible puns, along with interpretations & interpolations of Canon — and ultimately the answer to "Why?" such a project at all…

List of Abbreviations Employed Throughout:

  • JRRT - John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
  • LOTR - The Lord of the Rings
  • FOTR - The Fellowship of the Ring
  • TTT - The Two Towers
  • ROTK - The Return of the King
  • Silm. - The Silmarillion
  • HOME - the "History of Middle-earth" series of ancillary/auxilliary works by JRRT, collected and annotated by his son Christopher.
  • LB - The Lays of Beleriand, part of HOME
  • LL1 - the first Lay of Leithian fragment, contained in LB
  • LL2 - the second Lay of Leithian fragment, contained in LB
  • UT - Unfinished Tales
  • LT1 - The Book of Lost Tales, vol. 1
  • LT2 - The Book of Lost Tales, vol. 2
  • LR - The Lost Road
  • MR - Morgoth's Ring
  • Shaping - The Shaping of Middle-earth

ALL ACTS

Now, as far as The Script goes, overall I'm following the story and Canon as set forth in the 1977 Silmarillion, which as far as I can tell from subsequent reading is close to, if not quite identical with, the unpublished 1930 Silmarillion for the story of Beren and Luthien. However, I also have made massive recourse to the Fragments of the Lay of Leithian, written out in the last half of the '20s, mostly, and found in The Lays of Beleriand together with the earliest version of The Lay of the Children of Hurin, which I will refer to as LL1 and LL2, the latter being a revision of some of the cantos begun ca 1950. Generally speaking I will take the Lay Fragments as primary, though not always, when there are differences.

I have also utilized where I have found them relevant facts and information from elsewhere in the History of Middle Earth, where sometimes a small sentence or aside will provide vast insights into the connections or complications of the story. And, of course, there is the whole question of variations internally, which I treat by a) picking the versions I like best; b) acting as though the writings are actually translations of pre-and post-Atalantaean works recovered by Professor Tolkien, which have been mucked about with and partially mangled and partly forgotten and often rewritten, just like The Song of Roland and other real epics and romances of the Primary World. So The Script is, on one level, an attempt to harmonize these various rescensions of Canon, just as it is on another level an attempt to make the obscurer parts comprehensible to a modern audience.

Three things are important to remember: first, the Silmarillion version of Beren & Luthien is complete in length, but not in detail; secondly, the LB versions are not complete in length (what I would not give for the lost 3.5 cantos!) but much fuller in detail; thirdly, there are hints and crucial elements developed in the adjunct notes and summaries jotted down as Tolkien developed the plot more fully. But the LB is very hard to work with, due partly to the typeface and partly to the masses of interpolated scholarly commentary, which are useful on one level, but do not make for easy or fluid reading. And it's poetry in a high-medieval style, like that of the famous "Ubi Sunt" — which goes like this in part:

Were beth they biforen us weren,
Houndes ladden and hauekes beren
And hadden feld and wode?
The riche levedies in hoere bour
That wereden golden in hoere tressour
With hoere brightte rode……
Were is that lawing and that song,
That trayling and that proude gong,
Tho havekes and tho houndes?

which is not a style natural to us these days, (or most of us, at least) and requires some adjustment to be readable as a novel is to us. But oh, it has some grand stuff in it, and I at least enjoy "the character of its hero," and do not find it merely "a treasure chest of trivia," as the blurb on the back cover calls it.

He grew afraid amidst his power once more;
renown of Beren vexed his ears,
and down the aisléd forests there was heard great Huan baying.

Why did I choose to render it in a pseudo-Shakespearean format, modeled on Henry V with the device of the Narrator, Gower the medieval poet-historian, on loan from that play? Partly because it's fun to do neo-Elizabethan verse (at least for me) and partly because it allows me to add commentary and make connections past what information would be available to the characters at any given scene. And because it bridges well the divide between the epic story and the flippant modern style I've adopted, and provides an almost-plausible (I hope at least) framework with which to counteract the synapse-shorting dichotomies — in Henry V, Gower exists "outside time," speaking to the audience directly from the context of the theater group which is thus acknowledged to exist and to be merely portraying the events, and so the artificiality of the play-world is thus dissipated by recognition, and anachronisms and historical differences are likewise obviated.

In other words, Gower can talk about computer screens, and it isn't "wrong" any more than when he asks us to imagine that "this wooden O" is the battlefield of Agincourt or the hall of the King—

And so, I present:

 Cover picture

THE THRONE-ROOM SCENE OF THE LAY OF LEITHIAN

retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script (with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare)

 

Dramatis Personae & Cast, in order of appearance [this is how I'd cast them - you're free to supply your own actors, of course.]

    The Human Bard Gower (appearing courtesy of The Rose Playhouse) Derek Jacobi (appearing courtesy Henry V)

    Luthien aka Tinuviel, Princess of Doriath Claudia Black (appearing courtesy Farscape)

    Elu Thingol, King of Doriath Jeremy Irons (appearing courtesy Brideshead Revisited)

    Melian the Maia, Queen of Doriath Emma Thompson (appearing courtesy Sense & Sensibility)

    Beren Barahirion, Human Warrior Christian Bale (appearing courtesy Treasure Island, Little Women)

    Mablung, Captain of Doriath Ronald Colman (appearing courtesy The Prisoner of Zenda)

    Beleg Cuthalion, Elven Ranger David Niven (appearing courtesy The Prisoner of Zenda)

    Daeron the Bard, Elven Flautist Lani John Tupu (appearing courtesy Farscape)

    Citizenry of Doriath (nonspeaking parts) as themselves (appearing courtesy of Mandos)


 

Act 1: SCENE I

Gower:

Now 
envision wide upon this meager screen, 
the lofty arches of deep Doriath, 
where Elu Thingol, gray King of Elves 
and Melian the Wise his wife 
whose birth precedes the eldest stars, 
hold high court before their host. 
    --Let thy mind 
make of our panel white and keystrokes black 
Shining caverns, enlumened all with bright 
lamps of white gems all fashioned fair 
upheld by dragons carved and gilt, 
and water flowing o'er the stone 
like to a grotto fashioned of the gods 
where birds do sing beneath no sun -- 
    Here, 
into the shade of the holy trees 
Luthien Tinuviel doth lead her love, 
Beren the wanderer from out the woods, 
before her mother musing and infuriate sire 
before the assemblage of her friends and kin 
and doubtful Daeron that betray'd of love . . .

Luthien:

Mom, Dad -- this is my fiance, Beren.

Thingol:

Well, well, well.  So you're the fellow who's been camping in my woods this past year.  How did you get past the security system?

Beren:

Um? [distracted by the spears/crowd/nightingales/jewels/waterfall/trees/Melian]

How . . .?  I, er, just, erm, kept walking, and . . . then I was here.

Thingol: [thinking]

--Yeah, right. [aloud]

So, --Beren, is it? --what do you do for a living?

Beren:

Orcs.  Um.  I, uh, I hunt them.  Sir. [winces]

Thingol:

Really.  And do you foresee a long-term career in this . . . admirable venture of yours?

Beren: [desperate flippancy]

Well, I expect I'll be doing it the rest of my life.

Thingol: [not amused]

And this should impress me why?

Beren:

Well, my dad was a good friend of the King of Nargothrond, saved his life at the Siege of Angband, and they say I take after Da -- I might be useful to have around, is all I'm saying.

Thingol: [biting sarcasm]

In case you hadn't noticed, this isn't Nargothrond -- or do I look like Finrod Felagund to you?

Beren:

I, I don't know, sir; I've never met King Finrod --

Thingol: [forced patience]

--That was a rhetorical question, boy.  I'm saying I don't care who your friends-and-relations are, I want to know what you have to offer my daughter. I didn't raise Luthien to be a beggar or a wandering healer -- I expect her to take over the administration of Doriath after me.  We have lots of people who can kill Orcs, and with eons more experience than you've got, so I don't really see a place for your talents in our organization.

Beren:

Well, my parents ran a realm too, not as big as this, but nevertheless --

Thingol: [losing it]

Silence!  Impertinent puppy!  Can you give me one good reason why I shouldn't throw you into the labyrinth and delete the key?  Do you really expect me to believe that you've just been taking music lessons from my daughter in the forest?  I should chop you into pieces and chop the pieces into pieces! --unfortunately, you'd miss most of it --  

Beren: [nervously]

Um, I know this isn't the best time to remind you, but Tinuviel did say you'd promised me a safe conduct . . .

[pause]

Thingol: [lethally]

Who's Tinuviel?

Beren:

. . .

Luthien: [exasperated]

It's my nickname, Daddy.  Like yours is Thingol.  Because of my singing. And you did promise.  In front of witnesses.

Thingol: [raising voice]

--but as I was about to say, I stupidly promised her that I wouldn't kill or maim you (I can't think why, all she does is look at me and I give her whatever she asks for) but that doesn't mean I can't find other ways to keep you from getting at her, you empty-handed vagabond--

Melian: [mindspeech]

Ahem. Elu.

Thingol: [mindspeech]

--Yes, dear?

Melian: [mindspeech]

The good news is -- that he isn't a brainwashed slave sent here by our Enemy to assassinate you, kidnap Luthien or corrupt Doriath.

Thingol: [mindspeech]

Hmph. What's the bad?

Melian: [mindspeech]

That he isn't a brainwashed slave sent here by our Enemy to assassinate you, kidnap Luthien or corrupt Doriath.

Thingol:

!?. . . !?

Melian: [mindspeech]

He's just a boy who's fallen in love with a stranger he met in the woods.

[longish pause]

Thingol: [mindspeech]

--It was different for us...

Melian: [mindspeech, sighing]

It's always different...

[Simultaneous w/previous exchange: Enter the two chief warriors of Doriath.]

Beleg:

All right, all right, what's all the fuss?

Mablung:

Daeron, old boy!  Fill us in!

[Daeron gives a guilty start and almost drops his flute]

Daeron:

Erm.  Hullo, chaps.  It's that Man you were all out looking for. He just turned up.  --How did he get past you?

Beleg:

How indeed?  We figured he'd jumped the gate and made a run for it.  Done a bunk, as it were.

Mablung:

Right.  When was the last time anyone got past us, Strongbow?

Beleg: [thinking]

Mm, seventy-four years ago.  That wolf light-cavalry unit down the cliffs on the other side.  Didn't get far, though.

Mablung:

You sure it's been that long?

Beleg:

Sure I'm sure.

Mablung:

I don't remember all of that -- I think you've got an extra decade in there.

Beleg:

No, that was the winter before the winter that the borders got four cubits of snow and five of those things with six legs and two heads.

Mablung:

Anybody know what those things are?  What are they called, anyway?  Daeron?

[Daeron gives a guilty start]

You're the bard around here -- don't you know?

Beleg:

What's wrong with 'those things with six legs and two heads?' or better yet, 'those dead things with six legs and two heads' --?

[Melian gives them a Look, and they quiet down.  The conversation regarding a suitable dowry is just concluding.]

Beren:

So, if I brought back all three of them, and you had three daughters, would you let me marry all of them?  --Just curious, sounds like a real bargain on elf-princesses--

Luthien: [stage whisper]

Beren!  Shush!  I don't know how long it would take me to get you out of the labyrinth -- it might take a hundred years!

[Beren hushes up.]

Chapter Text

Act 1: SCENE II

Gower:

Now 
let us turn aside from counsels of the great 
and cast our thoughts upon the parting of the twain 
whose love enduring should downcast 
the powers of earth and e'en the gods . . .

[The hall before the main gates.  Beren is pacing and ranting in nervous aftershock; Luthien holds his hand, anchoring him, compass-like]

Beren:

I had it all planned out.  I was going to say -- ‘I've been engaged in a systematic program of destabilization targeted at the most vulnerable areas of Morgoth's regime, combined with a low-impact lifestyle which honors traditional Sindarin folkways and combines high efficiency with respect for Arda.'  That would have sounded halfway intelligent. And I completely lost it.  I must have been hyperventilating: I thought there was this -- glowing light around your mother.

Luthien:

You could see that?  Most people don't notice.

Beren:

Y--your mom glows.  --Why?

Luthien:

It's only when she's using her Power.  She doesn't try to show off or act like she's different from Eldar, really.

Beren: [confused]

You're an Elf -- but she isn't?

Luthien: [surprised]

She's Maiar.  Doesn't everyone know that?

Beren:

! . . . ! [shaking his head]

I thought it was bad enough learning your father's the king -- now I find out your mother's a goddess --! [starting to hyperventilate]

Luthien:

It's okay.  I think she likes you.  The fact that you got past her Maze without going mad means you're Good.  --I pointed that out to my father.

Beren:

I'm afraid it didn't convince him.

Luthien:

He really isn't like this.  Well, he is sort of paranoid -- but he does have reasons for that.  Given that people keep ambushing and betraying and trying to destroy us -- and those are our relatives, not the Dark Lord's minions.

Beren: [starting to rant again]

He doesn't think I have a chance -- but I can do it.  I made it through the borders; I can sneak into Angband.  Frontal assault didn't work because it's too obvious.  Well, and the Dragon and the Balrogs and the being outnumbered part of it, too.  --Maybe I'll go disguised as a slave.  They'll never expect anyone trying to get in, not out . . .

Luthien:

Beren, you don't have to prove anything to me.  Let's just go. We can take care of ourselves -- we don't need civilization.

Beren:

No. Your dad's right.  I can't do that to you.  Argh!  Now I understand my parents' dilemma.  Poor Ma . . .

Luthien:

I should go with you.

Beren:

No!  If anything happened to you I'd kill myself.  You -- you can't imagine what it's like out there.  The -- the spider-things and the things with the eyes . . .

Luthien:

But it's okay for you to go.

[pause]

Beren: [quietly]

It's got to be easier the second time. And I've been doing it for years.

Luthien:

Why don't you go ask Finrod Felagund for assistance?  He likes humans, and he owes your family.  At least he'd give you supplies and maps.

Beren:

Good idea.  I should have thought of that.  --Are you going to be all right? Are your parents going to make your life hell while I'm gone?

Luthien:

What are they going to do?  Lock me up in my room?  I'm not a child of ninety.

Beren:

I wish we had some way to contact each other.  Even a pair of those matching knives like in stories.  --You don't have anything like that here, do you?

Luthien:

No, that's magic, not reality.  --I should go with you.  You need someone to look after you --

Beren:

--Tinuviel, I'm coming back.  No matter what happens, I'm coming back to you.

Luthien:

I'm counting on it.  I'll be waiting for you, Beren.  Forever.

Gower:

And here we draw the curtain dark 
across our scene of parting and desire; 
Of all that follows after, legend and song alike recount, 
to keep in mortal mem'ry what the gods remember still -- 
how Luthien the elven-maid, and Huan hound of heaven, 
with Beren for love brought down the walls of hell 
and freed the First-light from dark Morgoth's claws 
and wove into the workings of the worldis Doom 
a brightling strand that shineth yet, despite 
(or through) the feeblest efforts of the bards. 
      Thus 
asking your gracious pardon for this flight of fancy, 
having proffered in hopes of gentle diversion, 
we end this our humble file.  Adieu! 

Chapter Text

Act 1: EPILOGUE

[Outside the opening of the Caverns leading to the Palace. To either side lean the Captain and Bowman of Doriath; they are playing a game similar to 'Rock-Scissors-Paper' but with edged aerial objects.]

Beleg: [between throws, leadingly]

Oh, oh, wait -- I know what they are.

Mablung:

What?

Beleg:

In a word? --Fell.

Mablung:

Heh.

[Beren enters through the gates, slowly, looking backwards, oblivious to the knives being tossed to and fro.]

Beleg:

Careful there --

[In a flash Beren transforms from distracted lover to superwarrior, spinning round and drawing sword and dagger at once to ward against all comers. Seeing the Doriath Rangers he remains in guard position while he speaks.]

Beren:

What are you doing here?

Beleg: [reasonably]

Waiting.

Beren:

For what?

Beleg:

Just waiting.

Beren: [lowers blades but does not put them up]

You're here to see that I leave the grounds promptly and without any trouble, right?

Beleg: [shrugs]

Something like that, yes.

Beren:

Something exactly like that, I'll bet.

Beleg:

Clever lad. You'll go far, I shouldn't doubt.

Beren:

Don't.

Mablung: [sotto voce]

But will you come back again, I wonder?

Beren:

Nothing -- and no one -- is going to stop me. --I don't expect you to believe me.

Mablung:

So you're really off to infiltrate Morgoth's bunker? Defy the Lord of Paranoids himself, succeed where even Feanor (not to mention the Great of Arda) went down in flames?

Beren: [defensive]

Yup.

Mablung: [guessing wildly]

And you're what, all of fifty summers?

Beren: [still more defensive]

Twenty-five. I think. --Wish me luck, why don't you?

Mablung: [seriously]

Oh, we do. We do indeed.

Beren: [disbelieving]

Hmph.

[He turns and starts to walk off.]

Beleg:

Ah, not to be overly critical, but Angband's that way, not the way you're going.

Mablung:

--Unless he's thinking of swinging by Nargothrond first.

Beren:

Clever fellow. Any final words of advice or farewell?

Beleg:

Hm...'Be careful'?

Mablung:

'Good luck'?

Beleg:

--Yourself?

Beren:

Tell them that I won't come back empty-handed, and that they will see me again.

Mablung:

Beren.

[They lock stares. Pause.]

--The light of Elbereth go with you.

Beren: [serious]

Thank you . . . Sir. --Look after her for me.

Mablung:

We always do.

Beleg: [sotto voce]

We try, at any rate.

[Beren looks round, pulls himself together, and vanishes into the forest.]

Beleg:

Did you see how he did that?

Mablung:

You neither, eh? --Twenty-five. [shakes head]

Beleg:

Think we'll see him again?

Mablung: [shrugs]

I'm no seer.

Beleg:

Same here. Definitely. Herself, as well.

Mablung:

You saw that too, eh? What do you think will come of it all?

Beleg:

Oh, death, destruction, woe and lamentation.

Mablung:

The usual, then. --This place is starting to get to me again. Up for a warg-hunt, Strongbow old chap?

Beleg:

Silly question. Whenever not?

[They leave, strolling leisurely. Luthien appears in the doorway.]

Luthien: [softly]

Beren, you've made me see time as a mortal woman does. It's been an hour already! How will I survive a day -- a week -- a year? Come back soon, my love, and safe, or I promise you I'll follow you to the ends of Middle-earth -- or the stars.

[fade to black]

Chapter Text

ACT I. AN APPOINTMENT IN MENEGROTH:THE THRONE-ROOM SCENE OF THE LAY OF LEITHIAN

The title of course refers to the traditional story "An Appointment in Samara" with its invocation of Fate and the ironic consequences of elaborate precautions to avoid it. It is told in Silmarillion how Elu Thingol, King of Doriath, in justifiable apprehension of the consequences of having scads of ambitious, powerful, talented, troublesome relatives and their entourages grabbing up territory on all sides, refused to open his borders to the returning Noldor and warned them against displacing the native peoples of Beleriand.

We are also told that he had had premonitions in prophetic dreams of doom and destruction concerning mortal Men and the future of Doriath, and so unlike others of the lords of the Eldar, refused to allow Men into his kingdom or into his service at all. Read the Silm. chapter "Of the Coming of Men into the West" to get a lot of backstory on the political situation of Beleriand (which is a lot more interesting than modern Earth politics, since we don't have Oracles and acknowledged Powers involved in the affairs of nations these days) and the foreshadowing of Doom in the conversation on all this between Melian and her apprentice, Finrod's little sister Galadriel…

Act I, being very brief, is really a quite straightforward take on the scene as presented inSilm. and LL1, my own interpolations and emendations being limited to two (besides the fact that I've "translated" the dialogue into the modern style) of significance.

The first is the presence of Mablung and Beleg at the Court — although they are not specifically mentioned, and given the rather unregimented style of Doriath could well have been anywhere in the realm, I chose to include them for several reasons. The foremost is to provide a foreshadowing/unifying to the end of the story, as they are, so to speak, "in at the kill" and involved deeply along the way — also, introducing them as ancillaries to the scene allows for a slightly less entangled version/vision of events than is available to any of the participants, including Daeron, whose wierd behavior we are told has been noted, if not understood, by other people in the community.

The second is assuming that the description of Beren in LL1 as making his dramatic exit and farewell to Luthien so abruptly before the thrones of King and Queen is more bardic traditional than historically literal — I consider it justifiable artistic license to give them a longer and semi-private leave-taking, as the Doriathrin aren't monsters nor is saying goodbye anywhere else in the story ever shown to be quick or easy any more than for lovers today — "There isn't enough room for all the truth in songs," is a saying I've heard, and any comparison, or simple consideration, of the needs of narrative compression will prove this.

 

Scene I

 

"brainwashed slave" — this refers to one of the major security concerns in Silm. ("Of the Return of the Noldor"), where it is described as Morgoth turning the power of his eyes on any of the Eldar he could take alive, and so daunting them "that they needed chains no more, but walked ever in fear of him, doing his will wherever they might be." This fact features majorly in the Nargothrond interactions, when the sheer number of freed thralls, and the fact that they're escorted home by Huan, makes it darn hard to ignore them or turn them back at the borders. It also features not insignificantly in the Gondolin story… It's my assumption that one of the uses of such victims, in addition to the canonical use as spies, would be as assassination attempts, (perhaps unwarranted and caused by too many viewings of Manchurian Candidate, but I doubt it.)

 

 

"different for us" — referring to the story of Thingol's meeting with Melian and their subsequent marriage as related in Silm. and LL1. Er, it wasn't that different, really.

 

 

"labyrinth" — Thingol does threaten to trap Beren in the maze of the Girdle, and hence avoid technically breaking his promise to Luthien, which Beren calls him on, (whether it would have worked or not, now that they knew he was there, is an open question), comes from LL1. Beren's compulsive mouthing-off to powerful people who mean him no good is Canon from Silm, but even more amplified in LL1.

 

Scene II

 

Again, pretty obvious, I tend to think. For amendation, only the assignment of the suggestion/reminder to seek out Finrod Felagund for assistance to Luthien is really mine. Beren is certainly no fool, but the creative genius of the pair is Luthien, and particularly considering the stressfulness of the recent scene, it isn't a stretch to think her cool-headed enough to make the association for him.

 

 

"low-impact lifestyle" — what, you think that's funny? That is exactly what he's been doing, and no more. (—Okay, it is supposed to be funny…)

 

 

I get the impression that Luthien never talked about her family because she just assumed everyone in Doriath knew who she was, and that Beren assumed she was on her own completely, until the fateful moonlit evening when she says, "My parents want to meet you…"

"—You have parents? —Here?"

 

 

"my parents' dilemma" — Emeldir, called "Manhearted", would rather have stayed and died fighting in the defense of their homeland at the side of her husband and son — yet duty compelled her to take the last survivors of Dorthonion out of the war zone to shelter with her mother's side of the family in Hithlum. Included among those were her two nieces, Morwen and Rian, who will later marry Hurin and Huor of the House of Hador; they and their children of course are famous and infamous in their own rights; qv. the stories as told in Silm. of the Children of Hurin, and The Fall of Gondolin.

 

 

I wrote this before I was aware that there was a statement anywhere in HOME that fifty was the ordinary age for getting married right away, as early twenties in the present day and mid teens in past centuries — being aware that Elves age slower than mortals to begin with, and simply looking to find a fraction of millennia+ that would be equivalent to "too young" — and absurd given that Luthien is almost a millenium and a half old; so I should possibly change this. However, that is for Aman, after all, and might not be the same in Middle-earth.

 

EPILOGUE

 

"Fell" — this entire exchange refers to both the continual assaults on the outskirts of Doriath beyond the Girdle which accompanied Morgoth's unresulting efforts to see past Melian's defenses, and the horrible mutative effects which occurred along the northern borders where the residual traces of Ungoliant's time there not only corrupted the environment but interacted with Melian's power and created, we are told, still more hideous things which only grew worse as time went on. (They weren't half so bad a few generations ago when Haleth led her people through to Brethil, for example.) I don't know that any of them were multi-headed monsters, but in the vague descriptions of the half-seen creatures of Dungortheb it is implied that they had more eyes than creatures should, and not all of them were spiders…

 

 

The Captains of Doriath have had some encounters with mortals — Beleg, for example, took a relief force to help the Haladin during the aftermath of the Dagor Bragollach into Brethil some seven or eight years prior to this occasion, when Tol Sirion fell to Sauron — but as the Haladin live outside Doriath proper (obviously) and keep to themselves, even as the people of Doriath, at this point in time it is unlikely that they would be terribly familiar with Men, unlike the Elves of Fingolfin's House and of Nargothrond.

 

 

"Twenty-five" — Beren's age is never given in the stories themselves, and only according to early and rather doubtful chronologies is any mention made, from which it is said that he was thirty when he began the quest. However, according to the Silmarillion, the sixth generation of the Edain was not yet fully grown, when the Dagor Bragollach erupted, and as far as I can work out it is ten years, between the battle and Beren's arrival in Doriath — two years after the battle when Tol Sirion falls to Sauron, and Emeldir takes the children and other women left into the western mountains; four years after that when Sauron is sent in to personally deal with the Dorthonian Rebels, and Barahir is killed with his men; four more years that Beren wages a lone war against the Enemy, and then about a year and a half that he lives in Doriath, from his arrival after the winter crossing of the mountains to seeing Luthien for the first time in the summer, to the following spring when they meet, up to the end of summer when they are betrayed.

Hence I give his age as "about twenty-five" because that would make him fifteen at the Dagor Bragollach — any older, and I cannot see any reason why he would not also go with the muster to the Leaguer, like his cousins — and that would make the explicit statement that Finrod recognizes him without need of token an irrelevance not worth mentioning; obviously the King would recognize someone he'd met before. "About" because after living so long in the wilds without human companionship, no communal events or celebrations, calendars would be essentially irrelevant to him, and similar seasons flow together.

 

 

Beren's remarkable outdoorsmanship is repeatedly invoked in the Lay — he is described as being "elf-wise in wood" as well as "tireless on fell, light on fen," — and there is a supernatural aspect hinted at, in that he is protected by the trees, the free beasts and birds, and even by the obscure spirits of the place that inhabit the rocks and wilds of his homeland. This is of course something that deserves a great deal more consideration, and comparison to the archetypes both of folktale and mythology; but for the present I will only remark that for him to remain unobserved, though granted in a deserted border region of Doriath, for several seasons, and to be uncaught even when his presence is revealed by Daeron and the King sends search parties to arrest him, until he arrives voluntarily with Luthien at court, indicates that there is no exaggeration and that he is at least the equal of an Elven Ranger.

 

 

Doriath really does run in this rather informal way — after all, they have enjoyed an impenetrable security system for centuries upon centuries — and in the story of Turin it is related how Beleg would spend time at any of various lodges he had around the kingdom, or staying with friends, while in the account of the Nirnaeth it is told that after Thingol refused to send troops to the war where they would be serving alongside the House of Feanor, both Mablung and Beleg object that they can't just stay on the sidelines of history, so he says to the effect of "Oh, all right — just make sure you march with some other commander, okay?"

 

 

Luthien's final speech is not a throwaway line. Remember this bit: it will come back to haunt everyone.

FRONTSPIECE — "Meeting the Parents"

(Some of the detail here is far clearer in the full-resolution version for printing, which will open in a new window, and is about 900 KB.)

This is the heart of it all — the original scene that endeavored to explain why, justpossibly why, on the most basic level, Thingol and Melian might not have been entirely thrilled over their daughter's choice of prospective husband. Your brilliant, talented, grown-up daughter it never occurred to you not to trust on her own, shows up with a (significantly!) younger guy, who just happens to be homeless, jobless, broke, and living in your woods for the past year. The fact that for the past half-dozen years and more he's been a guerrilla warrior and besides owning no other property than the armor and weapons he's wearing, has no other skills to offer besides killing monsters is just going to be added insult — most parents are not going to be leaping ecstatically up to welcome him into the family, regardless of race and immortality issues, oracular forebodings, or anything else. Not in my experience, at least…

This sketch is a little rougher than the ones which followed, as it was only a dashed-off idea, essentially, and I'd never done a cartoon at all. But the intent is to convey the organic and woodland style of Menegroth, together with its brightness and glory, contrasted with the utter scruffiness of Beren and how far out of place he is there — at least superficially. And you may notice a slight ancient-classical influence in Melian's costume, as in Luthien's — this is deliberate, and refers to the archetypal antecedents of women of divine origin met in groves of nightingales and offering wisdom and song, or taking earthly lovers. Remember, JRRT was a trained and practicing Classicist before devoting his life to other projects…

Tulkas, of course, is the Power you want on your side when you need someone pounded but maybe not necessarily to go into too much detail about why — the Wrestler is loyal, brave, enthusiastic, but he's not terribly much interested in the finer ins and outs of theory and so forth!

And yeah, Luthien does pretty much start out thinking that simply meeting Beren will be enough to convince her family of how wonderful he is — I wouldn't call her dumb, myself, though, but rather that she expects the best from the people she loves, the same high standards they've raised her to believe in, and is sadly disappointed…

 

Chapter Text

THE SOJOURN IN NARGOTHROND FROM THE LAY OF LEITHIAN

retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script (with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare)

 

Dramatis Personae & Cast, in order of appearance [this is how I'd cast them - you're free to supply your own actors, of course.]

    The Human Bard Gower (appearing courtesy of The Rose Playhouse) Derek Jacobi (appearing courtesy Henry V)

    Beren Barahirion, Human Warrior Christian Bale (appearing courtesy Treasure Island, Little Women)

    Nargothrond Border Patrol Captain Hugh Jackman (appearing courtesy Kate & Leopold)

    Steward of Finrod's Household Alan Rickman (appearing courtesy Sense and Sensibility)

    Curufin, Son of Feanor James Marsters in sly, caustic and vicious mode (courtesy Mutant Enemy)

    Celegorm, Son of Feanor James Marsters in suave, charming, and gentlemanly mode (courtesy Mutant Enemy)

    Huan of Valinor Special guest appearance as Himself

Finduilas, Princess of Nargothrond, daughter of Orodreth Gelsey Kirkland (appearing courtesy the Baryshnikov Nutcracker telecast)

    Orodreth, Prince of Nargothrond Hugh Grant (appearing courtesy Sense and Sensibility)

    Finrod Felagund, King of Nargothrond Kenneth Branagh (appearing courtesy Henry V)

    Celebrimbor, Son of Curufin Alexis Denisof (appearing courtesy Mutant Enemy)

Gwindor, a Lord of Nargothrond Ioan Gruffudd (appearing courtesy A&E's Horatio Hornblower series)

    Assorted Nargothronders of both Houses: Rangers, Citizens, and Knights

(Caranthir, Son of Feanor, only appears in conversation; but you may imagine Douglas Fairbanks Jr., courtesy The Prisoner of Zenda, in that role.) -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Act 2: SCENE I

Gower:

From Doriath's enchanted gloom 
let now your unfetter'd fancy roam 
to where the silver waters merge 
of Sirion, and the marshy verge 
of Twilight, and beyond 
across the rugged rainswept hills 
to Narog, and to Nargothrond: 
Hither wary Beren draws, 
with blood-won token ever shown 
to the sight, as yet unseen, 
of those who guard, in green 
of forest from enemy -- alone 
he comes into their hands; yet finds 
a gentler grasp and more courteous minds 
than welcomed him in Thingol's halls. . .

[Outside the Gates of Nargothrond. Enter Beren, escorted by the Rangers, but unbound.]

Captain:

Forgive me, sir, but you must leave your weapons with us. It isn't permitted to go armed into the presence of the King.

Beren:

Of course. Hold on a minute -- [He hands over his bow, quiver, longsword, shortsword and dagger]

Captain: [relieved]

Thank you for being so understanding about this. Now if you'll just come this way --

Beren:

Not done yet. [taking assorted dirks from vambraces, leggings, belts and backpack.]

Captain: [staring at the mounting pile]

Oh...Is there more?

Beren: [working poniards out of cloak hem and hand-guards]

Yup.

Captain:

Is -- is that everything?

Beren: [muffled, struggling out of his armor]

No, there are still the backups, but you'll have to wait a bit. [takes another several pounds of metal from undertunic, sleeves, waistband]

That should do it.

Captain:

Your trustfulness -- astonishes one.

Beren: [shrugs]

I'm here to ask for help. Weapons not going to be very useful for getting that, right? And I seriously doubt there are going to be any Orcs around here to worry about.

Captain: [affronted]

Certainly not!

Beren:

Exactly.  But I have to say I'm a bit surprised at your trust, myself.

Captain:

? . . . ?

Beren:

Well, you don't know that I am who I say that I am. I could be a minion of Morgoth waving Barahir's ring about and claiming to be his heir. It -- is not -- an impossible scenario.

Captain:

Ah. Well. I do suppose it's -- remotely possible, but --

[He is saved from the increasing awkwardness by the entrance of the Steward.]

Steward:

I'm sorry, but the King is still tied up in meetings and he left strict orders not to be disturbed.  If you wouldn't mind waiting until he's free, you can make yourself comfortable in the antechambers, and someone will fetch you when the council's over.

Beren: [overcome]

[nods]

Steward:

Is there a problem, milord?

Beren: [hoarsely]

--No. Not a problem. I . . . I wasn't expecting such a civil reception.

Steward:

We may be at war, but that is scarcely an excuse for neglecting basic courtesy.

Captain: [drily]

--Especially when it's been going on for almost half-a-millenium now. It's not as if anything's changed lately.

Beren:

Believe me, I'm not complaining, sirs.

Steward:

Then, milord, if you'll be so good as to follow us?

[aside, to the Captain of the Border Patrol]

--Are you sure?

Captain: [shrugging]

So he says.

Steward:

But--

Captain:

I know.  --I know.  But mortals don't come back, or so he says -- and he should know.

 

Chapter Text

Act 2: SCENE II

Gower:

Now for the mean, whilst under distant shade 
sadly in duteous piety doth pine the maid 
Luthien, waiting for her love (or tidings of), 
the son of Barahir finds ease, and welcome, 
if not from all in Nargothrond, at least from some—

[The Steward ushers Beren into the royal apartments.]

Steward:

Please make yourself comfortable, milord. I only ask -- and please take no offenses, 'tis but for form's sake -- that you remain here and not wander before the King summons you.

Beren:

Not at all. I don't imagine I'd want to trip your security system.

Steward:

Precisely. What would you care for, while you wait? A change of garments? There's probably time for a hot bath, if you wish -- these councils often go far beyond what's planned.

Beren:

Er, food, actually.

Steward: [blinks]

Of course. What sort pleases you best? Manchets? Subtleties? Viands spiced and minced--

Beren:

-- Hot is fine.

Steward:

Just -- hot?

Beren:

If it's not too much trouble.

Steward:

No, I'm sure the chefs can manage -- hot.

[The Steward leaves, shaking his head. Beren wanders about, looking at the artworks and Really Cool Stuff around the chamber, being careful not to touch anything.

[Room Service enters with a steaming tray and lays out a complete place setting before leaving. Beren looks at the table, looks at the chairs, looks at the state of his clothes. Makes a cursory attempt to brush off the assorted rust, mud, blood, and grass stains, shrugs, and sets the tray down on the floor instead. Sits down cross-legged and starts uncovering dishes.]

[Enter Curufin, alone, looking around for someone else.]

Curufin: [noticing Beren]

--Well, well, well, what have we here? Something the dogs dragged in? Looks like a wolf's-head to me.

[Celegorm enters]

Celegorm: [flinging himself down casually into a chair]

I agree, brother. A thief at best, or possibly a revolutionary. Someone with little respect for law and order, I dare say.

Beren: [blandly polite]

Yeah, that's what they say. Or so I'm told.

Curufin: [sinking gracefully into another chair]

You're mortal, aren't you?

Beren:

Mortal enough, to my enemies.

Curufin:

I make the jokes around here. --Mortal.

Beren:

Go right ahead.

[He picks out part of the meal and starts eating. Curufin and Celegorm stare. Celegorm grins evilly and whistles. Sound of clicking on floor outside. Huan enters.]

Celegorm:

You'd better run -- he hates wolves, and wolf's-heads, outlaw.

[Beren does not move.  Huan approaches and snuffles him; Beren gives him some of the meat from his tray.]

Beren:

-- Aren't you a good boy?  Want some more?

Huan:

[wags tail]

Beren: [scratching Huan's ears]

Dogs are great. Big dogs especially. --You don't really think I'd be in here without permission, do you? I'm waiting for your King.

Celegorm:

Huan! Get over here.

[Huan reluctantly leaves Beren and flops down next to Celegorm with a sigh]

Not our King. Not all of us here owe allegiance to the children of Indis. What are you, an emissary from the Kingdom of Beggars? Our hosts had better look to the number of spoons they have left when he leaves.

Curufin:

I've heard there are primitive tribes in some of these ancient forests.

Beren: [between mouthfuls]

That one was pretty funny.  Not first-rate, but mildly amusing nonetheless.

[the Sons of Feanor talk as though he has not spoken]

Celegorm:

Yes, don't they rub mud in their hair?  And they're supposed to be short, too.

Curufin:

But they paint their faces, and I don't see any paint on his face.  Of course, it's hard to tell with all that dirt...

Beren:

You know, I heard Elves were supposed to be incredibly eloquent, and wise, and perceptive on top of that.

Celegorm:

If you're not a barbarian, why are you sitting on the floor eating with your fingers instead of a knife?

Beren:

Ah, because--

Curufin: [talking over him]

This is called 'furniture'. That --

[pointing]

-- is a 'table'.  One sits at it to eat, not next it.  On these things called 'chairs'.  They're really quite the rage now in civilized society.

Beren:

Chairs . . . You know, I think I remember those.  We used to have some when I was a kid.  --They burn really well when you can't go out to cut wood because there's a horde of Orcs in the way.

Curufin:

Insolent mortal, do you have any idea whom you're addressing?

Beren:

No, but I expect you're going to tell me.

Curufin:

I am Curufin, formerly of Valinor, and this is my estimable brother, Celegorm.

Beren:

--Oh.

[aside]

(Damn!)

Curufin: [smugly]

Ah, you've heard of us, I see?

Beren:

Everyone's heard of the Sons of Feanor.

Celegorm: [preening]

Look at that -- we're renowned even among mortals, brother.

Curufin [suspicious]

What exactly do you mean, everyone's heard of us?

Beren:

Let's just leave it at renowned, okay?

[aside]

(-- and leave out the 'psychotic obsessed losers' part . . .)

[He waves a small piece of meat sneakily behind his back.  Huan gets up and starts to come over to him.]

Celegorm: [sternly]

Huan! Down!

Huan:

[whines]

Celegorm:

Whose dog are you, anyway?

Beren:

I'm no man's dog -- or Dark Lord's.  --Sir.

Celegorm:

I was not speaking to you.

Beren:

Good.

Curufin:

You've quite the opinion of yourself, haven't you?

Beren:

I know my limitations.

[The Sons of Feanor scowl, trying to work out if this is supposed to be an insult.  Beren tosses the meat to Huan, who catches it.]

Huan:

[tail thumps]

Celegorm: [angrily]

Stop feeding my dog!

Beren:

Maybe you should take better care of him. [throws another piece to Huan]

Then he wouldn't be so hungry.  --Would you, boy?

Huan:

[loud tail thumps]

Curufin:

So, I assume all this . . . artistic slovenliness. . . is just an affectation?

Beren: [swallowing]

Come again?

Curufin:

Well, you're turning up your nose at the finest venison there.  It isn't as if the hounds didn't already get their share at the kill.

Beren:

I don't eat meat any more.

Celegorm: [flabbergasted]

Why ever not?

Beren:

I only hunt Orcs these days, and other things that fall into the general category of fell. And before you go there, no, I don't eat Orcs. Or wargs, or spiders.

Curufin:

You didn't answer the question.

Beren:

Orcs kill anything that moves -- and eat them, too, unless under strict orders to bring back prisoners alive.  For one, it's a way of maintaining a difference between myself and what I hunt, when -- as you've so kindly pointed out -- in terms of civilization I haven't much footing left. For another, I can't help but identify with anything hunted by Orcs. It seems wrong, somehow. Treacherous, even -- I couldn't begin to tell how often I've been warned of a patrol's approach by bird-cries or fleeing deer.

Curufin:

So now you're equating us with Orcs, no less.

Beren:

I never said that.

Curufin:

But you implied it.  By implication, as it were. Implying that those of us who do hunt, and eat what we bring down, are no better than Orcs, and no different.

Beren: [slightly exasperated]

No.  It's a personal choice.  I don't impose it on anyone else.  I don't expect anyone else to have my reasons for it.

Celegorm: [horrified]

So what do you eat?  Berries and, er, roots?  You're not a farmer, are you?

Beren:

Well, before things got too bad, people used to leave stuff out for me, not obviously, but the occasional 'forgotten' loaf or cloak or or boots or wheel of cheese or leftover . . . leftovers. Not much, but it helped make ends meet.

Curufin:

I hate to destroy your idealistic illusions, but bread is made from eggs, you know.  And eggs are animals.  You do know that, don't you?

Beren:

That depends on the bread. Seriously, though -- not all eggs hatch, even in the wild.  So far as the intent goes, I'm not trying to destroy a bird, just to sustain my own life, though I might end up doing so by accident.  A small difference, maybe, but a real one.  I think.

Celegorm:

Well, going by that logic, it isn't just Orcs that eat whatever they can catch. Pretty much any animal will hunt and take prey, even beasts that are mostly herbivorous, like mice.  I don't see your objection, myself.

Beren:

True.  But I'm not an animal, either.

[Celegorm is fairly certain this is an insult directed at him, but is distracted from responding by Huan's willingly being lured away again.]

Celegorm:

No!!! Bad dog!!! Down, Huan!!!

Curufin:

I can't believe we're arguing moral philosophy with a mortal barbarian.

[suddenly suspicious again]

Orodreth? Is that you, playing some kind of bizarre joke?

[He attempts to dispel illusion; since it is not an illusion, Beren's appearance does not change.]

Celegorm:

You spoke in the past tense. What do you do for mealtimes now?

Beren: [becoming more enthusiastic as he goes on]

Well, there's turnips, there's parsnips, there's feral edibles of all kinds around the old homesteads. A lot of the land used to be under cultivation.  Cattails, you can prepare them all kinds of ways if you know what you're about -- a lot of different kinds of edible marsh grasses, in fact.  Then there's pine-nuts in the forest in autumn, hazelnuts, -- berries, yes; wild-sunflower and thistles, the roots and heads can be steamed and they're really quite good; and there are always mushrooms. --If you know what you're about, again, and don't poison yourself. Even in winter you can find wood-ears and boil them --

Curufin: [fascinated in spite of himself]

Wood-ears?

Beren:

Those fungus that grow on trees and stick out like ears.

Curufin: [remembering to sneer]

Impressive.  Quite a lot of work, for an abstract principle.

Beren:

I don't say it's easy. But I figure if the Sindarin clans can do it, then I can manage it too.

Celegorm:

Oh, so now you're putting yourself on the same level as the Kindred, are you?

Beren:

You guys really do have issues, don't you?  What is your problem?  You look like you have it pretty good here: you're cousins of the King, right?  You don't have to worry about somebody deciding that that reward sounds a whole lot better than 'Thanks, gotta run, you didn't see me,' or finding your cave full of Orcs waiting to ambush you.  Back off -- it's not like I'm here to threaten you, after all.

Curufin: [suspiciously]

What exactly are you here for?  And who are you anyway? You look sort of familiar, but I can't place you.

Beren:

I really think that in prudence as well as courtesy the King should hear my business first. --Sir.

[Before things can escalate, Finduilas enters with a parchment in hand.]

Finduilas:

Oh, there you are!  Can I have your autograph, milord?

Beren:

? . . . ?

Curufin:

--What are you about, cousin?

Finduilas:

Isn't it wonderful?  This is the mortal who saved my uncle at the Dagor Bragollach!

Beren:

No, er, that -- that wasn't me, that was my father.

Finduilas:

Oh.  Oh.

[frowns]

Well, I'd still like your autograph. Can I see the famous ring?  Do you know, everyone's speculating on why you've come. We're all madly curious. You must tell us!  Oh, if you'd please sign it at the edge, then I can draw your picture in the rest. --Huan, go away, you'll smudge it!

[Beren is overwhelmed; the Sons of Feanor exchange Significant Glances]

Curufin:

Finduilas, darling, don't humiliate the poor fellow.

[Finduilas gives him a confused look]

You can't expect everyone to have had your advantages of upbringing.  I doubt very much he's even literate.

Finduilas:

Oh, I'm -- I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to --

Beren: [gently]

It's all right. I do know my tengwar. And I'll be happy to give you my name, though I'm not sure why you'd want it.

[He takes the pen from her]

Finduilas: [very hesitant]

Um, it -- it goes the other way round, milord.

Beren:

On the other hand, it has been a long time.

[He changes the pen over and spells out the runes of his name, very carefully.]

There. Does that look right?

Finduilas:

If your name is Beren, yes.

Beren: [grins]

Whew.  Shouldn't have boasted before I did it, eh?

[Finduilas dares to smile.  He doesn't sneer at her. She is encouraged.]

Finduilas:

Is it true that you're here to organize a new Siege of Angband? They're saying you're the one that Morgoth was hunting all last year -- no, the year before -- and that he fears you more than anyone else in the world!

Beren:

Well, I -- I wouldn't say that, necessarily --

[An Elven-lord enters, to be enthusiastically greeted by Huan]

Gwindor:

Down, boy! --Did you find him, Faelivrin?

Curufin: [grins]

Faelivrin.

[She blushes as she points out Beren.]

That's so cute.

Finduilas:

Oh, stop it.  --Gwin, can you believe it? You were right last winter, when you wouldn't believe the reports he'd been killed.

Gwindor: [stammering]

My lord -- it's -- such an honor. I never -- the stories, the songs, the way you always managed to get out of every trap  

Beren: [almost as much at a loss for words]

You're both . . . very kind . . . I think -- I think you make too much --

Gwindor: [enthusiastic]

-- What's it like, being a legend?

Beren:

. . .

Gwindor:  [oblivious]

A champion of the oppressed -- the Man most hated by the Dark Lord himself!

Beren:

Mostly -- tiring.

Gwindor:

I would love to be like you! To think of it -- wreaking vengeance on our Enemy, obeying no rules, beholden to none, fearing nothing, alone against impossible odds, hunted by implacable foes, with a price on your head worth a king's ransom--

Curufin:

I said he was an outlaw --

Beren:

-- Actually, I never saw myself as an outlaw. I kind of thought of it that I was the Law, in Dorthonion. They were transgressors. I punished them. They outnumbered me. That didn't make Morgoth rightful lord of Beleriand.

Gwindor:

I really liked the way you would use an Orc-chief's own battle-axe to hew him and just leave it there. That was such an insult! -- did you mean it to symbolize that their evil deeds would turn against them and destroy them, just as their own weapons had?

Beren:

Um, no -- that was because axes are really heavy and I didn't need one. The less extra weight to slow me down the better. I could always count on another axe with the next one.

Gwindor:

Ah, practicality. So -- what was the most exciting part of your career?

Beren: [after a long pause for thought]

The sky.

Gwindor:

The sky--?

Beren:

Yeah, when I was waiting in ambush most of the night, or stuck in a swamp waiting for night, the way the branches and reeds would frame the sky was . . . it's hard to explain, but . . . it would keep changing, and every change would be perfect, and so slow . . . and then all of the sudden a bird would fly across, or a shooting star would --

[gestures vividly]

and then it would be still again, calm like deep water, but still moving slowly all the time, the way a lake moves all the time in different ways under the surface.

[long pause]

Gwindor: [not sure what to make of this at all]

Oh.  That -- almost sounds Sindarin, really.

[The Sons of Feanor exchange glances.]

Finduilas: [with a defiant look towards them]

I think it sounds beautiful.

[confidentially to Gwindor, emboldened]

You know, darling, since he wasn't dead after everyone said he must be, then perhaps Gelmir's still alive, and if it's true that Lord Beren's going to help lead a strike force against Angband, maybe he could rescue him . . . ?

Gwindor: [controlled but clearly exasperated]

Faelivrin -- you weren't there.  You don't understand. My brother could not possibly have survived. --I don't want to talk about it any more.

[Finduilas looks hurt]

Beren: [serious]

People do come back from the unlikeliest chances. But I did hear the Dagor Bragollach was like no other battle on earth.

Curufin: [wearily]

Little cousin, reconcile yourself to facts, and do not attempt to raise your sweetheart's hopes with well-meant foolishness. He's bones and dust on the Thirsty Plain, and none of us will ever see him again this side of the Western Sea.

[smooth shift to sympathy, at Gwindor's glare]

--I do apologize, my lord.

Beren: [low voice]

He's in good company. A lot of my family's out there, too.

[Gwindor gives him a grateful look.]

Celegorm: [mock outrage]

You do think well of yourself, don't you?

Beren:

That wasn't what I -- Never mind.

Curufin:

Besides, what if he did somehow survive? That would mean he was a slave in Angband, and would you really wish that on anyone you loved?  Even if he did somehow escape, he'd be no more than one of those brainwashed wretches that tried to assassinate your father and uncle in past days.  He wouldn't be allowed to enter the domain, let alone return to live here. --I'm dreadfully sorry, children, but it is the truth, and one must not live on delusions.

Finduilas:

Oh, you're hateful!  I wish you'd never come here.

[To Beren]

--Not you.

[She storms out.]

Gwindor: [with a stiff and formal nod]

My lords.

[to Beren, with a deeper bow]

My lord.

[stalks out after Finduilas]

Celegorm: [leans back in his chair, grinning broadly]

Young love . . . Sickenin', ain't it?

Beren:

Oh -- I wouldn't say so.

[Enter, almost immediately upon his words. the Steward, along with the Ranger captain, several more Border Guards, and a number of other warriors of Nargothrond.]

Steward:

Sir, it will be just a few more moments. I do apologize, on behalf of King Finrod, as I'm sure he would himself, were he here.

Beren:

That's -- that's fine. I thought for a moment you'd decided I was here on false pretenses and were coming to arrest me.

Steward:

Oh no, I'm so sorry. It's only that everyone wanted to see you -- all the lot from the Plains, for old time's sake.

Beren:

Oh.

[rises and bows]

Gentles, I -- I am honored . . .

Warrior:

The honor is entirely ours.

Ranger:

Your father used to talk about you.

Guard:

It seems like we've known you forever.

Beren:

I -- I wish I could offer you something, instead of coming as a beggar. But I can't even share refreshments, because I'm afraid what I didn't finish, Huan has.

[Mysteriously on the other side of the room now, Huan grins and thumps his tail.]

Captain:

Well, you two didn't finish the wine, did you? That's all the refreshment one needs!  Rinse out those bowls, men, we don't need cups.

[aside, to the Steward, as the rest crowd around to shake Beren's hand]

--Remember when all we had was our helmets?

Steward:

I'd almost succeeded in forgetting that.  What it was like not to remember what sleeping in a bed was like, or what hot food tasted like, or -- holy stars -- hot water!

Captain:

Oh come, you know those were the days!

Steward:

Days of hell, you mean.

Captain:

Perhaps so.  Perhaps so.  But brightest the stars on the darkest nights. --You'll surely drink a toast to the Edain?

Steward:

Of course!

Celegorm: [annoyed]

This party seems to be happening without us, brother.

Curufin: [quietly]

Let the little people enjoy themselves.

[Beren is beginning to hyperventilate, barely staying this side of fight-or-flight]

Captain: [noticing]

Are you all right, milord?

Beren:

Sorry.  I haven't been around this many people in weeks.  I haven't been around this many people who weren't trying to kill me in years.

Captain:

Everyone!  Move back!  Give Lord Beren some breathing space!  More manners, less enthusiasm, and we'll all have a more enjoyable time.

Beren: [quietly]

Thanks.

[The King's entourage enters, bodyguards, petitioners, clerks, and Orodreth all trailing along behind Finrod.  Beren resolutely shoulders through the mob.]

Orodreth:

Grinding Ice, but I thought that session would never end!  Why couldn't you just let it go till next season, Finrod?

Finrod: [weary frustration]

--And then next season it will be the season after, and then the season after that. I've gone that route before.  I don't care what inspiration struck him, if he's going to drop everything and start working on plans for a giant orrery instead of the arbalest, then I first of all want to know about it and next I want to know who's lined up to replace him! Some things are more impor--

[stops dead]

Beor . . . ?

[his voice trails off]

Beren: [holding out the ring]

Sir.  Your Majesty.  My father once was of service to you, and -- this ring I have    -- as proof -- though I know it isn't conclusive --

[he falters under the King's stare and falls silent]

Finrod: [ignoring the ring altogether]

You're Barahir's boy.

[He grips Beren's shoulders.]

-- You look just like him.  My home -- is yours.  What do you need?

Chapter Text

Gower:

To such a kingly welcome as, though well-deserved, 
lost Dorthonion's lord hath scarcely dared whereof to hope, 
Beren now is come, and here in royal rooms, and served 
  by Finrod Felagund himself, he finds him rest, and dares to open 
(as only to one other e're before) the hard-defended chamber 
of his inmost thought. 
Hearing his mind, the Lord of Caves 
wondering greatly, considers all his words, spoken and unspoken, 
deeming him here a sign of fortune, or doom, nor that he raves 
when of his mad and main-wrought quest he tells -- how broken 
never will his given vow and pledged love ere be, while Sun 
and Moon cross 'twixt heaven's stars and the Endless Sea. 

[Finrod's apartments. Beren, somewhat less disheveled, reclines before the fireplace watching the flames. Finrod is seated across from him on the floor. A carafe is between them; each holds a wineglass. As the camera moves it is revealed that Huan, asleep, is serving as backrest for Beren.]

Finrod:

--More?

Beren:

Sure.

[Finrod pours. Beren holds up & admires before the light. When he speaks his words are slower than usual, but not slurred: exhaustion, not drink, has overtaken him.]

Thanks. --This is amazing stuff. I'd expect I'd be unconscious by now . . . I can't remember when I last had wine; it's got to be six or seven years, I guess. It's the strangest thing: I can barely move, I couldn't fight now to -- hah -- save my life, and -- you know, it doesn't bother me at all. My mind is perfectly clear.  I think -- I think this must be what safety feels like.  If I ever knew it before, I must have forgotten a long time ago . . . Where was I?

Finrod:

You were explaining why you remained behind when the last contingent of refugees departed.

Beren:

Oh, right. --You sure this isn't boring you?

[Finrod shakes his head]

Okay. --So then Da says, to him, "What did I tell you?" and Old Man Galthrin says, "You said Orcs, me lord -- you said nothin' about any Trolls!" -- I guess it isn't that funny.  But it was at the point where there was practically nothing left for us to defend, and yet the less there was, the less we were willing to give it up.  The land itself . . . was getting strange . . . along the edges, and farms just . . . disappeared, from time to time.  Not burned, just gone, like old ruins.  But the survivors wouldn't give up, and we couldn't abandon them.  Finally -- and this had been going on for a long time, it didn't just come out of nowhere -- Ma said that Dorthonion was dying alive, that the only way to survive was to cut out what hadn't been too touched by blight and transplant it somewhere new. And Da said, "But the roots aren't dead yet, Em."  And she just looked at him, and -- I knew.

Finrod:

Did you really think you could save anything by staying?

Beren:

Da was no fool. He wished me to go with her because he thought I'd be safer that way, but he told me that she'd be safer if I was there to look after her. Ma wanted me to stay with him because she figured we'd both be safer looking after each other, and she didn't really think they were going to make it. We drew lots; I got Da's arrow.

Finrod:

What did you want?

Beren:

Dorthonion healed. -- Not one of the options, though.  That was, hm, two years after the Dagor Bragollach? Three? Dunno.

Finrod: [winces]

I'm sorry.  Do you know if they made it through?

Beren: [shaking his head]

I've heard rumors now and then. Nothing reliable.  I think  -- I think -- I'm pretty sure she's dead, regardless.  I -- she only left because of the younger children.  Once she'd seen them safe in Brethil -- assuming there's anywhere safe in Middle-earth -- I think she would have come back. Or tried to.  That was the plan, though she didn't tell Da that.  Seven years, though . . . she was one hell of a fighter.  I don't think they took her alive.

Finrod:

That sounds . . . plausible.  I heard much of Emeldir from your father during the War.  He used to say I'd be better served by her, because then I'd have wits too, as well as a wielded sword at my command.

Beren:

That sounds like Da.

[chuckles]

--When we still had the fort, one of the things I hated worst--? Repacking the hedge.  Worse than mudding up the walls in winter. Doesn't matter how much you wrap your hands, you still end up looking like you lost a fight with a wildcat.  Couple times I tried to pull rank on some of the younger kids: hey, I'm the chief's nephew, you're just a couple of thanes, you go shove thorns into the barrier, I'll stand guard on the tower. Besides, I'm a better aim. --Actually got away with it. Twice, I think.

Finrod:

Did they report you to her?

Beren:

No -- she found them at it and pried the truth out of them. Then she called me out.

Finrod:

Called you -- out?  As in a duel?

Beren: [nods]

She said if I was remanding her directives and changing the order of battle, then that obviously meant I thought I ought to be in charge of the fort.  And in that case she was going to answer the challenge, because she had accepted the charge from the Lords of Dorthonion and she wasn't yielding it to Man nor Orc.

Finrod:

What did you say?

Beren:

After "Ma, wait--" and various assorted exclamations of pain?  Let's see -- "I'm sorry, Hathaldir; I'm sorry, Dagnir; everyone, I'm sorry for failing to give you the respect owed by your ruling House." Then I was allowed to stitch myself up. I thought she broke my collar-bone, but I could use my arm after a week, so it wasn't that bad.

Finrod:

Weren't you -- angry, with her?

Beren:

Oh, yeah. I was furious. After I stopped shaking I went down to yell at her --

Finrod: [incredulous]

--After you'd just just lost a sword-fight with her?

Beren:

Why do you think that's funny? Something else would have come up and we wouldn't have gotten it out of the way.  And there she was, doing my work, with her hands all torn up from the hawthorn branches. So I just started helping her as best I could. And after a bit I asked her why she didn't just make me do it, instead of busting my shoulder in front of everybody. And she said, "You can't make people do anything, kid. The best you can do is show them how to want it." So then I said, "But when you tell people what to do, they do it." And she says, "That's because they want to." And I said something stupid, and she came right back with, "Well, if they want to not have their heads broken more than they want not to do their jobs, then they're still wanting it, right?"

[sighs]

So then I asked why she didn't make someone else want to do this for her, and she just gives me this Look.  And then she said, "You never, ever, ask someone to do what you're not willing to accept yourself."  And I was too dumb to stop, and I said, "But aren't you too important to do this?" And she points over at the gatepost next to us, and she says, "Your grandfather pulled that lodgepole out of the forest when the last one was hit by lightning, because it was tall, but not too broad, straight, sound but not too heavy, and of a bore with the last one.  That's what it is to be chosen leader. Occasional lightning and all. Or Orcs, as the case may be."

[Huan stirs and whines sleepily, setting his head down with a grumble]

And then about a fortnight after my Da comes home, and my uncle's not with him.

Finrod:

Did you ever think of going after her?

Beren:

I didn't know where to start.  And there were still people who wouldn't -- or couldn't, by then -- leave.  I thought -- I thought she'd try to find her way back, I left runes and checked all our haunts on my rounds, but . . .

Finrod:

Why did you leave?

Beren:

It wasn't a conscious decision at that point.  I hadn't slept in days, they were everywhere beating the woods for me, all my permanent camps were staked out, the only thing I could do was keep moving . . . why do the deer move when there's famine and the hounds are after them? Aside from natural disinclination -- which some people would disallow as a valid motive -- I suppose -- in so far as I was capable of any kind of rational judgment -- that I realized that being run to earth, cut down and butchered by Orcs wasn't going to serve anyone's purpose but Morgoth's.  I think -- I don't think I was completely sane. Not as men mean it. There was a clarity to it, but not meaningI was, the world was, they were. I was where they were not.  -- Far past the point where any sense of duty or hope remains.

Finrod: [very softly]

That point you reach when you're so tired that you just want to lie down and stop-- but the body drags on like a hound on a leash until flesh fails and falls, and then the spirit burns to madness until somehow one cannot bear its pangs and staggers on again.

Beren: [suddenly alert]

You . . . do understand . . . ?

Finrod:

We have no songs that celebrate it. We endured. That's all. You must have heard -- the legends. The Grinding Ice, the Crossing -- words, for something beyond words.

Beren:

'Beyond words' . . . where there are no words for it, there is only -- itself.

Finrod: [lost]

Think of the worst night of the harshest winter you've ever known: to me that would, I judge, be as a brisk morning for you. The Sun is always present, even when we cannot see her, and the world is always warmed. But in the Night Without Stars we had nothing -- only endless, crushing, devouring cold, until all that is left is loathing for one's self, for very life itself . . . when the only light is that of other souls . . .

[Silently Beren props himself forward and fills the King's glass once more. Finrod drinks it off in one go.]

Finrod:

I'm sorry. This is gloomy hospitality.

Beren:

More wine?

Finrod:

Please.

[Beren refills both glasses and slides back against Huan.]

[More brightly:]

Is it true that the price on your head was equal to that that's been set for my cousin Fingon?

[Beren shrugs]

Beren:

That's what they said. Since nobody ever collected on it, it's hard to say if that was just talk, or if they would have actually paid out.

Finrod:

That's rather a signal honor, to be counted the equal of a Noldorin King.

Beren: [manic grin]

I should have thought of that in Doriath.  That might have impressed His Nibs a bit more than -- 'Um, hey, my relatives were heroes.'

Finrod: [troubled]

He wants you dead, you realize that.

Beren:

Oh yeah. -- He said as much. In some detail, too.

[shakes head]

Not that I really blame him -- I mean, look at it from their point of view:

the King's daughter of Doriath shows up one fine evening with this inarticulate loser in ripped camouflage and says, "Guess what! I've found my soulmate, Dad!" I knew it was a bad idea. And then I tried talking and I should have just kept my mouth shut. It was pretty funny, actually, at least if you weren't us.

Finrod:

You're too harsh on yourself.

Beren:

Oh, you weren't there. It was bad. -- It was worse, actually.

Finrod:

But surely your lineage, your legend, your House's service with my own, all would count for something, even with Elu. I've been a friend of his for ages -- he's paranoid, but with perfectly good reasons, and he's not blind.

Beren: [shakes head]

Like I said, it was doomed from the beginning.  And really, his reaction was entirely justified, and more than he knew.  Yeah, lords of Dorthonion and all -- but that was a long time ago.  I'm not the same person I was. [points]

See that arch up there? I could get up there, and no one would be able to see me until it was too late, because I could cover the doorway without offering a target. And if I could, someone else could do it. Even though I know I'm safe here, I'm aware of that. Not like I could do anything about it just now, but I can't help noticing. But it isn't just that. I couldn't talk for months, even after I got to Doriath. I was not . . . entirely sane. I -- don't think she told them that.  In fact I'm sure of that.  So, hoo boy, it could have been worse. --Cheerful thought, huh?

Finrod: [seriously]

You'll have to reconcile with him after this is all over, you know.  You can't take Luthien back to Dorthonion, and even if you both come here to live, it isn't as though you can legitimately cut off all contact with her family, even if Luthien's angry enough to do so.  And then there are political connections, too. I have to think of them, Beren.

Beren: [deadpan]

Well, you've already convinced me of the need to apologize and be nice to your two noble kinsman, so we can enlist them into going along with the program until we get to Thingol's with the jewel, and since the other half of that plan hinges on you talking him into being gracious enough to then make a gift of it, thereby keeping the Sons of Feanor happy, and not homicidal, (and incidentally at the same time delivering the most staggering insult possible to them which we won't tell them about, and making up for a couple few centuries of general oneryness and rude behavior to Thingol on their part) -- yeah, sure. I can probably manage not to mortally offend Tinuviel's father next time. So long as you do the talking, I'll do the keeping-quiet.

Finrod: [more serious and admonishing]

And you will do this, will you not? All of it?

Beren: [still deadpan]

You don't think I'd be crazy enough to jeopardize my whole life because the Sons of Feanor are a pair of arrogant bastards who for some unknown reason took an instant disliking to me?

[pause]

Finrod: [awkwardly]

I have -- hm -- noticed a certain -- er, how can I put this tactfully? -- intransigence in your people, over the years.

Beren: [grins]

--Stubborn as rocks, that's us. Goes with the territory, I guess.

Finrod: [fascinated]

Really? Do you think that's it? Something to do with geography?

Beren: [confused]

I don't -- I don't know. Maybe. I was just using a figure of speech.

Finrod: [musing]

-- Haleth was like that.  Wonderful child, but one had to be careful not to agree with her too closely, or she'd take it all wrong.

Beren:

I'm not that bad. I don't think. --Hey! You knew Haleth? As in the Haleth? Lady Haleth of Brethil?

Finrod:

Yes, she was having a run-in with Elwe, as it happens.  Or Elu, as he calls himself now.  Life's funny like that.

Beren:

It makes a little more sense if he's like the rest of the crew, but I never understood why she wouldn't take up Lord Caranthir's offer of shelter.

Finrod: [drily]

Obviously you've never met Caranthir.

Beren:

? . . . ?

Finrod:

--Let me put it this way: I don't cross him. --Ever.  No, that wasn't the incident I was referring to. Why? Because Haleth was an intelligent and perceptive young woman and was not fooled by Caranthir's charming ways and words.  Ever wonder why they showed up a week late, after the lord of the land was killed, and the heir, when they were practically in his backyard?  Caranthir knew them for efficient fighters, and wanted them grateful, and leaderless.  And he has not, so far as I can tell, the slightest compunction about using mortal Men as a screen for his more -- valued, shall we say -- troops. --I don't know that for a fact, of course. That's just my reading of the events.  And the way he spits when he hears her name. No, I was referring to the -- tenor, of her exchanges with Elu over that unused property of his.  It was a rather, er, heated crossfire to be caught in.  A little tact might have made a great difference.

Beren: [recognizing the hint]

There was  . . . not really . . . it was too late for tact by then.  --Doomed from the beginning, I'm afraid.  Everything I said made it worse.

Finrod:

Well. [sighs]

I can probably patch things up.  It still might even be wiser for us to go back and talk to Elu and to Melian -- you did say she was more favorably disposed towards your suit? -- and try to put this nonsense out of the way.

Beren:

Tinuviel said that.  I -- couldn't tell. Maybe. She didn't look like she wanted me eviscerated, but I wouldn't say she looked happy. But it doesn't matter. I can't go back without it.  I'm sorry.  I can't.

Finrod:

I'll not press you again on that, then. [blandly]

Are you sure you're not related to the Haladin?

Beren: [grins wryly]

Not as far as I know. --I still can't believe you knew her. Wow. She lived almost as long ago as Beor. That's --

Finrod: [worried look]

Beren -- I knew Beor.

[pause]

Beren:

I know. --I know.

Finrod:

But do you understand, Beren?  Luthien, whom you charmingly persist in calling, not inappropriately, Tinuviel, but which I cannot imagine endeared you further to Elu, had already seen Ages before your ancestor was ever born. You think me ancient beyond belief -- yet she is even older, though you see no difference in our years. Can you begin to comprehend how strange it is to us, to think of one of us finding her match in a mortal Man, whose entire life is over and forgotten even, in the passing of one of our measures of time?

[Beren looks at him in distress; Huan grumbles softly in his sleep.]

Even though, since our Return, time has fled faster even for us, the urgencies of war making us care for the coming of winter and the haste of summer, for messages and meetings and councils marked by the passing of days, and hours even, and not weeks -- still it is not for us as it is for you, and cannot ever be so. How can you begin to measure the compass of her thought, who saw the first Sunrise of the world, when you have not lived a single twelve-twelvemonths' span?

[Finrod's expression is sympathetic but urgent, attempting to convey his fears. Beren turns away abruptly and stares fiercely into the flames.]

Beren: [low but clear]

I heard a story . . . long ago, when I was a boy, but it was there everyday somehow, always behind the surface . . . about one who came out of darkness, to where we lay dull and almost speechless, and gave us words, and thoughts, and the knowledge of ourselves, and song.

[Finrod bows his head and is silent.]

--So Tinuviel came to me, when I was lost and alone and almost without name, and I can no more hold nor measure her than I could measure the stars of the Burning Brier, or take the Sickle in my hand, but without her I am blind and deaf and dumb, and I could no more live without her light than theirs!

[stops himself]

Forgive me -- I spoke without thinking. Again.

Finrod: [very quietly]

Forgive -- that you have learned so well? --No, Beren, I will not question you in this again, nor insult you, nor her through you. I thought I had seen all things, known all that mortal or Elven mind might do, and here is a new song that I've never heard before -- but that does not make it an ill one. More wine? Or shall I take your glass?

Beren:

Thanks.

[frowning]

It seems strange -- wrong, somehow. You shouldn't be waiting on me. --Sir. Sire. I'm sorry. I do know the right way to behave.

Finrod:

--Please. I should hope that if I am a good enough host to put you at your ease, that I would not then be offended by your informality! And this is hardly burdensome service, my friend.

Beren: [with a wry smile]

-- Friend.

Finrod:

--If I may presume so much.

Beren: [softly]

I'd hoped to meet with courtesy. No more than that. With duty, and civility at best -- at least a formal welcome, the bare necessities, a guide along the beginning of my road. I dared presume no more -- I'm not my father, nor my uncle, I've done nothing for you or yours. I never thought -- to find -- a home.

Finrod:

Nothing? Beren, you, alone, have done more in your short lifetime than many Elves have accomplished in a hundred years. Your efforts against Morgoth, tying up so many of his forces, for so long, spreading such fear among them and setting such example for the enslaved and oppressed -- not for your people alone, though you might not have realized that fact, but for every creature friendly to the Light!

[Beren cannot quite believe this is not mockery. Finrod's expression convinces him otherwise.]

Beren:

I should give you back your ring, Sire.

Finrod:

Keep it for your children. The debt I owe your family is beyond measure.

Beren: [raises eyebrows]

-- Optimist.

Finrod: [earnestly]

With you here to inspire, to lend your ability and legend to the cause, what will we not be able to achieve? We are stultifying here, Barahirion, to a degree you might not believe, seeing our rigorous defenses -- but that's all we've done since the last engagement ended. Small battles, little skirmishes, no one dares to do more. Not us, not Morgoth. But little by little, he accomplishes by sheer inertia, and we are defeated without a blow, because others fall to him.

[becoming more agitated]

Oh, we plan -- we prepare -- but what have we actually done? I can't even get a weapons development program to fulfillment, not even after Dagor Bragollach -- you'd think that people would see the need, see that he surely won't be resting on the successes of his biomechanoids and chemical weapons. I shudder to think of what he must be coming up with while we waffle over the symbolism and cosmology of warhead shapes, and squander the resources set aside on designing the world's largest planetarium!

Beren:

Er . . .

Finrod: [in full rant]

Oh, I know all the arguments -- that a perfect design, in perfection of harmony with the heavens, cannot but ensure victory; that the disregard of celestial balances is what doomed us before, that tiny inefficiencies in the cosmic pattern create massive chaos down the line. Grinding Ice! do I ever know them. And know a smokescreen when I see one, too. We lost too many, last time. It isn't the people who were there who cannot bear to think of renewing the attack: it's the ones left behind. We survivors would go back in an instant, and not stand around waiting for him to come out, if we had the means. [He grips Beren's shoulder]

We will be rekindled with your presence, and renew the battle, and my people will see what they have been blind to all these years in ease and hiding, and together we will accomplish such deeds for the Light as Arda will never forget.  --But that's for later: you're exhausted. We'll speak more when you've rested. --Good night, Huan. Rest well, my friend.

Beren: [thumping Huan's neck]

Won't Celegorm be upset if he discovers his dog is here?

Finrod:

Undoubtedly, if he notices. Huan roams most of the time as he pleases. He's older than I am, and quite capable of deciding what he should do without my say-so.

Beren:

But he still belongs to Celegorm . . . ?

Finrod:

So Celegorm thinks.  Huan's his own dog, so far as I can tell, and does pretty much as he thinks best. -- In that he is not unlike a certain Man named Balan I once knew, and his descendants. Remind me to tell you about the time your many-times-great-grandfather forcibly convinced me that accelerated healing is not always an adequate substitute for cautery and stitches.

Beren:

What happened?

Finrod: [raising an eyebrow]

A skirmish, an Orc-scimitar, a long journey still to take, and no time for foolishness like rest or medical attention.  I was not entirely sane at the time, either.  Are you sure you'll be comfortable? Just on the tile like that?

Beren:

Oh, yeah. --It's flat. And dry. --And there's no down to fall, either. So long as Huan doesn't stand up, I'm good -- and probably even then. I don't know about not having my weapons to hand, though.

Finrod:

Would you be more comfortable with your gear? I can send for it --

Beren: [shrugs]

I don't want to make trouble.

Finrod: [mildly]

I am in charge here: it won't be a difficulty.  --It would be a strange thing indeed if I could not trust the son of Barahir of the house of Beor in my presence armed, or on my doorstep!  I'll fetch your weapons for you.

Beren:

No, please -- it's not worth the trouble.  I'll be fine. [smiles]

That'd make your two noble kinsmen shake their heads, I bet. I can just imagine what they'd say.

Finrod:

That I give such trust to mortal men, or to your preference for sleeping under arms?

Beren:

Both. Either.

Finrod:

They've forgotten what it was to live in the field -- not that they ever truly did without the comforts of home when they could, you'll hear some -- interesting -- stories if you listen closely around here -- but they're also annoyed that you don't seem to be sufficiently impressed by the Eldar.

Beren:

I -- [bites his lip in frustration]

Sir, I'm sorry, I mean no insult to Nargothrond, or to your folk. It -- it's beyond words here, for one. For another -- I've grown up all my life hearing of the greatness of Felagund's court, and now I'm here, and I'm amazed.  And for last -- I've hiked here from Doriath. I'm starved as much for shelter and kindness as a stray hound for his meat. More than that -- way beyond my ability to take in right now.

Finrod:

Do you think I don't know all that?  Don't let it trouble you.  I at least remember what it is to sleep in a swamp, in one's armor, grateful for a few inches of water to hide in under a burning sky, and kind hands holding one out of it as one's wounds are bandaged. Nargothrond is not insulted by your presence, Beor.

Beren: [with a worried look]

I'm -- I'm not . . .

Finrod:

I know you are yourself alone, (however confused you might have left some today.) I meant it in the general, not the specific sense.

Beren:

But -- I've given you you no vow of fealty, sire.

Finrod:

Ah, the word is still confused in the translation. Funny how such things persist.

Beren:

I'm afraid I don't understand . . . ?

Finrod:

You translate it "vassal", and I am not entirely sure how mortals understand the word. As we use it, it is more, and less, and other, than a contract of law, or a bargain of power. It means . . . "one in whom one has complete reliance," -- one who can be entrusted with a great work and more, needing no supervision. The words are but recognition of what is. Vows will not hold one to duty in the end.  And it means, as well, the other half: that the trust is mutual, that the duty is given but for duty, and that faith will be kept in turn.

[he looks away, then meets Beren's eyes]

Ultimately -- it means, when all else fails, that one may send a vassal to his death, but never without good reason. Never from pride, or willful ignorance, or carelessness. Never a duty given without regard for the servant's honor. -- Lest in turn the liege turn traitor, and the bond be broken.  But you know this already, son of Barahir and Emeldir, brother's son of Bregolas, lord of Dorthonion, -- whether you name it or not.

[long pause]

Beren:

I hope I will earn this trust, then.

Finrod:

You will never fail me, my friend.

Beren:

Is that your -- your Foresight, sir?

Finrod:

No. That's merely judgment.  Now take your rest: I must excuse myself for preparation of our plans -- which means, unfortunately, as many meetings as it does maps!

Chapter Text

Gower:
In hope most high of endlessly-awaited strife, 
long mused, longtime abetted, longer dreamed of yet, 
King Felagund renews his ancient works, recalls to life 
long-stilled ambitions, to o'erthrow and set 
in one fell stroke great Morgoth's pivot-hold, 
back from its strangling press in sortie bold. 
Like a master-painter he works over his design, 
now adding here a stroke, now there a line, 
now at a sudden inspiration swift-casting off 
and in one grand wide-sweeping unguessed move, 
turns inside out or back to front what was, 
building in space, in time, in Fate unshaped, to cause 
the End long-purposed far beyond the Seas.

Meanwhile Beren the traveller, rested of travails, 
finding himself a stranger in uncharted realm, though fair, 
essays his own adventures, where for guide hath only tales; 
(but never was there journey yet he feared to dare, 
in the Dark Wood, nor yet the Mountains of Despair.) 

[A solar (or what would be a solar were it not underground)-- that is to say, a large, pleasant, brightly lit dining chamber/living room/meeting space off the main assembly hall, where some are taking breakfast, some playing quiet music some chatting; but there is a nervous undercurrent that manifests in cheerfulness.]

[Finrod's Steward enters. Beren, accompanying him, halts before continuing and checks 'both ways' to be sure that all avenues of ambush are clear, then steps quickly through. This gets some Looks. He is washed and dressed in clothes clearly not his own, both for quality and fit, and appears less barbaric, though the results of getting pine pitch in one's hair are not disguisable. More at odds with the tailoring is the fact that he has limited his accouterments to some dozen sidearms, belted openly over his garments. The overall effect is rather unique.]

Steward:

I'm so sorry we could not fit you better -- anything short enough was too narrow across the shoulders, and the alterations were rather hasty.

Beren:

Please -- you don't need to keep apologizing, sir.

Steward:

You gave us quite a turn, not being there.

Beren:

Sorry. I woke up and found I couldn't sleep where I was any more.

Steward:

On the floor?

Beren:

Under a roof. The arch was more -- familiar.

Steward:

Ah. I -- see.

Beren: [smiling]

You don't. --From above, it's like a tree. The ceiling is too high for a house, but too low for the sky. My caves were never chosen for their spaciousness.

Steward:

--Indeed. [moving on]

There is a variety of foodstuffs available which will satisfy your dietary requirements, but I fear they are not labeled nor in any way distinguished in their arrangement at the buffet --

Beren:

Again, I'd rather you didn't worry so much about my needs. I certainly don't.

Steward:

Are you sure? I can ask the chefs to make up a list --

Beren: [innocently]

Or -- I could come forage around in the kitchens, if that would be easier.

Steward:

Stars, no! [drily]

You're remarkably cheerful, milord.

Beren: [smiling broadly]

Well, I've been awake for one-twelfth of the day already, and nobody's tried to kill me yet.

Steward:

That is, I concur, an excellent reason to be pleased with life.

[He shows the way to the 'groaning board' which holds is an array of foodstuffs so varied and plentiful that Beren cannot even be surprised at it, any more than one is surprised at the number of colored leaves in autumn.  He fills a golden plate with fruit and pastries and cheeses -- and also fills his sleeves and sash with several kinds of flatbreads. The Steward is too polite to say anything, but he does notice.]

Steward: [shaking his head]

It seems that we have run out of glasses already -- I will have to speak to the staff.  I'll fetch yours: what would you prefer, Lord Beren? We have spring water, well water, rainwater of different hours' vintage; there is also juice, in the modern fashion, both corrantine and grape, and this harvest's damson, which I personally recommend. There, is as well, watered wine, in any combination of wines or waters, in the old Valinorean mode, if you'd rather the traditional instead.

Beren:

Whatever you have is fine.

Steward:

All together--?

Beren:

No -- I meant -- whatever was most convenient.  You decide.

Steward You really don't care at all, milord?

Beren: [encouraging]

That's right.

Steward:

I do understand, young sir -- but I wish that I did not. May it please you, choose whichever seat you would: we do not stand on ceremony in the Hall of Hours, and everyone is free to take what place the soul desires. I'll return with your beverage shortly.  I trust I may presume upon your forbearance to delay long enough to chastise the kitcheners for their duties' neglect.

Beren: [graciously]

You may.

[The Steward bows and leaves him with a somewhat ironic-rueful expression. Beren tries to sit at the table, but cannot get comfortable in the chair: after several attempts to reposition it to where he is able to relax, he shakes his head. Laughing at himself, he picks up his plate, circling the room until he finds a convenient alcove and perches there.  He does not seem to be aware of the stares which follow him.]

[Someone has forgotten a goblet on the ledge, which is made of crystal and has for decoration a fully-sculpted version of the emblem on his ring, the two gold serpents winding up the stem and the gold wreath encircling the lip of the glass, but all the texture is completely covered in the clear shell blown around the ornamentation. Beren picks it up and examines it, astonished by the fineness of detail and its fragility. The Captain approaches and leans over with a most conspiratorial manner.]

Captain: [manic whisper]

--It's called 'glass'. One drinks from it. We make it out of sand.

[Beren gives him an alarmed look; he maintains the earnest expression for a long moment, then dissolves into snickers, cuffing Beren on the arm.]

Did he really say that? About furniture?

[Beren nods, the laughter becoming contagious]

They've been going around repeating it as though they think it makes them sound clever. --What a pair of gits!

Beren: [looks around, then whispers confidentially:]

Don't tell anyone, but I've forgotten how to use the stuff.  I couldn't find a way to make the table-chair thing work.

Captain:

What, those things? They're designed that way, so you won't sit there and clutter up the area all day. -- No, I don't know.  That's just my theory. One of Celebrimbor's early projects -- gorgeous as water, but as comfortable as a pile of rocks.

Beren:

Less, I thought.

Captain:

You didn't think people were sitting on hassocks and rugs and column footings over there to be artistic and create an elegant tableau, did you? --Though around here one never knows . . .

Steward:

There you are, milord. I thought you'd vanished again.

Beren: [soberly]

No openwork vaulting in here.

Steward: [deadpan]

I am certain some could be arranged, but probably not before lunchtime, I'm afraid. --Is that an empty glass beside you? Let me take that back and show them. Here is yours, milord. I brought the damson juice; I trust that it meets with your approval.

Beren: [tasting]

It does.  It's excellent. Thank you. [sets the goblet aside and takes out his eating-knife.]

If you will forgive me, sirs -- I'll eat in your presence, for as Da always said, if people will drop by at mealtime they'd best not expect me to stop for them -- but I would no less than my folks that you stay, and join me if you'd like, for my mother's table never lacked another place.

[He offers choice of what's on his plate: they are visibly moved.]

Captain:

No, I've ended my fast hours ago. But I thank you, Lord Beren.

[The Steward only shakes his head.  Beren begins to cut the little Lady-apples into halves but halts when an imposingly-regal individual approaches them, and his two companions at once come to attention.]

Captain: [salutes]

Your Highness.

Steward:

My lord Barahirion, may I make known to you our good King's brother and coordinator of the realm's defenses --

Beren: [putting aside his meal -- Prince Orodreth --

Orodreth:

Please -- do not rise.  I've no wish to impose upon you after the rigors of your journey! I only wished to say, at outset -- how much -- without delay, that is -- that I admire your many valiant efforts in the field and have always hoped and prayed for your continued success -- that is, when of course report more than insubstantial rumor has arrived, since the course of reliable news from out of the North has naturally dwindled in past years -- Not that I am blaming you in the least, my lord Beren, far to the contrary -- Rather I wanted to express my sorrow for your grievous losses -- and to express my gratitude for your own good works, on behalf of all our peoples. -- I also -- as a father -- would like to thank you for your kind indulgence to my daughter's fancies -- though, in truth, were it not for the exigencies of my job I'd have likely been asking for your autograph the other day as well! Her fiancee hasn't stopped talking about you these last two days either -- prepare yourself for much curiosity, my lord. Nargothrond wishes to thank our hereditary champion -- not least impressive for the fact of your mortality --

Beren: [as Orodreth appears to be waiting for something, uncertainly:]

-- You're welcome?

Orodreth: [a touch relieved]

You do me honor, Lord of Dorthonion.  I trust I'll see you presently in council?

Beren:

You know more than I do, I'm afraid, Your Highness.

Orodreth:

Ah. I did not mean to put you on the spot. milord. Now if you'll forgive me, I've got to run--

[Apparently by accident, the Steward half turns to bow in reply and simultaneously tread on the Ranger Captain's boot as Orodreth takes off.]

Beren: [staring after Orodreth]

Was that supposed to make sense? Or am I still asleep? Which I gather from his words lasted rather more than one night, and I'm not surprised at all. That's gotta have been good for another three years . . .

Captain: [lowered voice]

He lost his nerve. Left our final position of defense to Morgoth's top commander after a battle significant in its utter absence, and fled back to Nargothrond with the gates wide open. The only thing he didn't do was wait to give Sauron the grand tour of the place.

Steward:

You haven't talked to the people who came back from there. It was something beyond reason, something which sent everyone there into the same funk as the Night of Darkness. I doubt that anyone could have held out longer than the Prince did.

Captain:

Do you think the King would have neglected to at least tear the place down before he left? Not left it standing there for our Enemy to use, and give him for free the best terrain in the region! -- All right, I'll stop.

[to Beren]

But that's what's behind his apology, lad. After Tol Sirion fell, the Enemy's troops were pretty much able to plough through us wherever they wanted, having a fine base of operations to work out from, and we were no longer able to control them in Beleriand at all.

Beren:

Oh. --Ohhh . . . [frowning as he begins to understand, and put many things together. Perhaps he would ask more, or say something, but Celebrimbor son of Curufin approaches, wearing a somewhat distracted expression. (The actual source of his apparent rudeness is as much inventorly preoccupation as awareness of his own exalted heritage, but this would not be obvious at once to a bystander.)]

Celebrimbor:

Has any of you lot seen my glass? I think I forgot it over here . . .

[The Steward hands it to him with a Look.]

I know, I know, I'm sorry -- I was writing in my tablets and I've only got two hands --

[checks]

I say, is that the famous Ring?

[He seizes Beren's wrist and yanks his hand up for a better look, apple and all, leaving Beren staring in astonishment at the eating-knife in his right.]

Beren:

Ah -- excuse me?

[The grandson of Feanor looks at him with mild surprise as though not anticipating him capable of speech. As the expectant pause extends and the other Elves look at him with disapproval, Celebrimbor blushes in realization of his error and clears his throat, releasing Beren's arm and bowing formally.]

Celebrimbor:

I was wondering -- might I examine it more closely, please? I've a technical interest in the metal arts.

[Wordlessly Beren removes the Ring and passes it to him.]

Celebrimbor:

Amazing, how such a trinket can summon kings to do one's bidding...

[When done he returns it and is about to leave, but notices the Looks he is getting from the Steward and the Captain.]

Thank you, er, Barahirion.

[moves away to the far side of the solar and his friends.]

Beren: [amazed]

It's like I didn't even exist.

Steward:

Don't let it trouble you, milord.

Captain:

They're all like that -- Shiplords. Unless you can do something for them.

Steward:

Actually, Lord Celebrimbor is not the worst.

Captain:

It would be very difficult to be worse than his father.

Steward:

His uncle is always civil, at least to me.

Captain:

That's because you're the one in charge of organizing hunts. Don't flatter yourself: Celegorm is not a nice fellow. My men served as beaters for him once. Do not ever get between him and the game.  It's always accidental, he always apologizes for nearly running you over -- and then he does it again.

Beren:

That was Curufin's son? I wouldn't have guessed.

Captain:

You had something he wanted.

Beren:

There aren't any more of them around here, are there? I've promised to be civil to them, and I'd like to be prepared . . .

Steward:

No, that's the lot of them. But they have a sizable retinue here.

Captain:

In other words, don't assume that anyone you meet is not a partisan of theirs.

[grim chuckle]

Heh.  I wonder if the Master-Smith realizes how close he came to having his arm stabbed just now?

Beren:

Oh no, I wouldn't have struck: there weren't any threat indications from him. But it was kind of a dumb thing for him to do. --Are they all that biased against us?

Steward:

Well, there's Caranthir, but . . .

Beren:

--So I've heard.

Steward:

Maedhros isn't nearly as bad as the rest, and Maglor is fairly decent too.

Captain:

They've still got attitude problems taller than Taniquetil.

Steward:

There's no call for blasphemy. And we'd have no cavalry without them.

Captain:

True. I am very grateful for the cavalry. I don't think they care much one way or the other about mortals, though.

[leadingly]

Oh, and don't forget Amrod-and-Amras. . .

Steward: [drily]

That, certainly, would be impossible.

Beren:

I'm afraid I don't remember my kin speaking anything of them--?

Captain:

They probably wouldn't. Hardly anyone ever sees . . . them. -- That is rather the point, isn't it?

[the Steward grimaces. Beren looks from one to the other of them.]

Oh, go on, tell him. We don't need to worry about impressing The Beoring, of all mortals!

Steward: [sighing]

The story -- and recollect at all times that this is no more than a story -- is that Amrod was forgotten aboard the stolen ships when Feanor decided to burn them. You know of all that miserable affair from your history, I presume? Or whilst certainly not not all, at least the general outline?

[Beren nods.]

Moreover, your cousins were born at a birth, as I recollect --

[Beren nods again]

-- and I never had the slightest trouble telling them apart, milord. Now the first we knew of that ship business happened when King Finrod began scouting out the reaches of Angband to aid in the strategies of the siege, and sent to ask permission of the lords of the North to traverse their lands with surveyors. I was received civilly enough, and gave my speech before Lord Amrod, who listened and asked questions and then said he'd have to consult with his brother, who was out hunting, and would undoubtedly want to speak with me himself on the morrow when he got back. So they put me up at the lodge and the next morning I asked if I could see Lord Amrod again, because there were a few points I had perhaps not laid out as well as I might and wished to clarify.

"No," their steward replies, "he's Amras today." I was sure I must have misunderstood and spent breakfast wondering what I had misheard him say, when I was summoned again to the lords' hall, and there was -- so far as I could tell -- the same individual with whom I'd spoken previously. Yet his manner, his dress, his bearing, his voice even, were all different. They introduced me to him as Lord Amras, and he insisted that I tell him all my message as I had told his brother. I trust I do not flatter myself when I say that I maintained my composure throughout, but I must confess that I was not prepared for the explanation which I received after from my counterpart in the lords' household, under some considerable pressure.

Captain:

And which you said you weren't sure you believed, either.

Steward:

Do you want to tell the story? --All right, then. Apparently, and this is only hearsay, but it fits the evidence, and subsequent reports -- when Amras died on board the ship, his soul was unwilling to return to the punishment that awaits us who rebelled, and his brother was unwilling to let him drift alone and houseless on this Shore. So, being twin and so much the same in flesh and spirit, Amrod gave way to his slain sibling and yielded his body to the other's will. But Amras, no less without precedent, and grateful for the gift, cedes back control in fair measure and with perfect accord, and so they both walk -- or ride to hunt, more like -- in Middle-earth.

[Beren is speechless]

Now, either this is simply a bizarre joke, which the youngest sons of Feanor and their household enjoy perpetrating on their more distant relations, and they both live but choose not to appear together before outsiders; or it is the case that the youngest son was killed, and his surviving twin went mad and now plays his part, which would explain why I could not tell any difference in 'their' presences; or -- it is true as I was told.

Captain: [snickers]

Or -- it's true -- and they're both mad. Equally plausible, eh?

Steward:

Don't laugh: it isn't funny, it's horrible and tragic.

Captain:

It's horrible and funny, Edrahil. It adds that last little missing touch of the surreal to the whole grisly mess.

[starts laughing again]

"He's Amras today" --sweet Cuivinen!

Beren: [appalled]

Can that happen?

[The Steward raises his eyebrows and shrugs.]

Steward:

Dark and powerful spirits have been known to seize the careless and unwary Seeker, or exchange recently slain dwellings with a living. But that's uncommon, at least among our people, and involuntary. I've never heard of such a willful sharing of one home between two Eldar souls -- yet I can't think why it should be impossible.

Beren:

I think -- I think that's the scariest thing I've ever heard.

Captain:

I keep telling myself, every time it comes up, that it's really rather moving to think of such devotion and unselfishness and brotherly love. So far it hasn't worked very well.

Beren: [still rather shaken]

That beats every ghost story I know. If my cousins had heard about that when we were kids, I would never have slept a night for the nightmares. . . . But you know, what would be worse, is if you thought it was normal.

Captain: [blandly]

Well, actually --

[The Steward rolls his eyes resignedly; they are broken in upon by the arrival of several of 'the lot from the Plains']

Captain:

Oh, sound the retreat, here comes the horde!

[He gestures them down]

Serried rank, there. Don't crowd our guest.

[Suddenly tongue-tied, they look at Beren in embarrassment. Seated in the arched alcove, flanked by an Elven-lord and an Elven-warrior, with petitioners kneeling before him, he looks rather like a primitive image of Orome, though he would never guess it himself.]

Ranger: [awkwardly]

My lord Barahirion --

[gasps, enthusiastic]

-- Do you have 'Dark Battle' there?

Beren: [setting his hand on the hilt of his sword, surprised]

Yes -- How do you know ...?

Captain:

Legend, lad, legend -- get used to it.

Ranger:

Might we see the blade?

Beren: [uncertain, looking to the Captain]

I've peace-bonded it -- Sir?

Captain:

I'll stand warrant.

[grins at the younger Ranger]

You're less likely to do accidental damage than some people I could mention here.

[Beren unlashes the hilt from the scabbard and offers it correctly, hiltwise, to the Elven-warrior first, who hefts it, nods, and passes it on to his subordinate.]

Ranger: [awed]

'Dark Battle' --!

Beren: [plaintively]

It's just a sword. The balance is good and the span suits my height. There's no aura to it that I can tell, no runes woven into it.

Steward:

It is Dwarf-work, though. It came from here, like your armor. Beor's eldest son chose that blade; the hauberk was a gift to your great-grandfather Boromir when the grant of Ladros was made. Prince Aegnor said at the time that he'd gladly give even more to anyone willing to take that damp, drizzling wasteland off his hands, and that anyone who was going to defend it needed mail that wouldn't rust.

[Beren shakes his head, amused at his own surprise]

Guard:

Excuse me, my lord, but -- why is your scabbard covered in wolf-skin?

Beren:

Hides the smell of the metal. Until it's too late. I had a cape to match for winter, but that didn't survive the journey, used it for bug-bait . . .

[shakes his head, trying to forget about that part]

Soldier:

My favorite story's the time when you challenged that Orc-captain to single combat.

[Beren looks blank]

The one they called 'The Butcher'? Gorgol, it was?

Beren:

Um, no -- I shot him from behind. A lot.

Soldier:

But there's a song --

Beren:

I didn't make it. [pause]

I wouldn't be at all surprised if everything that any of us did was also ascribed to me. That happened to Da when he was alive. And everything that the hidden resistance efforts did as well, they said was me. --Which was their right. I was responsible, after all, being their Lord, for what was done in my will, even if not with my explicit orders, and the blame mine to take for it.

Guard:

But you did burn down that supply depot, did you not? That command center at Drun?

Beren: [shrugs]

Fire arrows work great for that.

Captain:

Shot from where? There's no cover around Drun, unless the landscape's changed considerably in the last twelve-score years.

[Beren gives him a reproachful look. Innocently:]

I'm just saying--

Ranger:

--Did you really wound the Lord of Wolves?

Beren:

Oh. That. --Maybe.

[makes a face. To their expectant looks:]

When they sent in the wolfpacks initially there was a command group riding in the middle and this one guy in black armour who was taller than anyone I've ever seen, yourselves included. Black with spikes, of course. But I don't know if it was him or one of his minions -- if I was him I'd use a minion, and shift into a warg like they say he does. I just don't know: scary-looking-black-iron versus recurved, reinforced, yew/horn laminate and a straight-down shot not usually much of a contest, but I barely winged him. I swear the air rippled when I loosed and it was like shooting into water. So maybe it was Sauron after all.

Soldier:

The air moved?

Beren: [shrugs]

I wouldn't believe me either. But I don't usually miss, not when I've got a wide angle and an elevated blind to work from.

Soldier:

No, he could do that. I'm just amazed you weren't obliterated after.

Beren:

I was in a stand of oaks.

Guard [to the Ranger, whispering]

--Did that make sense?

[the Ranger shrugs. Aloud:]

My lords, I do not wish to signal any disrespect to the Edain, but I fail to see how that could protect one against the Lord of Abominations?

Beren:

I -- think the land protected me. The trees --

[they are more confused]

Steward:

--The land?

Beren:

It never betrayed me the way it betrayed others.

Soldier:

How could the land betray one?

Beren:

It ate people. Farms. Beasts. Cattle strangled in vines in the open field. Hillsides disintegrated under a man's heel and pitched him down in the midst of his foes where the track had been solid an hour earlier, and no rain.

Steward:

But would you not say that was the work of the Enemy?

Beren: [thoughtfully, shaking his head]

I think the land went mad. I think we drove it crazy, fighting over it, holding it so hard and with such hate and fury on both sides, till it savaged all of us like a wounded hound unable to tell the difference between friend and foe.

Soldier:

And why not you?

Beren:

I can't explain. Perhaps -- no, I don't know. I tried not to take without making thanks, not to damage as I went. I never resented it. That's -- that's why I'm alive, though. I was the only one who could skirt through the Nightshade without being affected by it. It was depressing, but it only made me sad, not insane. There were trees that I knew I didn't dare touch, and others that would tolerate me, but I didn't abuse their hospitality, so to speak. And then there were some in Dorthonion that welcomed me, that I knew I could sink pegs into to aid my climbs and that I'd sleep in without fear of any harm -- times when I swear the leaves turned to screen me from Orc-sight, when the roots folded fast about me against the wolfpacks and I never feared being trapped in the earth or thought to move to hide myself better. Oaks were particularly good to me. And beechgroves were always safe.

Ranger:

But -- you're a mortal, milord.

Beren:

So I've been told. But the woods and hills have never threatened me.

Soldier:

Is that how you were able to carry off so many legendary exploits?

Beren: [clearly still very uncomfortable with that 'legend' bit]

Part. After my father died I only cared to do as much harm as I might to our ancient Enemy. I did things that've been called impossible because no one thought they'd be attempted, and didn't guard against me. Then they guarded against what I had done, --not what I did next. And since they'd manage to make sure that I had nothing else to do, no other responsibilities to look after, no one else to worry about, I could put a lot of work into the planning, give the execution free rein. It wasn't like there was anything they could do to me, except catch me. And against that it's a good idea to have as many psychotic mutants and demon wolves as angry with you as possible, because then they're not going to stop and say 'we should really take this guy back home for questioning, we'll get double the reward then'--

    [shakes head]

There was a legend running wildfire given the name 'Beren,' but there was no one left to call me by that name . . .

[aside]

. . . or to answer.

[Silently the Royal Guard who is present holder of Dagmor slides forward and lays the sword down in front of him on the ledge; Beren gently traces his fingers down the flat of the blade.]

Ranger:

But were you not assisted in your revenge?

Beren: [confused]

By who?

Ranger:

By the men of his shield-band, your companions in all fortunes? --Dairuin? --Gildor? --Arthad?

[With each name Beren slowly takes a knife from his bandoleers and places it on the stone ledge in front of him next to the sword.]

Guard: [unable to stop asking, but knowing what's coming]

--Urthel?

[click -- a knife]

--Radhruin?

[click -- a fifth]

--Ragnir?

[click -- the sixth]

Soldier:

Gorlim?

Beren: [voice eerily calm]

I have nothing of his.  He -- died elsewhere, and I -- never found his body.

[checks]

No -- I'm wrong.  I take that back.

[takes up the little eating-knife]

He told me this was Elvish work, and lucky, when he gave it me at Sun-Return the first year I was old enough to hold blade. Since the cut I immediately gave myself didn't get infected, the luck seems good. I think there's a rule that you have to cut yourself with your first knife, and hide it from your parents...

Captain: [softly]

It has the rune for keenness in it -- a clean cut rarely festers.

Ranger:

Your cousin Baragund?

Beren: [sets down two daggers side by side at once]

With his brother my cousin Belegund, dead one beside the other, halfway back to the camp. If the Orc-arrows hadn't been poisoned they might have lived at least enough to warn the others, but the patrol kn-- thought to take out the sentinels first.

[sets down another blade]

Dagnir, almost of an age with me;

[and one more]

Hathaldir, who should have gone with the children and the wives, but wouldn't.

[He then unbuckles the leather straps that held the sheaths about his forearms.]

That's Ironjaw,

[lays down another band]

that's Bellsong,

[followed by a third]

and Star. My father's hounds, and mine.

[A long silence]

Steward:

You are the last? Of all Dorthonion's warriors? All your father's household at once, save you? All who were at the Dagor Bragollach with us, and their sons, but for you alone?

Beren: [incredulous]

Did you not understand? I thought it was made clear --

Steward: [equally distressed]

No. And yes. --And no. It is still difficult for us to comprehend the brevity of human life, but we accept it -- but ten years is small even in mortal reckoning, and the shield-guard of Dorthonion of younger years for the most part, and is is beyond my ability to believe that Belegund your kinsman, who carried me out of Serech on his shoulders, and shared the last of his water with me in that furnace -- is gone from Arda as last year's leaves.

Beren: [hoarsely]

But in wartime a day is long, and 'sunset may be a dirge where the morning was a dance.'

Soldier: [low voice]

My lord -- we have not known full war these several years, and save the Dagor Bragollach and the times immediately following, not since long before then.

Beren: [comprehension arriving in full]

That is why your Prince apologized to me. --Not to me, to Dorthonion. Our realm died -- holding your borders against the North.

[Silence; no one dares to speak]

Well. I'm glad -- I saw what we saved.

Captain:

My lord, forgive --

Beren: [interrupting]

--Let it go! --My friends. We never sent to you for aid. We never asked for help. It was our duty, as we saw it, and our will, and the song's done and over with.

[he is breathing hard and his fists are clenched on his knees, and they wait tensely; then he shakes it off and begins wrapping the collars around his arms and replacing the weapons with perfectly steady hands.]

Beren: [pleasantly]

I'll be pleased to dwell here, when I've done what I came for.

Steward:

Will you, my lord?

Beren:

Yes. So long as you allow freedom of the woods to -- my House. I know I can't live underground all the time.

Steward:

I speak with complete confidence of the King's will when I assure you that you -- and yours -- will ever be free of Nargothrond.

[it's clear from this that Beren's mission is no secret to him at least]

Ranger:

When the nomads come through High Faroth again, it would be interesting to hear what they have to say about that notion of the land sensing the doings of Men, sir.

Guard:

You're right, it really does sound akin to something the Turned Ones would say.

Ranger: [officiously]

You shouldn't say 'the Turned,' that's quite rude. Laiquendi is permissible, but Lindar is better -- that's what they name themselves, 'the Singers.'

[the Ranger Captain smiles slightly at a well-learned lesson]

Beren:

Er -- who are the nomads, and where is High Faroth?

Steward:

The Green Kindred -- some of our people who never followed the Call, even so far as these lands. They build nothing, make no permanent shelters, kill no living thing for food or sport -- will not even cut live wood -- and their only arts music and woven adornment. They're very strange.

[Beren carefully says nothing. Realizing]

Forgive me -- that was not what I meant to say --

[breaks off]

Captain:

They're the reason you were born in the North, lad. Your folk came with axes and ploughs and the Singers begged our lord to send you elsewhere, or they'd not be answerable for what happened after. --I don't think they'd have a problem with you, though. They won't stay in the area during Autumn, during hunting season but other times they come through what we call the Hills of the Hunters, that range of high country above the rivers -- you might have seen them, though the rains were pretty dense lately, I don't know how well --

Beren: [enthusiastic]

I saw those -- they reminded me of home, of the uplands by Aeluin. Beautiful country. I'd like to explore it someday.

Captain:

We'll have to take you on patrol up there, when this . . . business of yours, is over. Introduce you to the tribes and the Eldest Voices.

Beren:

I would be much grateful, sir.

[the shadow is gone between them]

Steward: [sighs]

Well. I should return to my work.

Captain:

Making sure Himself doesn't forget to eat?

[The Steward nods. His eyes are haunted and his confidence is vanished.]

Beren:

Sir. . . My lord Edrahil . . . ?

[the Steward looks at him gravely]

Would it please you to keep this?

[He offers, again correctly point-inward, Belegund's knife]

My sword-brother, heart-brother, my kinsman is honored in your remembrance of him. If it would mean anything to you . . .

[The Steward takes the knife and bows deeply. He fastens the sheath to his belt before replying.]

Steward:

You do me honor, Lord of Dorthonion. I'll see you at the King's table, after times.

[He leaves them]

Beren: [quietly]

I'm sorry to trouble you all. That wasn't what I came here for.

Captain:

We know.  -- You're taking this remarkably calmly.

Beren:

I've had five winters, and more, to accustom myself to the fact of our doom. None of this is really new, even -- I just never thought about it all at once like this.  Some of it I've already faced through, and the rest of it -- will come back with nightfall and I'll meet it then. Now -- is meanwhiles.

Soldier:

I remember that being the way of your people, my lord. [softly]

It seems very strange to us.

[long pause -- not hostile but filled with mutual regret and incomprehension -- broken by the entrance of Lord Gwindor, sans the Princess, but with a couple of other citizens of Nargothrond as Beren once again tries to finish breakfast.]

Gwindor:

Gentles -- my lord Beren --

Captain:

-- Where's your better half, lad?  And what about your practice, eh? We missed you at the pells.

Gwindor:

They've kept us busy running to the archives and subarchives all night. Fael--

[blushes and goes on self-consciously]

-- Finduilas is still there, but she wanted me to make sure that Lord Beren was being properly looked after.

Captain:

Well of course he is! --I imagine your friends were just a little curious themselves -- not to mention jealous?

Gwindor:

That too, sir.

Lady:

How amazing! I've never seen a mortal before.

[she turns his chin to better see his face; again Beren is amused rather than offended by Elven foibles, fortunately.]

He looks almost like a person, doesn't he?

Lord: [oblivious to the Looks they are getting from the veterans]

Indeed he does, my dear. --What news do you bring from Doriath, sir?

Beren:

? . . . ?

Captain: [coldly]

Someone's been talking rather a bit more than they ought. Now I know it wasn't me, and I'm fairly certain it wasn't Edrahil, and I'm reasonably sure that His Majesty isn't the one either.

[narrows his eyes at Gwindor, who somehow manages to look both hangdog and stiff-necked at once.]

Pah, what am I saying? This is Nargothrond. If a whale sneezes in Brithombar Harbor, everyone knows about it in the Caves by nightfall -- even if it didn't happen. As the King well knows.

Beren: [awkwardly]

Excuse me, but my business is now the King's, and for him to make public when he feels the time is right.  I'm sorry -- no offense meant.

Gwindor: [sudden realization]

You must have had to cross Dungortheb! Is it as dreadful as rumors have it? Can you tell us about your adventures there?

Beren:

No. [relents slightly]

To tell you about it I would have to remember it, and I will never, ever visit that country again.

Lady: [surprised]

Do mortals also know the Living Memory? I thought not -- or so I'd been led to understand.

Beren:

I don't know about other mortals. I only know that I am never going there again.

[awkward silence]

Gwindor: [desperately changing subject]

So -- my lord, how do you find Nargothrond?

Beren: [relieved]

Beyond all description. The reports don't do it justice. I've only seen a tiny bit of it, of course.

Lord:

Is it finer than Thingol's place? I've never been there.

Beren: [tactfully]

Ah . . .  it's a lot more . . . detailed, than Menegroth.

Lord:

But do you find it better?

Beren:

Well. I -- That's hard to say, I -- didn't see very much of Menegroth at all.

Lord:

But, given what little you've seen of Nargothrond, compared to the little you saw of Doriath, which would you say is the superior construction?

Beren: [trapped]

. . .

Lady:

Darling, don't be tiresome. You can't expect him to be able to explain such things -- they're not in the mortal understanding.

[Beren raises his eyebrows; the Rangers look affronted on his behalf.]

Beren: [more patient than sarcastic]

I did grow up speaking Elvish at home --

Lord: [aside to his companions]

Well, after a fashion--!

Beren: [ignores this]

-- it's as much or more my native speech as Taliska.  I don't answer because I don't want you to think me ungrateful, is all.  I -- and this is purely a matter of my own preferences, not anything to do with which is finer overall, or whether I am even fit to make those kind of judgments -- I have to say, that I liked what I saw of Menegroth better.  It's like the forest becomes stone as you go down into it, not like you're going into a cave really. There are all kinds of animals carved into a kind of illusion of life, and then there are ones I've never seen and don't recognize. I think maybe they're from Aman, but I never got the chance to ask.  So I found Menegroth preferable, for that reason.

Lord:

But how could you in any way find the wild woods superior to a work of art like our glorious citadel?

[before Beren can correct him]

I know, I know, 'preferable.' What's out there that's not in here? Explain what's so amazing about the wilderness.

Beren: [unthreatened, accepting challenge]

All right.

[thinks for a moment]

I saw this thing once: pine needles after the winter like a red pelt around the roots, patched with sun and snow in spots of white. --All of the sudden they leapt up and danced away before my eyes.

Captain: [to self]

Hah. That's good. --That's very good.

Lord:

Did a strong breeze come up and blow them away?

Beren:

Nope.

Lady:

I think it's a metaphor.

Beren: [encouraging]

Could be.

Lady:

One tree, considered as a paradigm for the passing of the seasons, elided to a metaphorical instant?

Beren:

Mm . . . 'fraid not.

Gwindor:

'Red pelt' -- is it a fox under the trees?

Beren: [regretfully]

No, not quite.

Ranger:

It's a spring fawn called by its mother, correct?

[Beren nods; the court folk frown, smile, discuss amongst themselves]

Beren:

And then one time I saw something else:  a brown leaf on a dry branch uncurled itself and spun away on the wind, becoming red and gold as it went to join the last year's leaves.

Lady:

Oh, it's a time paradox, I'm sure -- about mortality, am I correct?

Lord:

No, I think it's like the last one. Some kind of natural phenomenon again.

Lady:

Forgive me for rejecting your supposition, but it must be a mortal version of that saying about blossoms never returning to their branches.

Lord: [shaking his head]

I think it's a kind of butterfly. I've seen them whilst out hunting in the forest -- they resemble a dead leaf, and then they unfurl their wings and reveal such manner of bright colors inside. You must have noticed them, surely.

Lady:

But butterflies don't uncurl. --You did say 'uncurl,' not 'unfurl,' did you not?

[Beren nods again]

Lady:

So which is it? An insect? Or an image of the forward rush of Time that cannot be turned back in its stream?

Beren: [kindly]

You're both right. The 'brown leaf' is the shell of the creature whose past generations are all dead in the winter, and when spring comes it splits and unrolls itself all wet, and when it dries out, it flies down to the forest floor looking for food in the new flowers. I don't know what your name for them is, but we call them gledewings, because the hidden side of them looks like a hot coal. But we also say it's a sign of the gods -- the Hidden Fire that moves all Ea, and the Butterfly that Elbereth put into the stars to remind us that Life is ever stronger than Death.

Lord: [astonished]

Indeed! -- wherever did you learn all that?

Beren:

In the woods behind my house. --And from my parents.

Gwindor: [sharply]

I'm not sure why you're so surprised. All his family's been as quick-witted as fell-handed.

Lady:

We only came here after the Dagor Bragollach. It merely seems as though it's been longer, Gwin.

Beren: [who has gone off in a bit of a reverie]

And then this other time, not in the woods but on the heath, there was a sudden rainstorm that blew over, and on the granite outcrop where I was lying, the dip in the stone filled with water about as deep as a hide's thickness, and I saw in it the sky blue as a field of flax-flowers in the days before the harvest, and sun and moon both in the sky together and the Heavenly Arch, all at once.

[silence]

Lord:

I can't even begin to guess.

Lady:

Don't you think it's a parable of the deceptiveness of surface appearances?

Lord:

No. What does it mean, Lord Beren?

Beren:

Huh? -- Oh, no, that's just something that happened. I thought it was really great. It kind of made up for the rest of the day.

Lady:

Getting rained on?

Beren:

Getting shot. I was in too close and I think they cracked a rib. One of those 'Things To Remind Yourself: Mithril Stops Arrowheads, It Doesn't Stop Momentum.'

Lady:

    [to her consort]

I still think there's some deeper meaning in that last one.

Lord:

    [to Beren]

It really shouldbe a riddle -- it isn't appropriate to stop at two, you know.

Beren:

I'm sorry. I just thought of those now, and somehow the third one never made it to the dinner table.

[to the subsequent odd looks]

It's a saying--? Which I guess you don't use. I'm afraid I don't know what it means, either.

[catches the Captain's sleeve and draws him down to whisper:]

Sir, I understand you're set to guard me. Would you please disarm me, or else send all these folk away, because I swear I'll savage the next person interrupts my meal --

Captain:

Everyone! Be off. Get back to work, get to your posts, find some work to do or keep the gossip-weave lengthening. Milord is not a spectacle to gawk at.

[Chagrined, the Ranger and the other veterans leap to attention and hurry away.]

Lord:

I say, can he talk to us like that?

Gwindor: [dry voice -- embarrassed by his friends]

Well, it certainly seems that way. My lord -- I'll see you at Council presently.

[He drags his companions away]

Beren:

Thanks. --Sorry.

[He sets to in hopes of clearing his plate without other incident]

Captain:

I was remiss.

Beren: [between mouthfuls]

You can talk, I can listen. Am I so much weirder than my ancestors?

Captain:

Well, let's see. Old 'Fetters' sent his top commander and an army of wolves into North Beleriand because the Orc-bands wouldn't go after you any more, and no one, friend or foe, would even try to claim the king's ransom on your head. So many stories are told about you that they can't all be true -- only the more improbable ones, apparently. And you wonder why people want to come and have a look at you? Oh, and you're a veritable child in our reckoning, to top it all.

[pause]

Beren: [rapidly folding cheese strips into some of the flatbread]

I must be rather disappointing, then.

Captain:

You're not mortal enough. Not to them, who have only rumor and theory of mortal ways to guide their fancies, and not to us, who have known your people long and in many weathers -- you're too much like one of the Green Kindred for comfort, and yet there's no mistaking you for anything but a Man.

[debates, then continues:]

Then there's the fact that you scarcely need a guard -- were you not so polite, I've no doubt you'd hold your own against the throng. Nothing seems to daunt you -- though after your experiences, not so surprising.

Beren: [swallowing]

Oh, I daunt, all right.

Captain:

Well, you don't show it. It's as if you've inherited all the stubbornness of all your ancestors, and then some -- and all their courtesy. It's disconcerting.

Beren: [frowns]

'Intransigence'.

Captain:

? . . . ?

Beren: [scraping up the last crumbs from his plate]

What the King said.

Captain: [wryly]

He would. He does love the words. --Do you want more?

Beren: [making sure that his extra bread is secure]

No, I've got provisions. Is there a fountain around, sir?

Captain:

There's one by the chronometer.

Beren: [looks blank]

Ah.

[apologetically]

--I'm afraid that's a word I don't know. 'Time --'?

Captain:

'Measurer'. Another of Celebrimbor's Workings. Come on, I'll show you.

[Beren drops down from the alcove and walks beside the Ranger Captain, not quite as though he owns the place, but certainly as quietly as the Elf.]

Captain: [noticing]

Hm. You wanted to be heard, then, when we took you.

Beren:

I wanted not to be shot. I think there's a difference, though I couldn't say what.

Captain:

We'll have to find a Sage and ask.

[A small group of people are seated near the fountain, Celebrimbor among them, discussing something that the son of Curufin is demonstrating by means of an elaborate diagram in the air. Ignoring the Nargothronders, who drop the discussion and stare at him, Beren plunges his hands into the spill and drinks that way.]

Celebrimbor: [piqued at being interrupted]

Er -- there is a cup there, Barahirion.

Beren: [innocently]

A what?

[keeps the straight face for a second, then grins]

Celebrimbor:

Do you mock me, sir?

Beren:

No, my lord -- only myself.

Celebrimbor: [annoyed]

Where is the purpose in that?

[Beren shrugs; Celebrimbor snorts and turns away in dismissal]

Captain: [undertone]

There's another way you differ from your forefathers -- I've not seen that subtle and eccentric humor in the Beorings ere now. You must have it of your mother's kin?

Beren:

No -- the sarcasm and the having-to-have-the-last-word comes from the Hador side. You probably just never noticed when Da and Uncle Brego were doing it, because they never stopped. I'm not as good as they were; I always give it away.

[long pause]

Captain:

I think -- I think that perhaps there has been more gentle humor at our expense across the ages than ever we knew.

Beren: [blandly]

Why, sir, who would dare to make jest of the Elves?

[gets a Look]

See, I wouldn't have done that if you were one of us, on account of not wanting my head shoved in the water. Unless it was summer and not raining.

Captain: [bemused]

Mortal customs . . . how strange, to take delight in being thought less of -- but I can think of some who'd be improved by it --

[a small chime sounds]

That's the summoning -- you should see this, as you slept through the last five.

[steers Beren towards a large and complex artifact of crystal and metals and lights which is in subtle motion -- think Myst & sequels, only more so. A crowd has already gathered around it in expectation.]

Beren:

What is it?

Captain:

It shows the heavens small, in all their moving, and six times a day it calls the sixth, so that anyone on this level can hear it. You'll find nothing like it elsewhere in the world.

Beren: [a little more loudly than he meant to]

But what use is it?

[gets uncomprehending stares from bystanders]

Don't you always know where the sun is, and the stars, as we do not?

Captain:

Well, yes -- but one loses track indoors. And it's helpful for arranging meetings, or keeping them to sane durations. It also shows the turnings of the year, and the Great Years, and many other motions of the sky.

Beren:

I still can't see what we would do with such a thing.

Celebrimbor: [who has come over to see the mortal be impressed]

But isn't it a necessity in agriculture, to know when the proper times for, oh, planting and, and harvesting are? Or when to breed the animals and to feed them?

Beren: [raising his hands helplessly]

Yes, but -- the world just changes -- outside at least. It comes as it comes. You don't need a -- a -- sculpture for it.

Celebrimbor:

What about for the War? Setting up ambushes for the enemy at the right time, or in the field, to coordinate your troops so that you could all strike in unison?

Beren:

I'm not qualified to say -- I never took the field that way, except in practices. It wouldn't have been very helpful for my work -- too large, for one thing.

Celebrimbor: [sighing]

It doesn't have to be that large or that ornate. I mean in principle it could be a useful thing.

Captain:

No, actually, not all that useful. Not without being able to see what the rest of the field is doing, both ours and theirs. I can see a lot of disasters happening if you assumed that everyone was going to move at once -- and then they didn't.

Beren:

Would that be possible? I thought scrying was kind of almost useless for practical purposes. But if you could see -- or especially talk -- then you could actually avoid patrols -- coordinate groups -- warn --

[breaks off]

Captain: [covering smoothly]

My lord, what ever became of that project of your grandfather's? Wasn't he working on a device that would allow one to both see and hear, and be seen and be heard, across great distances?

Celebrimbor: [bitter]

No one was interested. They'd rather ride halfway across the country, never mind that it would take days, or sail to the islands, and speak face to face. They thought it was pointless and he lost interest. Now, of course, -- but it's too late. I don't know what became of his notes, and I was only peripherally involved in the Workings. There were some prototypes, but I've not seen them here. I think they were forgotten --

[The Measurer achieves its zenith and the full carillon rings out, interrupting them. Constellations appear, the Moon and Sun rise and sail past, flowers open, animals and birds come out and make their circuits, ships cross before them, towers rise and fly banners, horsemen ride over their bridges, and finally the stars come out once more before it all folds away again to its quiescent state, and the satisfied crowd moves off.]

I'm still not quite happy with that last, but I've not thought of anything better to end it with.

Beren: [laughs out loud with delight]

So that's its use -- it's just beautiful. Like a fountain. --Or a reflection. --Or a star.

[The inventor's expression goes from affront to confusion]

Celebrimbor:

I assure you, it's more work than that --

Captain: [aside]

--More work than the stars?

Celebrimbor: [snide]

-- but even a fountain is useful -- as I think you'd admit?

Beren: [oblivious to the tone]

Nah, you don't need a fountain -- you could just have the water pour out into a bucket. It doesn't need a frame like a hall-door and a throne for the water with different levels so it sounds like a real falls almost. Your -- chronometer -- could you make it be something different each time? Or -- hey, what about this? Couldn't you make it show stories, like a tapestry? Only solid, but moving --

Celebrimbor: [sharply, almost savagely]

-- Do you think yourself our equal in art, for having mastered the brute skills of battle and slaughter beyond the usual mortal aptitude for such things?

[pause]

Beren: [unthreatening, as if to a very angry dog]

No, my lord. I wouldn't begin to understand what you've done here, in another year, or ten.  I only meant to say what I would make -- if I had any skill at all for the making of things -- which I have not. Save traps and ambushes. I cannot make anything of beauty -- only dream of it.

Celebrimbor: [mollified, a touch embarrassed]

It isn't anything much. I've got a knack for it . . . I'm sure you could learn some skills, if you put your mind to it.

[dismisses him from consideration again, goes back to his seminar]

Captain: [exasperated]

I'm sorry. You can scarcely think us very Wise --

[Beren shrugs it off]

Would it please you to tour the rest of Nargothrond, or as much of it as we'll have time for?

Beren:

Might we go to the kennels, sir? I'd most like to see your hounds.

Captain:

Of course. I confess that the city often overwhelms me also, and all of us who range the woods by preference. The dogs may be importunate, but they'll ask you no impolite questions, at least!

[checks]

Your pardon, milord -- I spoke too soon. The King summons us to council.

Beren:

I heard nothing.

Captain:

I would be very troubled if you had. Please -- come this way.

 

Chapter Text

Gower:

Little knowing of the ways of the older world
wherein kings contend with craft and cunning, 
(hailing from a simpler land, a simpler folk 
of speech plainer, of ways hardier, making 
no purpose of the twisted paths of curled 
intrigue, nor seeing need for suchlike works) 
Dorthonion's young scion ventures forth 
onto a field of battle where hidden lurks 
such attack as ne'er might he foreguess. 
-- His skills at secret warfare are all plain: 
the ways of stealth, of hiding, of leading 'stray 
the clamoring foe, the hungry beast, with main 
force to smite, or with speed to flee; 
treason knows he indeed, too well -- still 
e'en there the patterns plain and black 
of heart tormented and body wracked 
ask no unanswerable questions of the soul. 
How indeed shall he prepare, defend, when fire 
out of the ancient Ages past spills wide, 
when words wake fear, and greed calls forth desire--? 

[At the entrance to the throne room -- via one of the smaller side doors, not the wide and fancy main entrances, that leads in behind a colonnade -- the Captain is about to usher Beren in when he stops suddenly.]

Captain:

What's wrong?

Beren: [quickly lashing the peace-strings around his sword-hilt]

I forgot to safe my blade again. --Do you need to check the knots?

Captain:

--Why?

Beren: [shrugs]

"A stranger, armed, in the King's presence" . . . ?

Captain: [dryly]

Seeing that it was he who ordered your weapons be returned you, I rather think it's all right. But if your scruples insist . . .

[he gives the hilt an experimental tug]

Safety's on just fine. Come on --

[gesturing Beren through. They pass through the colonnade and out across the apse-like area of the upper hall, Beren trailing along behind, staring up at the carvings and the vaulted ceilings and the way that natural formations have been employed as some of the columns. The Captain pauses to wait for him, amused.]

Beren: [awed]

How long did it take to make all of this?

Captain:

Well, so far it's taken about two and a half Great Years. That of course includes work on the rest of the place, you understand, not just this hall.

Beren:

And your Great Years -- one of them's what, a hundred-forty-four years?

Captain:

That's right, twelve-twelvemonths. But it isn't done yet. Never will be, I expect. He keeps tinkering with it -- like that bit over there, that's new, I don't think it's been there a score yet. Between that and all the other projects he's got going, I'm betting it'll be at least another Yen. --Maybe longer. Of course, if it was ever done he'd have to start a new one, you know.

[Beren frowns, trying to fit this into his worldview. They reach the central axis of the throne room, coming in right along the dais to where a large table has been put lengthwise across in front of the throne itself and about which around sixteen chairs are set.

Arrangement of council:

Inner side of the table, facing into the hall:

    The King is seated at the middle, presiding over a group of counselors, which includes his brother Orodreth (to his right), the Steward (on his left, assisting), Finduilas (on her father's right), Gwindor (to her right), Guilin his father (at table's end), the Commander of Nargothrond's Cavalry (to the Steward's right) with the Soldier from the Fens as his aide (right) and an empty chair on the end.

Outer side:

    To the left of the empty place on the opposite side is Curufin, beside Curufin the Master of the Defensive Illusions, then his Aide (to the left across from the Steward), another empty place, and three high-ranking Counselors, at least one of whom should be cast as female, befitting a Kingdom headed by Galadriel's wisest brother. The table is on the lowest and widest tier of the dais, as in the schematic below (assume the dais is slightly curved, despite the ASCII.)

There is also an Honor Guard present, two stationed by the throne, two behind the King's chair (they are among the Guards present at the Relief of Serech, as is one of the two beside the throne.]

   _-----_ 
G   ||Thr||   G 
   --   -- 
------------------------------------ 
  
 

--------------------------------------------------- 
    G   G 
  Gw  Fs  Or  Fi  Ed  CC  Wr 
Gu [Ce]

  C1  C2  C3  [B] Ai  Mag  Cu

----------------------------------------------------------------- 

Finrod: [rising in courtesy]

My lords -- my lord! Have you enjoyed your rest, and found welcome in my citadel?

Beren:

Indeed yes, I've at last seen something truly Elven in my stay here, sir -- that Measurer that sings and shines.

Finrod: [genuinely pleased]

It's wonderful, isn't it? --And have you found Nargothrond pleasant, to see it waking?

[there is a touch of Elvish -- or artistic -- vanity when he asks:]

It's never as fair as Menegroth, but it is beautiful, is it not?

Beren: [solemnly]

Yeah. It's a nice big place you've got here.

[The King, appreciating the joke, grins; the Counselors look rather taken aback.]

Finrod: [all business again]

How well do you ride, Barahirion? Have you much skill with horses? It may affect our schedule.

Beren:

Well. None with horses -- but a lot with mountain ponies.

Guilin: [dismay]

-- Ponies.

Beren:

Don't laugh, my lord: it's harder than it sounds. They're carnivorous, and prefer the flesh of people. Men or Elves, makes no difference, I was told.

First Counselor: [skeptically]

Carnivorous?

[Finrod covers a smile with his hand.]

First Guard: [whispering]

I remember those little hellspawn. We should have sent them to fight the wolves.

Second Guard: [whispering]

I thought they were wolves.

Finrod:

Still, you'll want some training both to accustom yourself to the height and pacing of the Valinorean breed, and to staying in line with the rest of the "alquantar." If I recall correctly, your way was to run like a pack of hounds and over whatever or whoever's before you. Effective, very inspirational to keep up one's best speed, but not really a good idea with lances. A fortnight should do it, I think.

Beren: [jaw drops]

Sire -- I don't -- I really don't think I could learn to ride with your swan- flight in two years, let alone two weeks -- forgive me, but I've never used a long-spear from horseback, we always would ride and dismount to fight -- and I've not ridden in seven, eight years --

Finrod: [dismissing his panic]

Oh no -- you just need to be able to stay aboard and not crash into anyone on the turns. You're not going to take part in charges. It's merely a matter of coordination, you already know the basics, and you've got perfect balance. You'll do fine.

Beren: [resigned]

All right.

[aside]

I'm going to die. --Or wish that I had, at least.

[aloud]

Do I get to ask why?

Finrod: [deadpan]

Certainly not.

[pause]

I'm going to tell you in a minute, so why bother?

[Confused looks from most of the others who aren't used to mortal-style humor.]

My friends, my good counselors, those among you who have not yet made the acquaintance of The Beoring -- may I present to you the son of our people's great friend and far renowned in his own right, Beren Barahirion, House Beor, rightful Lord of Dorthonion, whose cause is well-known to all present here.

[Beren bows to the Council, deeply embarrassed by the introduction]

Beren, sit down, if you please -- when my good kinsman returns from his summons I'll conduct a full overview of the plan we've devised, less the more technical aspects that won't mean anything to you. In the meantime if you'd care to examine the maps, you may get a better feel for what we'll be talking about. Oh, and if anyone here has questions regarding the data we've been using, now's the time to ask, as our Chief of Intelligence is here now as well and his scouts have supplied most of it.

[Beren gives the Captain a startled look; the Captain innocently gives him his best I'm-just-a-simple-Ranger expression. A little nervously Beren goes to the empty place at the end of the table, where the chair is already pulled out.]

Curufin: [dryly]

Don't push it, Beoring.

[sees Beren's confusion and sighs]

I've been given to understand that your rustic background and long removal from anything slightly resembling civilization account for your uncouth behavior and am willing to make admissions -- but my brother is not quite as patient as myself.

Beren:

? . . . ?

Curufin: [exasperated]

That's his place. Anchor seat, next to me, focal point -- ring any bells?

Beren:

  Oh. Oh, I'm very sorry, I wasn't trying to be rude --

[goes to empty chair at center, across from Finrod; the Captain pulls it out before he can struggle with it and squeezes his shoulder before going over to talk shop with his counterparts. The maps on the table are not merely parchment, but are "active" with scalar projections and live indicators, like the topograph projections in Myst only much prettier. Fascinated, Beren keeps running his finger through the intangible array; when the Army Commander and his Aide get up to join the discussion on the other side of the table about seasonal cover along the watershed, he notices Curufin staring at him.]

Beren: [wry]

I think this is what you call a "map," right?

Curufin: [a trifle drawn despite himself, almost genuinely playful:]

That it is. --Ever seen one before?

Beren:

Not like this, I haven't.

Curufin:

Not quite so blasé about us Firstborn and our accomplishments now, hey?

Beren: [doing his darnedest to earn the trust put in him]

Your son's amazingly skillful, my lord. That -- chronometer of his is truly the finest work of craft I've seen. You must be very proud of him.

Curufin: [grimacing, and totally sincere for once]

He doesn't apply himself. He could do so much more if only he would concentrate on his own projects and not try to run all these other mentoring programs at the same time. But he's got no focus and people take advantage of him for it.

Beren:

Well, it's good of him to take the time to teach, though.

Curufin:

At the expense of perfecting his own art?

Beren:

I thought that's usually how crafts work, whether handcraft or lorecraft.

Curufin:

Among your folk, perhaps, where there's such a short time limit to accomplish both the practice and the transference. Among us it's a sign of mental, even moral instability, not to carry a thing to completion.

Beren: [nods]

I can see how that would work.

[frowning]

Would it be impertinent to ask you a question, my lord?

Curufin:

Well, that rather would depend on the question, I should think.

Beren:

I've noticed you wear an unsheathed long-knife, unlike anyone else here. Is there a reason for it?

Curufin:

Yes. Angcrist would cut right through anything I tried to keep the blade in.

Beren:

Even mithril? It's truly that sharp?

Curufin:

It is. --I think your kind would call it "magic."

Beren:

But isn't that really dangerous? Couldn't you rig some kind of, oh, framework around to at least have a barrier so people wouldn't hit it by accident, so you wouldn't cut yourself? Like a fire-cage only smaller? I mean, we do have that tradition of the Vow of the Unsheathed Sword (though that's more one of those things in songs and tales really) but it just seems awfully risky to me.

Curufin:

I think you're assuming that the same conditions obtain to the Kindred as to Mortals, with regards to kinesthesia -- perception of motion -- and physical awareness. We are conscious of ourselves, and all earthly things, in a way I doubt you can begin to imagine. Neither I nor anyone else is going to brush against it in absence of mind.

Beren:

So what happens if you trip? It still seems dangerous to me.

Curufin:

Eldar don't trip. Or do anything by accident -- my lord.

Beren:

That must be nice.

[He is completely sincere, but Curufin gives him a suspicious look anyway]

And I suspect it's a lot more intimidating that way, too.

Curufin: [guarded approval]

You're not as dumb as you look, boy.

Beren: [grins]

That's a good thing, I guess?

[Once again Curufin has to resist the impulse to join in, not mock, but succeeds admirably nonetheless. The King, however, notes Beren's restraint and good will with approval, though Beren doesn't notice.]

Curufin:

Quite. --So, do you think this mad plan has a chance of succeeding, or are you just going along with it for lack of better ideas?

Beren:

Well, I -- don't know what the plan is yet, so I can't say whether it's mad or not, my lord.

Curufin:

Trust me, it's a mad plan. I've spent the better part of the last half-millenium involved in this, as I assume you know, and they don't come any crazier than this. If it couldn't be accomplished with thousands upon thousands of troops and virtually unlimited support, I seriously doubt that anything less has a prayer of succeeding.

Beren:

It's all about doing the unexpected. If they think you might do something, then your enemies will guard against it. If you've done it before, they'll put twice as many guards around to make sure you don't do it again. If you go around the other way, they stand there scratching their heads wondering what hit them, and then they put guards over there. I've seen it countless times. Seems silly, but no one can be everywhere, and if you can't imagine something, you can't imagine someone else doing it either.

Curufin:

Well. You're quite the strategist, aren't you?

Beren: [sighs]

Unfortunately.

[Celegorm enters and goes straight to his brother's side]

Celegorm: [aside to Curufin]

--All of the Hindmost, or Sindar. None of our people are on duty.

Curufin: [low voice]

Interesting. Most interesting.

Finrod:

Is something wrong, cousin?

Celegorm:

No, no, everything's fine, old chap. Carry on.

[takes the place at the end of the table]

Finrod:

Thank you. If everyone would please be seated . . . ?

[The knots of individual discussion break up and the council members take their original places; the Captain returns to Beren's side of the table and takes up station behind his chair. (This makes Beren a bit twitchy because although he knows it's an honor, he's not used to having or allowing anyone behind him.)]

To sum up very quickly for you, the plan is to set out from here and move northward (again, very quickly,) with the lightest accoutrements possible and in three flights, each slightly staggered from the other, each advanced by half-a-day before the next. When we arrive here, we'll kite across the valley of the Sirion to ford here, angling back upwards there, and vectoring past Tol Sirion altogether to hit Serech higher up here, where the flats are covered with shallow water but it's not soft enough to bog us down, splash through to the edge of the plain and form one Great Wing to rush straight across -- and over -- whatever's before us to Eithel Sirion. I'm sure you and my cousin will have a great deal to talk about before we regroup for the infiltration part. We'll ride straight through each night and rest by day as we must, and take care not to get tangled up in any engagements but leave them in our dust. Or mud, depending--

Beren: [interrupting]

--Is that possible?

[blushes]

--Sorry. --Your Majesty.

Finrod: [unfazed]

I think so.

Beren:

I mean, what about the horses?  We can go all day, but they can't, can they? Not without us changing mounts, right?

Finrod:

The Valinorean horse is not like that native to Middle-earth.

Someone: [not loud enough to reveal which of the Council but definitely Noldor]

Either.

[The Captain shoots a got-your-number Look down that end of the table.]

Beren:

And when we get there?

Finrod:

You'll have a bit more to do than staying on then. We've some scaling devices to assist us and of course all will be stealthed, but we're still going to have to manage the climbing work ourselves along with despatching all sentries and resistance we encounter. The goal will be to encounter as little as possible -- it's a snatch-and-grab operation, not a havoc mission. And we have minimal data on the interior of Angband, except for some antiquated descriptions dating back to the last successful engagement with Morgoth, which are certainly inaccurate and misleading.

Beren: [frowning at the animated displays on the maps]

So essentially we're sneaking into the Enemy's fortress via the mountains and trying to get as close to the target as we can without being noticed, figuring out a route as we go, and we don't know what the terrain looks like, only we know that it isn't like what it used to be?

Finrod:

Essentially.

Beren:

Got it. How are we going to locate the jewel?

Finrod:

Well, "down" is said to be a good direction, as far as Morgoth is concerned, and Lords Celegorm and Curufin have attested that they can perceive within a farther distance-range than any other Elf the presence of the Silmarils, so we shouldn't have to spend too much time--

Celegorm: [interrupting]

Wait a minute, wait a minute, what do you mean, "Got it" --? He says "We're running blind into the midst of the greatest concentration of enemy forces to be found," and you say, "Got it" --?

Beren: [shrugs]

It's what I do, my lord.

Celegorm:

Oh, you're the outlaw! --I didn't recognize you, all cleaned up.

Beren: [solemnly]

Amazing stuff, that hot water, my lord.

[to the King]

--The only thing I'm not sure about is how you said everything will be stealthed and how we're going to be avoiding most of the trouble along the way. I know what I would mean by it, but I was getting the feeling that it meant something different.

Finrod:

Those are the technical aspects which are not going to require you to do anything at all. Each flight will have a full complement of Illusionists and Seers to forestall observation and anticipate enemy contact--

Beren:

Got it.

Finrod: [to his Commander]

A question, Lord Commander?

Cavalry Commander:

Yes. One. Does he have to come with us?

Finrod:

Yes. No sense in leaving any unnecessary legal loopholes. I enjoy an argument as much as Elu does, but priorities have to stay in proper order. Don't worry, it'll work out.

Celegorm:

Cousin Finrod, could we go over those technical aspects in rather more detail? I confess freely, I'm a simple soul, and I prefer plain hunting and plain dealing, as well as plain fighting -- this talk of scribbling back and forth and stealth confuses me.

Finrod:

Certainly. Master of Illusions, would you be so good as to attend and correct me if I've ommitted any of the necessary elements in --

Beren: [breaking in]

Oh there was one other thing -- how are we coming home? Won't they be waiting for us?

Curufin:

Not more than usual, my lord, seeing as that we'll be returning by the way of our siblings' holdings in the East, and thence to Doriath.

Beren: [nodding]

Got it.

[Finrod, carefully expressionless, sets to an intense technical discussion with the Mage and Celegorm over diagrams]

Aide: [to Beren, curious, not trying to be rude]

Is this how it goes at mortal councils? Interruptions and absence of formality and all?

[Across the table Finduilas gives Beren a sympathetic grimace]

Beren:

Um, yeah, except there was usually more table-pounding.

Guilin:

Table-pounding?

Beren:

Yeah.

Gwindor:

--I'm sure it's figurative, Father.

Beren:

No, it was loud, mostly. After my aunt died things got a little quieter 'cause Ma wouldn't put up with beer in the tablecloth or on the floor, but it was literal all right.

Curufin: [innocently]

Care to give us a demonstration, eh?

Beren:

Oh, no, I think I'll pass -- I see your drinking-ware is mostly glass, and I hear that's fragile stuff.

Curufin:

Pity. --These cultural survivals from antiquity are always so fascinating.

Beren:

All right, how about when we get back? Only we need ox-horn vessels full of beer so we can do it properly.

Defense Aide:

Beer? That's that foul drink you people make out of bread, isn't it?

Beren:

Er, not really. It has grain and yeast and water for ingredients, but -- different recipe.

First Counselor: [grimly]

I remember King Finrod tried making some once.

[Bleak expressions of remembrance on those attending to the discussion]

Beren: [interested]

Was it any good?

Orodreth:

If by good you mean, "palatable", the answer is a most definite no, my Lord Barahirion. If by good you mean "similar to the original pattern", then I cannot say, as I was never able to force down enough on our visits to Brethil to make any sort of accurate observations as to its flavor.

Beren:

Oh, Brethil. The Haladin might be valiant warriors, but they make wretched beer -- it's mead, actually. For real ale you have to start with mountain stream water and sweet grain from Ladros.

Orodreth:

I have on occasion imbibed both, and -- I fear I could distinguish no difference whatsoever, milord.

Cavalry Commander: [impatiently]

Gentles, is this in any way, shape, form or nebulous parallel relevant to the discussion at hand or the matter thereof?

Beren: [deadpan]

I thought you folks wanted to see how mortals do this council thing. That's probably enough. --So what do you want me to do? Am I actually going to be riding in the angle?  Which rank? Front or back?

Cavalry Commander: [mincing no words]

That depends on how horrible you are. I'm saying at the outset, primaries or heart, because I want you where you'll bring down the fewest when you fall off.

Beren:

Oh, good. Fewer to step on me, right?

Cavalry Commander: [nods]

That too. We'll see how you do. --And what the King says.

[bitterly]

Ponies!

Celegorm: [calling from background]

Well, what's your final verdict, brother? Advise me with your shrewd counsel -- should we go along with this, or is it suicidal madness?

Curufin: [thoughtfully]

Everyone here knows I think it's insane. Just for the record. But -- I am reminded by the Heir of Dorthonion that the unexpected may well succeed, and that daring is usually more than adequate to carry the day against an unprepared -- or overprepared -- adversary. And cousin Finrod's plan is certainly as daring as it is well-prepared.

Finrod:

Thank you, cousin.

Beren:

If it's any consolation, my lord, the ground is very steep where I grew up, and the terrain quite rugged. I'm used to difficult conditions.

Cavalry Commander:

Scant. I'm not happy at all about letting a mind-deaf mortal near my horses, you should know. I'd far rather have you ride pillion as per when we take the archers to the front, but you're too coarse-boned for that with the distance we have to to cover. If you're rough with them in practice I will find ways to make you regret it, though.

Beren:

I used to be passable. Long time back I could even do the shooting-from-the- saddle thing and get maybe one wolf in three.

Cavalry Commander:

Really.

Beren:

Really. All right, maybe it was closer to one in four. It was kind of a showing- off thing, more than anything else.

Cavalry Commander:

Forgive me if I appear skeptical, but that would require use of both hands, would it not? What about your reins?

Beren:

What about 'em? I knotted the leathers so we wouldn't trip on them.

Cavalry Commander: [clearly unconvinced]

Indeed.

[His ADC tries to get his attention]

--Yes?

Warrior:

Sir -- Huan trusts him. And Barahir was always good to the little fiends -- even though I wanted to beat them, because they Just. Don't. Listen. And they're wicked, even if they're not Evil.

Cavalry Commander: [eyeing Beren]

Hmph.

Warrior:

Not all bad, though -- at least the "not listening" part -- a mind-linked rider terrified out of any pretense of rationality on an already-terrified steed is a very, very bad combination. And a mountless courier's precious little use in a redoubt scenario when the nearest help's Stars-know-where. Vicious half-wild mountain ponies having to be head-wrestled at all times, at least don't care if they've just lost their own rider, or whether their master is having Premonitions of Cosmic Doom, or pick up the images from all down the line of things past Elven, let alone equine, contemplation -- they just want to get away from the fires and maybe get a few good bites in along the way.

Cavalry Commander: [shrewdly]

I've never heard you talk about the Battle from a personal standpoint.

Warrior:

Very sorry, sir. I thought I was being impersonally-abstract enough.

Finrod:

. . . So does that answer all your remaining questions, then? Have I left anything out that you can see?

Curufin: [looking at his brother, not at the King]

I rather think so, myself -- and you?

Celegorm: [answering the other question as well -- We'll go for it]

Oh yes, absolutely.

[standing]

There's just one thing in all this that you're forgetting, kinsman.

[draws his sword and clangs it down on the table in front of them, declamatory:]

"Be he friend or foe or demon foul of Morgoth Bauglir, be he mortal dark that in after days on earth shall dwell, shall no law nor love nor league of Gods, no might nor mercy, nor moveless fate, defend him for ever from the fierce vengeance of the sons of Feanor, whoso seize or steal or finding keep the fair enchanted globes of crystal whoso glory dies not, the Silmarils. We have sworn forever!"

[Dead silence. All are as if in shock at the first overt invocation of the Oath in centuries which is now loosed again into the World. Only Finrod is completely calm and unaffected by it]

Finrod:

My lord my cousin, I thought we had settled this matter to honor's satisfaction for all concerned.

Celegorm:

How could we possibly have settled it, when it's not even begun? But we will settle it.

[The Sons of Feanor segue back and forth seamlessly between Good Cop/Bad Cop and Smart Chap/Simple Chap routines throughout the "debate" -- and shamelessly.]

Curufin:

Not that this insanity has a hope of success, of course -- but on the off chance that whatever whimsical force exists to unbalance the plans and careful calculations of thinking Elves is ruling this hour, we want to make our position perfectly clear. There can be no compromise on the matter of the Silmarils. Not even to temporize, not even temporarily. --If that's what you really intend. Cousin.

Finduilas:

I should think you'd want even one of them out of Morgoth's control, no matter who got it, just because of what he did to your father! And it's for a good cause. You should be ashamed of yourselves!

Curufin:

Be quiet, Sparkly, and let the grownups talk.

[to Gwindor, preemptively:]

Sit down, pup, and learn to control your temper if you don't want to go West early --

[to Guilin, before the rest of the Council has a chance to get offended]

I do apologize, good sir, but the role of impetuous youth at High Councils is to watch, listen, and learn in respectful silence from those older and wiser than they -- or so I've always believed, gentles.

Second Counselor: [evidently has resented the kids' presence at sessions]

It's good to hear somebody saying that, finally.

Finduilas:

Father!

Orodreth:

Your comments are offensive, Curufin --

Curufin: [interrupting, coldly:]

--But correct. The fact that you are offended by them is irrelevant.

Celegorm: [lazy smile]

After all, it isn't as though you can exactly throw us out now, is it?

[There is a silence, Finrod expressionless, the rest looking apprehensive but generally in agreement]

Beren:

Wait, wait -- why not? What exactly do you two do around here, anyway? Except help out the King's huntsmen, sort of, when you feel like it?

Steward: [urgent]

My lord, please.

Captain: [aside-but-loud-enough-to-be-heard-by-everyone]

--Good question, actually.

Third Counselor:

Your question, sir, is as rude as it is ridiculous. There are the sacred rules of hospitality, that are surely even known to mortals, which forbid the refusal of shelter to any guest -- and so much the more when guest is also of one blood and family.

Beren: [shakes head]

No, gentles, I'm sorry but I'm not seeing it at all -- when times got harder, we had a lot of people staying with us, and most of them were kin some ways or other, and they always were expected to do their own chores and contribute to the general running of things. Anyone who wouldn't abide by the house rules could just go build their own fort someplace else. Too much at stake to play dumb games over how the wood gets stacked or the blankets folded or the dinner cooked -- or--

[glances at Finrod]

--who stands what watch.

Master of Illusions:

You do not understand, Edain: after the Battle our losses were so great that without their forces joined to ours we would have been sorely pressed to defend our borders and to also maintain the city as it requires -- it's not as easy as you might imagine -- and their assistance has proven indispensable.

Beren:

Oh -- you'd be surprised what turns out not to be indispensable after all, after you haven't got it any more.

Celegorm:

I think -- that anything this important -- ought not to be decided in secret. Shouldn't the folk of Nargothrond be allowed to at least know what arrangements their master is making for the disposition of their future?

Curufin: [silk-smooth]

I think my elder brother is correct.

Steward:

I do not see, my lords, that there is any need to advance the schedule for the public hearing --

Second Counselor: [interrupting]

As a matter of fact that strikes me as an excellent idea. The more minds, the more vision and clarity brought to the matter, the more fresh air can only sweep through, would you not agree, Sire?

[All look at the King]

Finrod: [blandly]

Oh, by all means -- if we're going to have a coup, let us do it properly.

[He signals to the Guards to go open the main doors and bring anyone who cares to come in from the solar and corridors. As the hall fills he rises and goes to stand in the center of the lowest tier, but as though he's barely stopping himself from pacing; throughout the next part, as the battle for power builds in intensity, he becomes increasingly more fey and for longer intervals, like a high-voltage line with an intermittent short (which is a rather scary thing to witness, even when it's up in the transformers of a high-tension line)--if anyone else were operating under halfway normal conditions they would not be crossing him now.]

Beren: [whispering, to the Captain]

What's His Majesty up to?

[The Captain shakes his head -- he does not know either. When the assembly hall is is mostly full the King claps his hands loudly and addresses the populace at large:]

Finrod: [ploughing straight through and not allowing interruption]

All right, my people, pay attention! I'll be exceedingly surprised if anyone here hasn't some idea of what we've been working on these past hours, but listen up and you'll hear it plain, unencumbered by ornament -- or even much in the way of organization. If you don't already know, then know this: the Man who saved my life in the Dagor Bragollach is dead, but his son lives and comes to remind me of my debt to his House -- a debt we all owe to the House of Beor, who stood so long at the forefront of our borders against the North. He's here seeking aid for what sounds like a quest out of a bard's story, only it's the stark truth: to gain permission to wed the princess he loves, and who loves him in return, he has been set a task impossible to mortal Men.

[Beren grows increasingly embarrassed throughout]

No one here can have forgotten the story of how your King and commanders were saved in the darkest hour of the retreat from Ard-galen by mortal valor, when had not Barahir of long inheritance of friendship come riding with his shield- guard and at great cost of their own blood broken the Orc-leaguer about us and delivered us from the Fen of Serech. Few here can have failed to hear of the legend of his only son, whose name is terror to the minions of the Dark and whose deeds are bitterest gall even to the Necromancer who has galled us so these several years.

[there is a lot of low-level discussion going on in the crowd during this, of approving tone]

But there are limits to what valor alone can accomplish, as alas we know! and without our help The Beoring will surely fail, for the condition assigned him is to bring back one Silmaril from Morgoth's stronghold. I grant you it's an incredibly difficult challenge, and not guaranteed of success, but I've devised a plan that makes it at least doable, with minimal likely risk of casualties and discovery, which would break Morgoth's teeth in insult and in his repute in the eyes of his captains, sowing the chaos which he so loves to sow among us his foes, -- and which satisfies honor of all parties, in all points -- or would, had not the former Lords of Aglon-and-Himlad suddenly and at very late hour discovered cause to balk.

Celegorm: [breaking in as the King pauses to assess the situation on several levels]

What our kinsman Finrod is leaving out is the following: the princess in question is no mortal, but one of our own -- no less than the daughter of Elu Thingol and Melian the Maia of Doriath, who instead of responding to such an insolent demand with the severity it should have incurred, chose this roundabout, more feelings- sparing way of saying -- not in a thousand years. Changes things a bit, doesn't it?

Curufin:

Moreover, your King attempts to trade upon our honesty and honor by pretending that he will arrange a merely formal bartering of jewel and girl and once the exchange is done the gem will be returned to our rightful custody. Frankly, since everyone knows that no one on this earth will ever give up a Silmaril voluntarily, I'm surprised that he's attempting to enlist our support in an outrageous attempt to have us cheat ourselves, but then no doubt he thinks us all no more than fools and children by comparison to his legendary wisdom -- the wisdom that more than halved Nargothrond's fighting force in the execution of his long-thought strategy of the Siege!

Captain:

Oh, please --!  

Finrod: [ignoring them]

-- My cousins, on the other hand, who have been living here these ten-odd years as my guests, are now apparently trying to change their status from guests to hosts, and would like to convince you that they'll do a better job of it than I.

Curufin:

Our concern is solely for the people of Nargothrond.

Captain: [loudly]

Which people? Yours? -- or us?

Curufin: [patronizing]

Don't worry -- you'll still have a job.

Captain: [as if changing the subject]

You know, I remember hearing about a couple of field commanders who insisting on carrying a mosaic floor everywhere, to go in their field headquarters. Made themselves remarkably popular with their support staff and logistics people, not to mention the poor slobs who had to carry the thing.

Beren: [amazed]

Mosaic? That's stone, right? Little stones? How on earth . . .?

Captain:

On panels, and in boxes, with a lot of effort. --Did you bring it back from Ard-galen, milords? No? How many lives did it cost, of soldiers and horses too tired from hauling it to run when the fires came? That wasn't a small pavilion, as I recall. Was it worth the price to impress everyone with how organized and successful your House was? Didn't work, you know. You still had to move in here and sponge off of us. I'm sure they were really impressed with your care for them. Going to look after Nargothrond the same way?

Celegorm:

I'm sure I've no idea why you think we're interested in taking charge here. We are the eldest heirs of Finwe, and we don't exactly need any other addition to our prestige.

Curufin:

However -- in the event of incompetence and lack of leadership, failures of judgment, absence of vision, even -- dare I say -- abandonment of wisdom, we would of course stand ready to ready to supply whatever assistance might be required, to the best of our ability.

Celegorm:

And I must say, we've seen Morgoth's mercy of leadership today, or any of the rest of it -- except the incompetence. We've heard a great deal about responsibility to mortals -- but what about responsibility to Nargothrond?

Curufin:

After all, it was only their duty after receiving the Grant of Ladros, was it not? not to mention your House's generosity in deeding them the northlands in the first place. It is not as though the mortals were the only ones to lose kin in the late battle against Morgoth.

[Finrod's expression goes from furious to murderous; Orodreth closes his eyes, pained; Guilin frowning nods in agreement; there is a lot of crowd consensus at this. Unable to listen any more, Beren jumps up and strides halfway across the dais, staring off into the darker apse. Unfortunately, it's hard not to hear.]

But that is, ultimately, of little concern to us. It's ancient history, so to speak. What concerns us -- concerns us all! -- is the Future. What becomes of Nargothrond -- of the Noldor -- of all the Kindreds, if Morgoth's ire is roused from the past decade's slumber and provoked in such an outrageous manner?

Celegorm:

In one word -- war.

Curufin: [gesturing offhand towards Beren]

Do you want your children to end up like him? Homeless, kinless, friendless beggars living without even the rustic community of our Dark-Elven kindred? Savages scarcely to be distinguisted from the beasts of the forest where they dwell -- or worse yet, thralls slaving away in Angband as payment for the rash presumption of having chosen to defy the Lord of Fetters?

Celegorm:

And don't imagine that he won't retaliate -- there's no possible way old Fetters is going to take this one quietly. There will be hell to pay, quite literally, after the fact -- and for a long time thereafter. --This is assuming of course that the mad plan is even executable, that it won't simply result in the loss of all involved -- their lives thrown away in an action with nothing in return.

Curufin:

Obviously if there were any hope of it succeeding we would certainly be the first to offer our support -- but we hold our responsibilities as guests of Nargothrond no less sacred than your duty of hospitality extended so freely towards ourselves. If the leadership of the realm forgets duty towards you, may you not then in good conscience seek good leadership? If your overlord chooses for you a path that is wrought of disaster, leading only to destruction, is it not your duty to take heed for your families, your lives, your lore? And make no mistake, this path leads to destruction.

[Getting into full demagogue cry here]

If you have no care for yourselves, consider your children -- your sons dead in battle, gone for what might as well be forever, or hurt so badly that they fade regardless of the breath remaining in them, your daughters injured in the wrack of war, trapped in the mindless wreckage of battle that spares not beauty, the flames and the falling walls, your life's work both living and breathed forth in art all gone, or ruined past repair! Think on your friends and far kinsmen doomed to endless war, the heartbreak of civilizations shattered and lore forgotten, the songs silenced, the harpstrings mute forever, the holy words lost for good, the fountains running red with blood and black with ash, empty the halls where children children sang, no sound but that of innumerable mourners, and afterwards a scattered and a broken people, remembering not even their own true names, wandering lost in forests of shadow and terror, with neither cirth nor tengwar to bear the memories of wisdom to after generations, becoming even as than the Turned Ones, as though you had never been anything more -- is this the future that you want? Because it certainly isn't the one I'm hoping for!

[it's clear this is having the desired impact on everyone present, the imagery at least, if not the implied politics]

Because what I hope for, for Nargothrond, which is now my adopted home as it is your own, is a future in which the great works you have already accomplished here in such short time, with such heroic effort in a land that might have been entirely new for all the untamed wilderness that surrounds us, all the beauties you have made -- are nothing. That's right -- nothing. --Not because they are destroyed, but because they are nothing as compared to what we will create in the days to come! I do not wish to insult you by naming you cowards, too ensnared by the webs of fear and memory of Darkness to go on -- rather I wish to praise you by naming you wise, wise enough to move onward in new directions entirely, free of the shackles of hidebound tradition and outworn custom. Let us stand together, friends!

[he pauses, panting, while general acclaim begins to rise in volume]

Steward:

Lord Curufin?

Curufin: [extremely wary, but hopeful -- winning the King's right hand lord over   would be the coup of the coup, so to speak]

What would you like to contribute, my Lord Edrahil? I know that your work must give you a particular awareness of the value of civilization and the need for cooperation in caring for and preserving it.

Steward:

I think no reasonable person could disagree with any of the sentiments you've so eloquently expressed just now. But, my lord, I cannot tell from your words whether you are endeavoring to convey that our King's endeavor will lead to war against Morgoth -- which is the state that currently obtains, not peace -- or to war against Doriath, stars know why, unless you're planning on starting one, -- or to a civil war of your following in Nargothrond against the House of Finarfin. --Or all three. In all my years' service in my capacity as Herald I never yet heard such a discordant mix of half-lies and half-truths and serpentine redoublings of one across the other -- save when we received the occasional bribe-and-threaten from across the Leaguer. Would you care to explain in as simple language as is possible for you, so that I can render it into plain Sindarin for the benefit of everyone else?

[Curufin looks at his older brother with a You-want-to-take-this? expression]

Celegorm:

War is war. --As you ought to know. The end result's the same -- burnt cities and mourning widows -- wherever it happens, or who's involved.

[This oblique and shameless reference to the Kinslaying shuts Finrod's partisans up for the instant, dumbfounded]

Beren: [finally turning to speak]

--Look, this is crazy. I'll just do like I was originally going to do, and infiltrate Angband by myself. I'm not going to start a civil war here!

Celegorm: [dropping the good-will act]

If you dare to claim what's ours, we will hunt you down to the ends of Arda, mortal.

Beren: [shortly]

You're welcome to try.

[to Finrod]

Sir, with your leave I'll take your intent for action and consider the debt paid, and leave myself to remove the occasion for trouble in your realm.

Finrod:

That's not possible, I'm afraid.

Beren:

Sure it is. As the party collecting I should be the one to say when it's fulfilled, shouldn't I?

Finrod:

Not for that. --You've never held command in your own right, or ruled over your own organization, and there are vast, vast differences.

Beren: [stiffly]

That may be true, Sire, but I am still as responsible for my own actions.

Finrod: [smiling dangerously, speaking not just to Beren]

--No, Barahirion, you do not understand. This is not like your Northern woodsmen, when your father made suggestion that they abandon their homes and holts for the safety of your hall, and they instead thinking, "I cut this clearing out with my own hands, and my parents before me, and theirs before them, and when fire has burnt or storm has shattered we have rebuilt, and now we have laid down our lives to hold it, and surely we can keep on doing so, and if not, well then--," chose rather to face the night and perish.  These are my thanes, my trusted ones, who have taken my name and my glory to shield them, while they dwell in the halls I hewed for them, and have been glad enough to own themselves Nargothronders while I asked nothing of them. This -- is our hedge of thorns.

[Sees that Beren understands, sort of. To the Counselors and Commanders:]

Well, then -- you're supposed to be the wisest of the wise, what do you in your vast wisdom say to solve this dilemma? What a choice! between on the one side the manifold calls of honor, of duty, of friendship, of all the years of service given and accepted from the House of Beor, of my own long service to build you a home of safety and repose, of the task of our people to waylay and harass the Enemy, all these things, so many reasons for!

[There is silence from his Chiefs of Staff]

And what have we on the other side? A pair of freeloaders and the rag-tag of their glorious Host, who left us waiting on the wrong side of the Sea just a short while back, or have you completely forgotten about that? Are we not still the greatest Elven dominion this side? Or are you completely intimidated by the Feanor mystique? Or have my cousins cast a glamour over you, that you'd sooner be shamed before both Kindreds and the Powers themselves, than lose their favor?

Guilin: [sternly]

Sire, neither are you nor your House themselves Powers either, and it is ill- behooved of you to issue ultimatums and demand loyalty tests as though you believed yourself a god. We are not children -- nor mortals -- to be lectured so by the son of Finarfin: we, no less than yourself, are Noldor of high degree!

[There is a lot of loud public agreement to this. Finrod freezes in the middle of starting to answer, his expression shocked but filled with comprehension of the Pattern. A longish pause.]

Celegorm: [snorting]

I rather think that says it all, cousin?

Finrod: [ironic smile]

So this is how the game goes, eh? Winner takes all? Like that game where you change all the tiles over at a go, white to black, not contending square by square, foot by foot for the mastery but at one fell swoop shifting the play of power from opposer to victor? Very well. The board is yours.

[to the rest of the hall, his face very taut, his voice harsh with control:]

You -- may do what you please. This set is ended, and you'd best find yourself another harper to play for you from this day forth. I -- have no choice. My faith has been given, and if I refuse to keep it I might as well have died in Ard-galen. King or no king, I hold my life a gift of worth enough that I will repay it at whatever cost to myself -- and if you are the sort of people who would feel otherwise, receiving such a grant, then I am pleased to part from you!

[a general outcry, all at once:]

Orodreth:

Finrod, you don't mean what you're saying --

Steward:

My lord --

Guilin:

These are wild words, Sire --

Third Counselor:

Your Majesty, consider well before you stoop to folly --

Finrod: [interrupts them all]

What, you will have me here a tame and captive King, to follow when it pleases you, and dismiss when it doesn't? You will call me your lord, and pretend to obey my rule, and let me work to order your lives when you can't be troubled to it yourselves, but when I ask anything of you in return, -- or not in return, but merely in duty -- then you will turn deaf ears to me, pretending the inconvenient demands haven't been made?

[shouting:]

-- NO, I say --!

[takes off his crown and slams it down on the floor -- it rolls circularly along the dais with a ringing sound. Continues, not shouting, but still quite loud:]

Let us at least have it plain, gentles, without a false plating of silver over casting of lead! If you will not trust me, then you will not trust me. No one here may say truthfully that I don't take counsel, that I do not consider the well-being of all, or that I haven't ruled you well all these centuries. Or why haven't you complained before this day, then? But comes a time, in peaceful hall as in field of war, that counsel must cease and deeds begin. Since you will not allow my leadership, I cannot allow you to claim it.

[to Beren -- very formally and calmly]

My lord of Dorthonion, I beg you to accept my apologies for failing in my assistance to you. But where one had planned to go, alone, two shall surely stand better chance. I cannot pledge any more than this, my own sword and strength to your aid, -- though I had hoped at least that I'd rate better than nothing for a retinue!

[looks around the hall, not really seeing any of those present]

Will none of you come with me, then? For the hope of glory, if nothing else, or from vanity, so that Nargothrond will have some tiny crumb of pride left? Or are you all cowards now? Did every scrap of moral integrity and courage get burnt in the Dagor Bragollach as well? Must I be evicted from the refuge I built for you with nothing and with no one to take my part?

[The Steward rises and moves to stand beside him.]

Steward: [gently]

Sire -- you had only to ask.

[Finrod gives him a Look of exasperation and apology, still shaking with fury]

Captain: [as quietly]

Actually, you didn't.

[over his shoulder, louder]

--Lads? For the old songs' sake?

[The two Rangers who were present the night of Beren's arrival and this morning come forward with the Soldier and the Guard, ignoring the "don't be insane" remonstrating of friends and colleagues in the crowd.]

Anyone else? It's no different from any other mission: you'll either be coming back or faring-forth -- there aren't any safe times, when arrows miss and axes don't cut, you ought to know that by now!

[The Cavalry Commander's aide rises and shoves back his chair -- his chief gives him an angry look, and the Warrior stares down his CO and goes across to stand beside the King. He is joined by the three Guards who were at the Fens -- the other turns away from his friends' expectant looks. Gwindor jumps up, and is grabbed on the one hand by his father and the other by hs fiancee, who assail him silently with pleas until he sits down, biting his lip in shame, head bowed.]

Is that it?

[The Captain looks around at the volunteers, raises an eyebrow]

Just like old times, eh, Your Majesty?

[Finrod gives a short bitter laugh]

Steward:

My lord, what arrangements are to be made for the government of the realm?

Finrod: [shrugging]

I don't know. It isn't my job any more.

Steward:

Surely you will not give your city over to these strangers' authority?

Finrod: [offhand]

No, I don't need to -- Nargothrond seems to have done that for me.

Steward: [giving up on rational persuasion]

My lord, hear me --

[He kneels to pick up the crown and remains on one knee as he speaks:]

Perhaps they have not realized this yet, and perhaps they choose to ignore it, but regardless of what has just taken place, you are still as much their King as you are mine. You must not leave Nargothrond leaderless, -- for you have not that right, any more than these have the right to do what they have done, to set aside this burden unconsidered. You must choose in your turn a steward for the realm, to hold it in your absence.

[The King gives him the Look again, but nods heavily and comes to accept it with careful graciousness from his hands]

Finrod: [tiredly]

Very well. --Orodreth, you're next in line, it's yours by right: if and when I come back I look to you to make me a full report on what you've accomplished, but until then, it's all yours -- Catch!

[He tosses the crown to his brother]

Orodreth: [catching it and looking at it in dismay]

What can I possibly say in return? I cannot even thank you without sounding like a hypocrite, as though I wished for this -- or as though I'm mocking you.

Finrod: [mild tone]

You're welcome.

[There is a pause, in which tension seems to dissipate and people look at each other all through the hall, seeming slightly stunned]

Beren: [to self, half aloud]

I thought I'd already known the worst of fear, and guarded against it.

Finrod: [distantly]

Well. It's always clear after the fact, isn't it? Weird, isn't it, how one can't change it, even forewarned, even prepared, no matter how one tries . . .

Orodreth:

What are you talking about? --Do you mean that nonsense about the dream you had, the one that 'Tariel was so worked up about at the housewarming party? You do, don't you?

Finrod:

--Not a dream. --Nothing so clear.

[lightly]

Well, one good thing's come of all this -- I won't have to shout at people for not building my arbalests and not telling me about it.

[He is a little short of breath when he speaks]

Orodreth: [earnestly, sotto voce]

Finrod, you cannot mean this. It's -- insane, utterly and absolutely insane. It's all very well to honor one's bargains, but not to the point of self- destruction and forfeiture of everything one has worked for. With a little careful negotiation I'm sure this unfortunate business can be put behind us, you can satisfy your honor with some reasonable grant of assistance, and we'll figure out a way to placate the Sons of Feanor -- I know you didn't anticipate this, but --

Finrod:

You mean you didn't realize this was a possibility? I thought you were the shrewd one, brother. Of course I knew it might happen this way: why do you think I grovelled so carefully and consideredly to our cousins all day, -- and set only guards that I tr-- that I thought I could trust?

Orodreth: [incredulous]

Are you telling me that you had thought of this beforehand? That this isn't some impulsive gesture of yours, but that you actually planned to go through with this mad scheme? You really mean to risk throwing away your life for the sake of this mortal bravo and his, might I say upon reflection, extremely offensive endeavor? Bad enough that you lavished miruvor on him as though it were wine, as though he could appreciate it! I know the Beorings saved your life once, but you cannot actually believe that there is a real equation --

Finrod: [quietly but fierce]

Orodreth -- do you realize what you have just said? -- Because I certainly hope that you do not.

[He stops talking, looking rather pale]

Orodreth:

Don't take that tone with me. You're not Father. Not that you listened to him either. He was right to turn back -- if only you'd shown half the sense --

Finrod: [interrupts]

I didn't make you follow me--

[checks again, his face drawn]

Celegorm:

Are you going to take all day, Finrod old chap? Could you hurry it up there, do you think?

[Beren, dead white and shaking with fury, stalks over to the Sons of Feanor. Apprehensively the Captain and the Steward trail him, ready to restrain him, but he just stops a pace away and stares at them for a a long moment.]

Beren:

You know what? Orcs don't pretend to be your friends -- they just try to kill you. That's the only difference I can see --

[Curufin's smile falters for an instant. Celegorm reaches down to shove him away, but Beren grabs his wrist and they stand there locked, the Elven prince unable to pull away without undignified brawling. Curufin looks over at Finrod, warningly:]

Curufin: [half-lifting his knife from its hanger]

Leash your hound, cousin. --Leash him, before I crop his ears for you!

[Finrod's chief officers catch hold of Beren's shoulders, but he does not move at their urging, still locking stares and arms with Celegorm.]

Finrod:

Beor!

[Beren allows the Captain and Steward to draw him back with them, turning away as though the Sons of Feanor are not even worthy of his contempt.]

Curufin: [lightly]

That boy's a wild animal, brother. I'm surprised our cousin isn't afraid to have such a beast at his side.

Celegorm:

No doubt the wolf's-head will turn on him in time.

Curufin: [evil smile]

Barahirion: did your mother perchance wear such warg-hide buskins as yourself? Was she a warrior, too? --Or were you just raised by wolves, eh?

[Beren's companions make sure they're blocking him securely, but Beren only glances over his shoulder at the Sons of Feanor, almost bored.]

Beren: [coldly]

My mother was worth ten of you.

[looks them up and down and sneers]

--She could have taken you both.

[While no doubt more loyal than accurate, this assertion is not exactly the response that Curufin was anticipating, and he cannot think of anything to say for the moment.]

Captain: [softly]

My lord -- he isn't worth your time.

Beren: [ignoring him]

When we come back -- you're going down. My word on it.

Celegorm:

So you do fight against the Eldar, --Elf-Friend.

Beren:

I hunt fell things. And I keep my promises.

Finrod: [quietly]

Beren. To me.

[At once Beren strides over to the King, wheels and drops to one knee at Finrod's left side, rips off the peace-bonds, sets both hands on his sword-hilt, and does not move. He knows exactly what statement he's making, and Curufin can't match him for sardonic looks. The King lays his hand on Beren's shoulder, ostensibly in approval, but he is actually leaning rather heavily on him for support.]

[mindspeech]

They are no concern of ours henceforth. Hush! Do not speak your thought. Attend me -- as did your father in the Fens.

[Beren, startled that the King is reading his unvoiced worries, and still more so by his first encounter with one of the greatest legends of his people, nevertheless says nothing, but rises gracefully, continuing to bear Finrod's weight without seeming to do so.]

--It's only a little dizziness. Stay me for a few minutes more.

[aloud, to Orodreth]

Brother, we will not trouble you. All I ask is that you ensure we are not troubled in our departing, and that my people are not detained or maltreated prior to our leaving, which will be as soon as we can possibly make it.

[At that moment only Beren knows that Finrod can't see straight, and that he's faking being okay to a large extent -- and gives away nothing of the King's weakness by his stance or expression.]

Orodreth: [bitterly]

What makes you think I can ensure anything?

Finrod: [low voice]

I would not ask, if I did not. The people have accepted you. They require your authority now, lest they scatter like doves at the shadow of the hawk. You must be there for them. Give them such orders as they can obey, and will take honor from obeying. Do not contend openly with these rivals. Let the City have rest from strife. That's about all I can give you for advice, except -- Good luck.

Orodreth:

Will you always be walking away from your responsibilities, Finrod? How many times does this make? First Mother and Amarie, then Father, then the Host to follow this hobby of humans, then haring all over Beleriand setting up a pocket empire and not sticking with any part of it long enough to see it through -- and they laugh at me for running away -- once! Whatever are you going to be when you grow up, Finrod?

Finrod:

What, exactly, would "through" consist of --?

[stops, shakes head]

Orodreth, you don't want answers to those questions. I don't do rhetorical well, and real answers would take us months, or years. It's late to be bringing all this up, and bad timing to set upon me now. I cannot and will not fight with you here, under the shadow of the Oath. I'm just asking you, please, to help me prevent anyone getting hurt today.

[holds out free hand to the Prince, who turns away angrily with folded arms]

Orodreth Of course I'll do what I can to prevent violence. Of course. But don't expect to smile and get away with everything this time. I don't forgive you for placing this burden on me -- though why I'm surprised, I don't know.

Finrod: [genuinely confused]

When have I ever wronged you? By giving you the crown? Should I have given it to another? Whom, then?

[stops suddenly again, sighing]

--Never mind.

Orodreth:

Running off with your mortal friends again? Off to play soldier now?

Finrod: [refusing to be drawn]

Yes. --Edrahil, see that the corridor is cleared and the doors all sealed. I don't wish to be cut off, unarmed as I am save for yourselves. I'm fairly certain all will respect your authority still.

[The Steward goes quickly out, his hand resting automatically on the hilt of the dirk Beren gave him.]

Orodreth:

Finrod, you can't be imagining --

Finrod: [grimly]

I can imagine anything. I've seen worse. --As have you.

[mindspeech]

--Beren. I'm all right. Don't answer me aloud or in gesture. Can you match strides with me? And not too fast -- it might come back. Good. Everyone! When Edrahil returns we go, and we do not stop until we reach my chambers which have been secured to me and mine alone since The Beoring's arrival. There we'll take as our base of operations until we depart for good. --Someone get the maps.

[The Steward reappears in the doorway of the throne room and nods to the King. Finrod straightens, shaking off the weakness that has touched him and smiles with a somewhat mocking expression.]

All right, lads, all clear. Form "nernehta" -- only without the shields, of course!

[Against the hostile watchfulness of the Sons of Feanor across the room and the guilty stares of the citizenry, the Ten set themselves into the ancient moving defensive formation composed of a doubled wedge, surrounding their King and his liege as they sweep rapidly from the scene of the debacle of Nargothrond. On the opposite side of the throne room Curufin, Celegorm and their adherents-by-default go the other way; Orodreth and the others of the King's family and near-kin remain in stunned disarray.]

 

Chapter Text

Gower:

In silence Beren now attends upon the King 
-- sovereign at least of the few yet owning him -- 
musing on the grievous claiming of the ring's 
right, and how from one wreck to another grim 
(and more so indeed it seems) he moves, 
that catastrophe doth dog his steps -- 
until in time needs must shatter all he loves, 
Tho' wherefore truly and for what past slips 
as punishment or payment kens he not.

[Back in the royal apartments, where the mood of the antechamber is anything but peaceful and conducive to thought, Finrod is exhorting his remaining troops:]

Finrod: [urgent and grim]

My friends, go and make such farewells as you will, to persons or to places, and ready what you must.  What you lack of gear, from use or wear, speak to Edrahil of it, and he'll make sure it's taken care of.  Do not engage in altercation.  That includes -- conversation, discussion, argument whether voice or mindspeech -- or looks! -- as well as any physical hostile contact. Even accidental --

[pointed look at the Ranger Captain]

-- is strictly to be avoided. I enjoin you, upon your proven loyalty -- obey me in this! We cannot afford to have blood spilled this day.  I cannot afford to lose one of you.

Captain: [without resentment]

Shall I bond weapons, then?

Finrod:

Nay, friend, I trust you -- and will not have any of you defenseless. --Be careful.

Captain:

We shall.

[No one else speaks as they leave, subdued. Finrod looks at the Steward, who has not gone with the rest.]

Finrod:

No farewells?

Steward:

Not this side of the Sea, my King.

[Finrod sighs and nods. Stiffly he leans against the table, his shoulders falling, now that there are only the three of them.]

Finrod:

Holy stars -- I've not been so tired in -- ten years. That took everything I had and then some, to keep at bay. It nearly had me a time or two there. --But Namo and his House will have no occasion to complain of me today.

Beren: [faintly]

I don't understand what happened.

Finrod: [ironic]

I prepared for the wrong treason. I warded against Alqualonde, and I should have looked back farther -- to Morgoth's Parole.

[laughs slightly, shakes head.]

Beren:

You are giving up your kingdom.

Finrod:

I am their lord -- however ungrateful my people seem, I cannot be their lord and consign them to civil war and slaughter unawares. Far better this, a wrong but a lesser wrong, and in time reparable. I hope.

Beren:

But now you are no lord either!

Steward: [ferociously]

Is he not your lord as well as mine? Or will you too forsake him now?

[Beren stares at him, shocked, then rips off his sword-belt and slams it down on the tiles in front of the King, falling on hands and knees, head bent. Finrod gives his Steward a reproachful look.]

Finrod:

That sword's passed so many times between our Houses that I think we may consider it given, Beor. I need no pledges from you, my friend, I know what you meant. --Get up, get up!

[To the Steward:]

Will you please see to darkening my armor? And Lord Beren's, with your own? I need to reconsider what we shall do now, in the time that remains.

[The Steward nods and leaves the room]

I mean to be ready to go at sunset, when neither the eyes of dayfarers or of nocturnal spies will be on the wing or at their best. Ask for whatever you need as well --

Beren: [urgent]

No. No, look. My original plan will still work. Give me supplies and a map of the passes and I'll leave under the cover of darkness and trouble you no more This shouldn't be happening.

Finrod: [shaking his head]

It doesn't matter. It's happened.

Beren:

No, I'll leave, and it will be all right.

[casting around the chamber]

Where's my stuff? I'll go now, before anyone knows -- they won't even care, will they? Unless I come back with it --

[he starts rummaging frantically in his pack.]

Where's my gambeson? He said something about mending it -- and the rest of my knives -- my armour --

[not speaking coherently or tracking at all]

Let me get my cloak -- I was going to sneak in as a thrall anyway --

Finrod:

Beren, stop.

Beren:

No, I can't, I've got to go, this is insane--

Finrod: [catches hold of his arm]

It's not that simple.  You can't change what's happened --

Beren: [wrenches away -- or tries to]

--but I can disappear, and then it won't matter -- please, let me go --

[tries to pull away again. Finrod shoves him against the wall.]

Finrod:

BEREN!!! [effects: reverb and a brief flare of white light. Beren freezes.]

Finrod:

Beren -- I am not Morgoth: I cannot reshape your will even if I would. All I can do is set you in bonds rather than let you run mad to your destruction, like any mortal lord -- though you hate me for it after. But I will do so if I must -- but I entreat you, son of my friend, do not make me do so!

[cautiously releases Beren.]

Beren: [hardly audible]

Sire.

[he slips down to his knees, bowing his head]

Finrod: [kneeling with him]

Are you master of yourself, now? You will not try to flee again?

[Beren, eyes closed, shakes his head, leaning back against the wall. The Steward returns, having heard the shouting, and looks on in concern.]

When I finish we will speak a little. Just -- rest, be calm, and endeavor to accept what you cannot understand for the present.

[Still frowning, Finrod returns to the table and starts retracing lines on the diagrams laid out there. Beren is expressionless and silent, but not managing to stay calm, it seems.]

Finrod: [gently]

You're clamouring louder than an army, and I can't seem to shut you out, and I cannot work this way.  Can you not still your thoughts even a little?

[Beren, jaw clenched, nods and tries to stay calm -- outwardly succeeds, at least. A short pause: Finrod sighs, sets down maps and goes to kneel by Beren again.]

Beren. You did not bring about your father's death. --Do you think any mortal man could have returned faster than you did -- that if you had only somehow pushed yourself harder you could have warned them in time? And do you truly think your presence at the attack would have changed anything except the number of the dead? Were they not too many for you to fight, after? Did they not take care to surround the camp and cut off all avenues of retreat beforehand? You could not have sacrificed yourself to guard their escape -- only died with him.

Beren: [self-loathing]

You weren't there -- I should've--

Finrod: [flinches]

--I am there now. And I see -- as you cannot -- that with what you were given, of strength and knowledge, you could have done no more. Be at peace, my friend:

you are not the primary agent of disaster in Middle-earth. Leave that blame where it belongs -- on Morgoth's doorstep.

Beren: [bleakly]

My father apologized to me before he sent me off that last time. It wasn't like there was any reason for him to, I drew the lot fair and square, he didn't pick me in particular -- though he should have, given the situation. Only -- if I'd been on point instead of the guys, maybe . . .

[looking at the King]

Are you all right, sir?

Finrod: [sad smile]

Only a trifle jealous. I parted ill from my father, and I do not know how or when I shall ever be reconciled with him.

[Beren is quiet, his face expressionless -- outwardly; whatever is unvoiced causes Finrod to recoil as at a blow.]

Steward: [softly]

My King, I would say were he one of us so cruelly held in Memory, to take him beside the Falls and let the voice of the waters calm him.

Finrod:

I would say the same, mortal or not, but with the unsettled situation, I cannot dare that.

[remains frowning in deep thought for a long moment before an idea occurs to him]

Edrahil -- bring me my harp, if you please.

[the Steward nods in surprised approval]

Steward:

Of course. You'll want it tuned in Stars', correct?

Finrod:

Yes, thank you.

[checks]

No -- wait. There is one still more restful in its accords.  The tuning Treelight, if you please.

[The Steward looks at him oddly]

Steward:

It goes against all custom, sire.

Finrod:

Custom appears to have been banished to the Void this day.  And none of us three shall be offended, unless you think it ill done in itself--?

Steward:

Never, my lord.

[He exits, leaving Finrod beside Beren. They do not speak before the Steward returns with a small but exquisitely-elegant harp of wood inlaid with gold. Finrod plays a run of notes ascending and descending, and frowns.]

Finrod:

It's a trifle flat.

[He retunes quickly. This is clearly a small ritual between them of longstanding custom; the Steward smiles a little despite his obvious worry. He begins to play, at first a rapid piece with much counterpoint and a rather martial air, only gradually slowing it down and introducing less abrupt changes of interval and harmony, until at last it is at a tempo and modality free of agitation and stress. (If you are fortunate enough to have a copy of The Harper's Land by Ann Heyman and Alison Kinnaird you will have an inkling of what it should sound like. --For equestrians, it is similar to getting a nervous, jigging, high-strung beast down to a proper collected-yet-relaxed gait -- not just throwing a switch from one to the other.) When the set is finished he continues to block out chords and let them ring in a low, continuous background. Beren has slipped farther to lie curled up on his side, eyes closed, on the floor.]

Steward: [low voice]

Does he sleep?

Finrod: [frowning]

I can't tell. But his pain no longer consumes his thought.

[looks up at the Steward. Hesitantly:]

You should not have bespoken him so harshly. My honor is not worth such zeal in defense.

Steward: [bitterly]

I beg you, do not remind me. --We failed them, my King. Did we not?

Finrod: [closing his eyes]

Yes.

Steward:

They were betrayed. And not by our neglect alone.

Finrod:

You sensed that too?

Steward:

He strove to conceal it, but the fact was too much for him. And yet there's no anger there, either. --Only for the Enemy that caused it.

Finrod:

Would we all had such wisdom.

[sighs]

I think -- I think we have just seen what happens when the Oath encounters a mortal soul.

Steward:

Not a pleasant sight, indeed. As though not strong wine had mastered him, but almost as if he'd taken the flat of a blade, helmless.

Finrod: [anxious look]

Edrahil, do you think it possible for words to invoke themselves? For a Doom to call itself down?

Steward:

How so, my lord?

Finrod:

I don't understand this at all, this business from start to end, coming now and seemingly from nowhere. Why should Elwe -- Elu -- suddenly ask for a Silmaril of all things? He's never even seen them. And as far as I dare read, no one had been speaking of them to suggest it, not Luthien certainly, not from his thoughts --

Steward:

There is a not-incomprehensible association, perhaps -- in that the Silmarils are the most rare and precious of all things in existence, and the daughter of Melian and Thingol the most precious of all things to them, and hence the idea of one infinitely-valued and inaccessible treasure to be set as price for another?

Finrod: [unconvinced]

Hm. --I still don't like it. If an impossible quest was what was needed, why not ask for Glaurung's tongue to prove him killed? No less inaccessible, and certainly more useful than a Silmaril.

Steward:

My lord, you're the one with Vision; my talent is for overlooked-but-necessary details. Do you think it possible for the Curse to waken itself again?

Finrod:

I don't know. . . It tastes of Morgoth's will to me, though I can't see how he could directly influence any of it. I could spend a dozen years pondering the implications of this --

Steward:

But we have not twelve years, my King -- nor even ten --

[breaks off]

Finrod:

Speak your mind, friend.

Steward:

It comes to me that these last ten years have been the most dearly bought of all my life, at least, and that I should have spent them in better use.

Finrod:

I know. --Where did they go, master of my Household? How shall we account for them? Two years of grim hornlocked contest, driven back hoof by hoof until the slip and rout of Minas Tirith, leaving the winner to bellow and tear across the North without bar; five years after of grateful respite, when our Enemy seemed content to hold what he'd taken without further onslaught, barring us in turn, testing us in small ways that did not cost us much, and we recovered from the Burning or so it seemed, so far as that could be. And then after it was done we learned of the trials of the far marches, and their silent fall, and we knew why we had had so much of peace -- "so much" I say, when it was in truth as an hour, was it not?

[The Steward nods]

An hour that slipped by unnoticed, and they were gone from this world. And I mourned them, as did you all, and reproached myself, and knew it vain, and set my mind to the safeguarding of the West, and the keeping of this City, and the inevitable clash that is to come -- and thought to honor them in this way. And then the strange news came, in the very days that war kindled anew against my kinsman, and I much distracted, of one the Singers said the woods themselves sang of, and a name not yet dead under the stars, and I rejoiced with you, and before I did anything word came hard upon the first that he was gone, overwhelmed by an army of wolves and dark sorcery. And again I mourned, and thought the song of Beor was done --

[as he speaks he rings the lowest string of the harp, twelve times, and then once more]

until the hour that he came before me, famished, in rags, far past his strength -- asking only because what had been demanded of him was beyond any mortal measure -- No sword, no spear or bolt I've ever taken has hurt a fraction as much -- not the Cold, not the sight of the fires in the East -- only that other Fire, and the fall of knowledge that my brothers were gone: for I knew then that Morgoth's lies were true, that we should spend their brief lives in lieu of our own, and think no more of it than of a faithful hound slain by wolf or boar --

Steward: [anguished]

No, my King, not so --

Finrod: [ignoring him]

-- and Nienna witness for me, I knew the same terrible joy-in-sorrow as at the Fens of Serech, when the ox-horns sang out of the ash cloud and out of utter destruction came our redemption. What price for a King of the Eldar, then? More than a pretty trifle, a "thing made by craft," indeed? Time to find out --

Beren: [with tremendous effort, not otherwise moving]

Gentles . . . I am not asleep . . .

Finrod:

Your pardon, Beren.

Beren:

If you'd prefer . . . I'll retire apart . . . my lords.

Finrod:

I'm not leaving you alone. I have nothing to say which should be safeguarded from your hearing -- neither of you, nor of any other. But if you need silence to rest we will converse in silence, though I think it rude to do so before mortals.

Beren:

That doesn't matter -- I can rest in a hurricane.

[Slowly he pulls up onto his side and draws up his knees, locking his arms around and resting his head on them. He looks sick and more than a little dazed still.]

But you don't want me hearing -- that --

Finrod: [coolly]

Do you presume to tell me my own will? If you had been truly asleep you would have heard and known it upon waking. If I had not wished you to hear, I would not have spoken. You are Edain, not Eldar, Beren: remember that there are many things you cannot understand.

Beren:

Including what you said. I don't blame you for not understanding what Time is to us, how could you? but what --

Finrod: [breaking in]

--Do you recollect the words of your kinsman Bereg?

Beren: [stiffly]

We don't talk about him.

Finrod:

Nevertheless, as with most of the lies of our Enemy, what was said in those days had not a little of truth in it. Not always the same, perhaps -- I trust I have taken more care than say, Caranthir, for all of my subjects, not simply those my nearest kin -- but it might be argued that the Elf-friends have had precious little in return for their friendship to us.

Beren: [dismissive]

That wasn't what I was asking about. I meant, what did you mean about the Oath trying to start all this? It's not real, is it? It can't do things, like a person? Unless you mean it was what started the War in Middle-earth in the first place, because what started this was me getting stuck on the southern border and not being able to get around the cordon. Otherwise I'd have gone west to Brethil, obviously, not down into Doriath, and none of this would ever have happened -- You're not saying the Silmarils are doing it somehow? Are you?

Finrod:

No. Not quite. What do you remember learning about the Night of Darkness, about the Jewels and Feanor, about the Doom?

Beren:

Um. Huh. "--There was considerable disagreement as to what should be done next. Mistakes were made. People got hurt. --Here we are."

Finrod: [covers eyes briefly]

Ah. --Was I really that reticent?

Beren: [trying very hard not to sound at all critical]

There was more, but I was pretty young and it didn't make a lot of sense to me then. My cousins and I couldn't get it. We figured it had to be something Elven, or maybe just Feanor -- the -- with the . . . the Kinslaying. We were just happy to play at being mythic heroes battling Morgoth and not worrying about the details. Now . . . being older and possibly wiser, I've seen enough of what stress does to ordinary people to realize that no, it's not that completely incomprehensible after all.

[pause]

And yeah, I think that probably a lot got left out, or maybe we just didn't bother remembering it, because now that I think about it it took longer for my uncle to recap the story of The Business With The Vaharions' Five Sheep, Or Was it Seven, And The Rights To The Salmon Pool In Northfell when he got back from sorting that all out, and that was probably a bit less complicated in reality than the history of the Noldor returning to Middle-earth.

Finrod: [quietly]

-- Probably.

Beren:

But I still don't get it about the Silmarils. This place is full of jewels. Are they that different? What kind of magic spell is on them that makes people go crazy in their presence? Or even outside it, like you're telling me now? How are they different from the things I've seen here today?

Finrod: [remembering, rapt]

They're like nothing on Arda -- quite literally. All that remains of the First Song is in them, the first calling of the world into the Void. They sing, you know, like blossoms themselves, they're alive as the Trees from which they were taken, they inhabit the shells of Earth as the souls of Elves and Men inhabit our bodies, and they shine like all joy and all hope together. In a way -- and I know this sounds almost blasphemous -- but they were almost more wonderful than the Trees themselves, for being the work of hands, of a mere Elf, whose years are to the gods' not as the years of Men to ours, but as a butterfly's in the Song of the World. And they are deadly -- the Starqueen blessed them so that no heart given to evil may endure them, and any that dare to lay hands on them unrightfully will be burned by their light as with fire. --And yet Morgoth cannot lay them aside, though they torture him, for the glory of them, and the living delight of their song . . .

Beren: [quiet -- in shock]

I didn't think you wanted the Silmarils.

Finrod: [matter-of-fact]

I don't. I never have. --What does that tell you?

Beren: [flatly]

That I should be more terrified than I already am, only I don't think I can be.

Finrod:

Don't be. It's counter-productive after a certain point. It doesn't change the odds any.

[pause]

But they have a power over mind and heart that cannot be measured -- they are so far beyond any other earthly thing that, next one of them, this

[touches the Nauglamir at his neck -- think if Lalique had worked at Amarna!]

would be no more than a strand of such pebbles as your forebears counted precious, bright and glittering but nothing of depth and light in them, no mystery to hold the spirit enraptured. For them, one might consign the whole world else to Darkness everlasting, and keep them for one's self alone, without any thought to any other or care for any lesser thing. One has -- and, indeed, two. Who can say what mastery they might have, not in imagination but seen in their living selves?

Beren: [sharply]

Tinuviel's not a thing.

Finrod: [grave]

Neither are the Silmarils. --But I have no doubt of you. I only warn you, for your own reckoning.

[laughs]

It may well be that all of our people failed at first because it was fated that your Kindred should take part in their redemption, and that ere this hour all other attempts were useless. It would be a strange thing, if it should fall to my hand, and yours, would it not?

Beren: [whispering]

Sir . . .  why did you come here?

Finrod:

I think --

[stops]

No, I'll not burden you.

Beren: [gently]

Isn't that what a liege's for?

Finrod: [distant]

. . . I never wanted a domain, a name of glory and renown as my sister and our poor brothers, and our cousins did -- I sought only like our father to save what could be saved from the wreckage of that Night, to guard those who gave no thought to the future, and could not guard themselves. And I did that, and I did it well, as well as might be done, I think I may say without boasting. But who can say truly what he does, and whether his motives are unmixed? It would take a wiser heart than mine --

Beren:

Will they remember what you did for them? When you return, will Nargothrond accept you again?

Finrod: [easily]

Oh, we won't be coming back here. Orodreth can have it -- he'll do well enough. I couldn't bear it, and neither could they, if I returned to take up the crown, whether I sneered at them more scornfully than Feanor himself, or smiling forgave all.  But I'm done with cities, anyway. There are lands to the East you've never seen, lands beyond Gelion where the Singers travel, beautiful country of many rivers, and mountains beyond that. We don't need strongholds: we did without them before, we can do without them again. The nomad tribes manage well enough -- you yourself attest to that, needing no roof nor wall -- perhaps we will find the scattered ones and bring them together and create something new never before known upon Arda, a civilization without a city, mortal and Eldar together and making not the old mistakes, but a new music that has never been heard yet --

[Beren looks rather wide-eyed at this; the Steward enters with the King's armour in time to overhear this last and looks quietly horrified. Finrod notices -- penitently:]

--I'm sorry, Edrahil. You must be so weary of my wanderings and wild fancies --

Steward: [who is fully armed now save for gauntlets and helmet]

My lord, have I ever complained of them?

[answers self]

Indeed, yes, often. Do I miss the delights of the field or the allure of sleeping under the stars? Not away from them, no. Would I forgo the right to attend you in peace to any lesser member of your household? No more would I yield up my place at your right hand beneath your guerdon.

Finrod:

It won't be like last time, my Herald. No fanfares, no glories, no brave ridings- forth this venture.

Steward:

-- Or ever again in Middle-earth, it seems. I know.

Finrod: [with gentle regret]

How should I have managed without your good help, my friend?

Steward: [dryly]

No doubt as I should have done had my comrades succeeded in persuading me to accompany them with the foremost, on the Ships -- that is to say, ill.

[An Age of shared battles, disasters, expeditions and simple day-in, day-out work underlie the smile that follows between them. Regretfully:]

And now, unfortunately, it falls to me to make the perchance-unwelcome point that certain matters needs must be settled, and settled publicly, before we depart. It cannot be seen that there is any confusion in the chain of command, my king. While it is true that we undertake this errand on Lord Beren's behalf and at his behest, it is not and must not appear so that he leads, or that you obey him, rather than answer a vassal's just appeal for support. It were better he should swear you fealty before all, needless though you think it, than that your shield-band be troubled at heart.

[to Beren]

I ask your pardon for such chill words, milord.

Beren: [unoffended]

No, you're right. Certainly there should be nothing left up in the air, we don't need any more trouble. Shall I swear now, before you?

Steward: [shakes head]

Better that all should witness, Heir of Beor.

Beren:

All right.

[Finrod sighs.]

Steward:

Will you arm, sire?

Finrod: [quietly]

--In a little. I need rest, and it will not take long to ready with your help.

[He begins to play again, not just tonalities, but very quietly, eyes closed, leaning his cheek against the soundbox of the harp. Softly and without disturbing his playing, the Steward kneels behind him and removes the Nauglamir. When he returns from placing it in its casket, he begins to braid back the King's hair -- evidently it isn't Elvish custom to just rip out any bits that catch in the links if it's gotten long enough to snag in one's mail. Beren watches from the hearth, forlornly, remembering when he too had people to look after, and to help him.]

[Little by little the tempo of the music increases, Working in reverse this time, not to agitation and haste but to a steady driving pulse like the sea at incoming tide, as the King begins to recover. More and more themes enter and are brought into harmony despite the complexity. Beren starts, as though almost recognizing what he hears, and begins to actively follow the melodies, alertness starting to replace his mindblasted expression.]

[Very quietly -- or at least as quietly as is possible for a Hound larger than most ponies -- Huan slinks in along the edge of the door and around the wall to Beren's side, dropping down on the floor next him. Head on paws, he too listens to the King's music. Just as it seems that there can be no addition to the richness of it, Finrod straightens and begins his Song:

Finrod:

Sing ye stars and storms of the heavens, sing ye beasts of earth and sea, sing ye eagles of the air, and all growing things!

I will sing at my rising and at my going forth and at my returning

[The other nine return, singly or by twos, during this time, to set their packs down and sit beside them on the floor, listening in silence]

Sing all works of hands, all arts of the mind sing all things shaped and shining sing every craft of deed and voice --

I will sing at my rising and at my going forth and at my returning

[Beren joins in, hesitantly at first, on the last two verses -- much to the amazement of the others, both that he knows the song and that his voice is so good.]

With the mountains and the great seas, the deeps of the forest and the deeps of the earth and the unfathomable deeps of the sky --

I will sing at my rising and at my going forth and at my returning:

    I will ever sing the Secret Fire, the Light Beyond, the Flame Unburning for all my days.

[by the last stanza all have joined the chorus, impelled by example. When the final chord has almost died away the King stops it and sets aside the harp.]

Finrod:

My friends, my faithful ones -- I ask your forgiveness for rash words spoken this day in your presence. I did ill to shame you before you had a chance to speak your choice. I would not have anyone come with us who comes out of shame and not in freedom -- if anyone here has been compelled thus, be free to go, with all my blessing and thanks for your many years of service and hardship, from Helcaraxe to the Siege of Angband.

[No one moves. Finrod looks away for a moment, overcome]

I too was impelled to go on a quest as well you know, both you who came and you who joined us hereafter. It may well be, as it now seems likely, that my destiny is to wrest from Morgoth the Light he stole and return it to the world once more -- and ever has been so, and for that reason I was driven across the Sea not wholly of mine own desiring, though of my own will indeed.  It may be. At any rate, we resume at long last what we came here to do, and perhaps through the strange workings of Doom we will accomplish what all our agelong warfare has not done, in secrecy and seeming folly. There are no guarantees -- but I need not tell any who stood upon the fields of Ard-galen so!

[he smiles wryly, stands and crosses to the room's center, where he picks up Dagmor]

We are joined in this endeavor by one far from unknown to you, either in his person or his race, The Beoring, who makes now his own personal deed of faith to lay beside yours. Beren?

[Beren rises and comes over to kneel at his feet. He is tracking better and appears in complete control now, but there should still be a slightly concussed shading to his movements and expressions, as compared to his normal mode.]

Beren, son of Barahir, son of Bregor, in direct line of Balan known as Beor, will you exchange faith with me, acclaiming me as your King, to serve with truth in word and deed for so long as you shall live, accepting this sword of my hand in mark of my faith in you, to wield only against the Darkness beneath the light of moon and sun and stars?

Beren:

For so long as I live, my King --

[Finrod places the blade across his outstretched hands and sets his right hand on Beren's head in acknowledgment briefly. As Beren rises the others come to take his place, the Captain foremost, and kneel before the King]

Finrod:

What's this? It has been long, since you swore me fealty --

[looking at the youngest Ranger]

and not long at all, since you gave me your faith -- you cannot think I have any doubt or need at this hour . . . ?

Captain:

Doubt, no -- yet perhaps need no less --

[He offers up his blade to the King, who shakes his head, but takes each warrior's oath in turn, after which each goes to stand beside Beren. Finrod, not trying to conceal his tears at their gesture, nonetheless raises an eyebrow when the Steward kneels at the last.]

Steward: [smiles]

Shall I ask, then, what I refuse myself?

[receiving his sword back from Finrod, sheaths it and rises. As Finrod waves his two chief lords to the map table, the Steward takes up the King's mail-coat and arming doublet and proceeds to help him out of his silken over-robes and into his battledress while they speak. There should be no awkwardness: after more than 400 years of war this isn't something that requires much effort or thought.]

Finrod:

Those are the only two realistic options that I see -- but give me your opinions. Scaling Ered Gorgoroth is out of the question, and it would be folly to go all the way round East through milords' brothers' lands, even had we the resources for it. Either we must go as we planned originally, with stealth rather than speed, and quietly, along Sirion and up through the Fens -- or else work farther to the West up through the mountains and down into Angband from the Hithlum side. Your thoughts?

Steward:

I agree that East is ruled out no less than Northeast, but to cross the Ered Wethrin twice in going and returning is suicide, in my judgment. --Stand straight, the shoulderline's still twisted.

Captain:

Winter approaches, Sire, and it is ill to be caught in the mountains then, even for us. I know The Beoring has endured it, but I think it a grave risk to compound what will not be an easy business.

Finrod: [troubled]

I would say that our best chance should be to traverse this path, along the river valley, through the forest screen and stay out of the line-of-sight of Tol Sirion for as long as possible. We know that territory well, our Power should defend us against its Darkness and if on the return we were forced to take the mountains to Mithrim, and thence to the waterways, still the worst of the effort would be behind us. But there is Barahirion to consider in that, too -- can I in conscience take him so nigh Delduath?

Captain:

The Lord of Dorthonion can pass its shadow unscathed, my lord.

Finrod:

But he's --

Steward: [kneeling to buckle on the King's greaves]

--mortal. I know. But so he says, and I believe him. And surely with your Working it would be safer still for him.

Finrod: [looking over his shoulder]

Beren? Is that true? That you can venture Tar-na-Fuin in safety?

[Beren is sitting on the floor with the others, gently stroking Huan's ears and feeding the Hound the last of his scavenged bread.]

Beren: [vaguely]

What? --Yes. For a while at least. At least a year ago I still could.

Finrod: [concerned]

Beren! You are not yet armed! Prepare yourself -- we have little time, we cannot spend another night beneath these stones. Shall I assist you, friend?

Beren:

No -- no, I -- I'll do it right now.

[scrambles up]

Where's my stuff?

Steward:

In the next chamber, on the press -- some of it seemed beyond not only repair but usefulness, and I made bold to supply alternatives, but presumed to discard nothing -- it's all there for you to decide of.

Beren:

Thank you.

[As he goes towards the inner door the King's Guard and the young Ranger intercept him.]

Ranger:

My lord, we do not wish to insult your competence, but if you would have aid in donning your gear and mail, we stand ready to your help.

Beren:

I'd not presume --

Guard:

Sir, it were our privilege to serve you.

b>Beren:

I --

[in the background]

Finrod:

. . . perimeter, and I'll join you in short order.

Steward:

Farewells, lord?

Finrod: [shaking head]

Checking the wards.

Beren: [gives up the useless pride]

-- would be honored and grateful for the help.

[As they enter the other room:]

How do you make the metal not shine? Magic?

Ranger: [confused]

No, my lord, just -- a Noldorin Working.

Guard:

One persuades it not to reflect but absorb and to refract, so that the light is not cast out but held within, and such as escapes is scattered dimly, and doesn't give off flashes.

[Obviously this is perfectly reasonable and unmysterious to them]

Beren: [shrugging]

--Ah. Right.

Gower:

- Nargothrond, now kingless, 
waits like the calm of birds before the storm: 
not daring to make merry yet, for shame, 
yet fearing to speak of things to come 
lest Truth should happen to force Thought, 
Words breed Deeds, Will become Act. 
Preparations, hasty and diminished, 
with courage to fill what's lacked 
of force of men and of materiel, 
now come to their quick fruition; 
plans made with confidence of weal 
now yield to need's tuition. 
The several Dooms, 
spun from the earliest hours of time, 
now spiral to a single thread, 
crime mounteth upon crime -- 
the Hidden Realm, faithlessly entrusting 
its faith to the faithless, lies bereft. 
Good-byes, private and most painful, 
have been said.  Now all that's left 
is the leaving -- 
  

 

 

[Note: everything is very hushed and dim; the scene is almost without words.]

[At the gates of Nargothrond.  Ten warriors wait around the entrance, some standing, some crouching, keeping watch both inwards and outwards to the gray autumnal woods. They are equipped in dark battle-dress and heavily armed. The number does not include the Steward, and does include Beren, seated against one of the two giant stone posts that supports the lintel, head resting on his forearms. He is wearing his own old gear, with some of the worst-tattered bits replaced in the same Elven winter camo that his companions display. They do not speak, though some of them sharpen swords and knives. It is almost sunset, but under a sky that is too overcast for more than a hint of gold to indicate where She is.]

[A disturbance within the vestibule: the King appears, striding along. Orodreth to his right is talking and attempting to get him to answer, affirm, or at least make some ameliorating noise -- but in vain.  Finrod takes his helmet from the Steward at his left and buckles it on, ignoring his brother. In their wake Finduilas tags along accompanied by Gwindor for moral support, and followed by Huan: all three appear extremely worried. Orodreth tries again to gain acknowledgment, then gives up. Now that his brother is no longer talking, Finrod turns and embraces him quickly, putting a hand to his mouth when he tries to start apologizing again -- Not now. The waiting soldiers rise and form ranks, Beren with them. He looks deathly ill; the Captain pats his shoulder reassuringly.]

[Finrod slings on the pack that is waiting for him there. Finduilas rushes up to him and clutches his arm; reluctantly he accepts her tearful embrace and finally returns his niece's hug. She is completely devastated -- looks apologetically at Beren but he does not see her at all, staring right through everything and everyone around him. Gwindor looks thoroughly wretched and ashamed. The King goes to each gatepost and presses his hands against them in a final warding, then begins a last- minute inspection of everyone's gear.]

Captain: [aside to the Steward]

--How does our lord?

Steward:

How do you think?  --But he will not show it before them.

[He glances aside to within the shadow of the entrance, where Elvensight might decry some one -- or ones -- standing hidden from Mortal view.]

Captain:

When we return they'll laugh the other sides of their faces -- and without teeth, so help me Tulkas!

Steward:

--When.

[He smiles bitterly]

Captain:

You do not think we will return?

Steward:

I do not.

Captain: [harshly]

Have you Seen it, then?

Steward:

I have not. --But it is nearing Winter. And a plan that was dangerous when conceived with three wings of cavalry is now to be undertaken by twelve. --Even if one of said twelve is The Beoring.

Captain: [snorts]

Well. For my part, I place my trust in the King.

Steward: [taking no umbrage]

As do I. But I do not think that I, at least, will ever come to Nargothrond again. Whether the King carries on with his mad plan to start elsewhere anew -- or not.

[calm, ignoring the other's worried look:]

It does not matter. He will not need a herald in this venture or banner-bearer to go before him this time; but sword and shield he still has call for, and he may set mine wherever need requires.

[Before the Captain can respond, the King finishes up inspecting the rest of the company and turns to his Commanders.  They exchange looks. Finrod sets a gauntleted hand on Beren's shoulder and holds him with a worried stare until he snaps out of his trance. They begin to cross the terraces, ignoring the sentries posted around the gates, who likewise affect not to see them.]

[Huan begins to bay in that sudden, heart-jolting, rip-all-your-nerves-out-of- their-sockets way that guard dogs have, only this is not Death-to-trespassers! but the miserable Please-please-don't-abandon-me! bark instead.  Beren drops out, hurries back and attempts to comfort him, patting his head and letting the Hound lean on him for a few moments.  Then he turns again without a second look back and double-times it to catch up with the others. In the twilight and muffled in cloak and armor, it isn't obvious that one of the twelve companions is not Eldar.]

[They pick their way North along the river and file out past the hidden sentries and guardposts without exchange.  Very shortly they are lost to sight in distance and darkness. Slowly, as though going to meet a grim fate, instead of to rejoin the world of light and society, the kin of Felagund return indoors, drifting back like ghosts. Huan alone remains, looking forlornly out the great gates into the rising mist.]

 

Chapter Text

This section gave me a double problem to resolve throughout.

Typically in fairy tales, fantasy and science fiction, there is a viewpoint character to reveal the tale's Wonders to us, the Ordinary Fellow, who witnesses them vicariously and reacts to them as we would. (C.S Lewis also addresses this at length in an essay on sf which has lots of fascinating revelations about the different kinds of speculative fiction and how they work.) And ordinarily, this is how a story of a mortal hero wandering into the Land Beneath The Hills would work — how most folk tales work, indeed, whether he be prince or a weary soldier returned from the wars, or the youngest son of a poor widow — or she be the merchant's youngest daughter, indeed!

But — Beren is anything but an ordinary guy by this time — not that he ever was, being "being born in charmed hour" under a great Doom to a house of Elf-friends and extraordinarily motivated (not to say driven) and duty-bound people devoted to Powers they'd never met. So his reactions are not going to be the same as someone from a developed nation who's never spent years being hunted through the woods with a price on his head, four of them entirely apart from human companionship, let alone been chosen as the True Love of the immortal daughter of a demigoddess — which brings me to the singular irony of the Elven realms.

Namely, that they are far closer to our age, and our developed world, than anything Beren would have known even in peacetime. For the lifestyle in peace of the Men of Beleriand is only a little removed (if at all) from the pioneer experience, which people tend to forget when they think "Middle-earth = Medieval" — Kate Elliott in her Crown of Stars series is the only contemporary author I know of who seems to be aware that Europe even as late as around 1000 years ago was essentially a jungle, mostly covered with dense old-growth forest full of wild animals through which, and around which, people cut clearings and eked out a living and fought to tame. Hence in the Exeter Book the Anglo-Saxon riddle about the plough calls Men "the wood's old foe" bringing axes and fire to the forest.

After five generations of settlement, the Northlands would be somewhat tamed, but still rather in the mode of the old Highlands, or the hill-and-forest-clearing fields of New England before the rise of the mills and mass transport. No shopping malls, no mass-production — and not even great Fairs, like in the high Middle Ages, because no walled cities and roads to carry goods on. Small farms, small communities like those of the Viking sagas, mostly independent, not tightly organized nor "feudal" in the image we tend to have from movies. And this is a dangerous way to live when being invaded, as the ordeal of the Haladin earlier in Silm.portrays, but it is the way that independent and self-motivated types have historically chosen to live.

Thus, the Nargothrond sequence, with its centralized government, organized services, modern conveniences and assumptions of what a proper lifestyle entails, is in a real sense us — magic indistinguishable from technology and vice-versa, if sufficiently advanced — revealing another world and lifestyle to our sensibilities in their reaction to Beren.

I've made the dialogue of Nargothrond more formal and archaic, slightly, than that of Doriath, as a consideration of their more sophisticated historical background and more unified culture. Again, see the ROTK Appendices for a detailed discussion of the employment of different modes and dialects to convey meaning in Tolkien's own words.

 

Scene I

 

We are told that Beren was received with great courtesy (despite the fact that he looked like a bum) as he was arrested on his careful and public entry into Nargothrond. Given that for five generations previously his family had not only sent troops to the Leaguer but sent squires to Nargothrond of whom some remained there like Bëor, who gave over the headship of his tribe and ended his days in service to the King, I imagine that there would be considerable deja vu among the native Nargothronders (though not necessarily for the recent influx of Feanorian partisans) and most especially among surviving veterans of the Leaguer, on encountering Beren.

Scene II

This scene is indeed my own, but should not be seen as contrary to Canon but simply gapfilling: how in detail might Beren's welcome and arrival play out, how would Nargothrond react, what political and personal complications are already existing there and what might they look like? Obviously, something had to happen during all those hours; I'm just taking a stab at, possibly, what. Could any or all of the other characters present in the City have encountered Beren? Sure! What would their likely reactions and interactions have been, given what we know of their personalities? relationships? —That's all.

Oh, and it provides a useful way of indicating just how much unlikeyour typical fantasy hero Beren is, which is something [else] that tends to get lost in the usual summaries and renderings of the tale. Not only is he not just some random warrior, which I emphasize by the use of his title in formal exchanges; — Conan "Dark Lord killed my family? Constant fighting? Giant spiders? Piffle!" the Barbarian he ain't. (No more than he is "Bond —Whoops, did I lose another girlfriend there? —James Bond".) Even before he leaves Dorthonion one step ahead of the death squads, he is already practically the poster child for PTSD. He isn't even your modern typical commando dude who can count on being extracted from enemy territory and taken home to first-world luxury and safety at mission's end. He doesn't even have the support structure of a Rebel Alliance to give some assistance and comfort while being hunted from system to system. It's hardly surprising that he is described while in Doriath as being

—"as wild and wary as a faun
that sudden wakes at rustling dawn,
and flits from shade to shade, and flees
the brightness of the sun, yet sees
all stealthy movements in the wood"—

even when no one is actually out to get him.

And things just keep getting worse…

 

 

manchets: round loaves of white bread; subtleties: pastries, desserts (often in decorative shapes); viands: meats (by derivation main dishes).

 

 

wolf, wolf's head are traditional Old English terms for outlaw.

 

 

Indis: Feanor's stepmother, Finrod's grandmother and Curufin & Celegorm's step-grandmother — a  Silm. reference to the line "the sons of Indis" from the Morgoth-sponsored rivalry between the sons of Finwe.

 

 

Before forks became popular, everyone did bring their own knives to the dinner table.

 

 

Being a vegetarian in a pre-industrial war zone would have been a lot of work, and indicate a tremendous amount of stubborness and ingenuity as well as idealism. This is, by the way, straight canon from Silm. and amplified in Lays, where it's made clear that before his companions were wiped out he was a hunter of great renown (and thus, one assumes, bore tremendous responsibility for helping to provide for his people which would increase as farms and communities were destroyed by the war.)

 

 

It is remarked in Letters that Elven illusion would have been used for amusement and as art.

 

 

"familiar": either during the course of the Leaguer or in the aftermath of the Dagor Bragollach when in the confused days following the Lords of Aglon-and-Himlad attached themselves to Finrod's party, it seems likely to me that they would have inevitably run into some of the Beorings helping to run the siege.

 

 

Tengwar was the Quenya alphabet; cirth the runes invented long ago by Daeron, Beren's rival for Luthien's affections.

 

 

Thanks are due to Finch for reminding me that Finduilas' lost lover who returns with Turin to Nargothrond is defined in Silm. as the lord of Nargothrond whose brother was lost in the Dagor Bragollach and proven to have been a POW as he is brutally slaughtered in front of the armies of Maedhros' alliance, to provoke them into premature and reckless attack. (In the earlier LCH this is not the case, though the story is still tragic enough.)  This required reworking of the scene and of the subsequent Act III, but allowed for more irony and angst in referring of course to the future tragedies of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and fall of Nargothrond. It also made for some interesting dramatic possibilities given that a new significance is lent to Gwindor's statement that Turin is no Beren — no longer an abstract remark but a personal comparison by someone who knew them both.

Thanks to NovusSibyl for taking part in clarifying discussions on the question of whether or not the battlefield survivors would have had any awareness that Gelmir was a POW, which is usually assumed by readers but not warranted in my opinion either by canon or by Primary World accounts of the experiences of war…

 

Scene III

 

"Fair were the words of Narog's king
to Beren, and his wandering
and all his feuds and bitter wars
recounted soon. Behind closed doors
they sat, while Beren told his tale
of Doriath; and words him fail
recalling Luthien dancing fair
with wild white roses in her hair,
remembering her elven voice that rung
while stars in twilight round her hung.
He spake of Thingol's marvellous halls
by enchantment lit, where fountain falls
and ever the nightingale doth sing
to Melian and to her king.
The quest he told that Thingol laid
in scorn on him; how for love of maid
more fair than ever was born to Men,
of Tinuviel, of Luthien,
he must essay the burning waste,
and doubtless death and torment taste."

I have endeavored to do justice here not only to the texts but to the whole backstory that leads to this meeting and exchange "behind closed doors."

 

 

main-wrought: "hand-made," with overtones of "cobbled together" and "brute force"; my own coinage. —Hey, if Shakespeare could do it…

 

 

Huan: I've taken the artistic liberty of introducing Huan to this scene, as to the previous, for several reasons. It's never stated that he wasn't present, after all, so this isn't a contradiction of Canon. But it is stated several times in LL1 that Huan is a friend of the King, and given Huan's attraction to people of good alignment and his independent behavior, throughout the story, it's plausible to me that he would have wanted to hang out with them. (It's also plausible to me given my experience with ordinary mortal dogs, who make friends without their owner's permission.) There's another reason for making Huan present now, but I'll cover that when we get there.

 

 

Emeldir: Here indeed I build much upon little — but the foundation is, I believe, secure. We are told in Silm. that, as referred to in Act I, Emeldir was a warrior, called "the Manhearted" by her neighbors, who led a final group of refugees to safer lands ahead of the invading forces of Angband. And who would rather have stayed to die with her husband and son, but didn't. While working on an idea for a sketch of her, I realized that I had simply assumed she had the usual Edain coloring of the Third Age, but I really didn't know: the personal appearance of any of the Beorings in particular is not a relevant plot point in the story, (except for the parts about Beren looking a wreck after too many adventures, and that still, he too is "fair" — at least in Luthien's eyes.)

Researching this I discovered that not only was that assumption incorrect, so too the assumption of similiar coloration for her son. According to notes in HOME, though Emeldir was born in Dorthonion, of the tribe of Beor, her mother was of the ruling house of Marach, and her father was also of matrilineal Hador descent. (Stories there, for anyone who wants to explore First Age peacetime life, the journeys and meetings and daily experiences of the Edain…) So Emeldir is blond like her great-nephew Tuor, and her son inherits lighter brown hair and is taller than Barahir his father, and we can gather that she too is both tall and robust, very likely taller than her husband. And an extremely good fighter, given that she successfully got a party of women and children through two sets mountains full of Orcs to safety in her ancestral homeland.

There are a few other elements upon which I draw: first of all, that Beren is not Turin. Granted, there are many ways in which one could not be like Turin, but taken into combination with what wedo know of Beren's character, this makes it easy to shade in the portrait — in any given circumstance, not dealt with in the extant texts, a good many responses can instantly be ruled out this way? i.e., "How would Turin react? Ok, that wouldn't happen here, then." Nor, despite his long years as a solitary rebel warrior, does he become a psychopath like Turin's outlaws. This says two things to me: very strong moral fibre, and a very good upbringing.

And so I can't help but see Emeldir of Dorthonion as someone highly principled, absolutely uncompromising when it comes to demanding the best from herself and everyone around her, considered a bit eccentric in peacetime but not concerned with people's opinions of her (only whether they're deserved or not), willing to give her all and sacrifice her own wishes to duty, and — when the menfolk are off at the War — the Lord as well as Lady of the place, just as in medieval and frontier times. And, equally naturally, her son's first teacher and example during those those years. Was she a good and loving person as well as a brave, strong, and dutiful one? Just look at how her son turned out…

And the relationship between his parents?

Well, Beren is neither threatened by, nor resentful of, a woman stronger than he. (Absolutely terrified that she'll end up like Eilinel as a result of her association with him, but that's only natural.) Andthat says more to me than almost anything else…

 

 

"my uncle": One other thing I wanted to convey here is a fact that isn't obvious if you merely read the chapter "Of Beren & Luthien" in Silmarillion and don't go back and read the rest of it, in particular about the Dagor Bragollach, to see where they're all coming from. And that is — Beren is not the ordinary "heir to the realm" of Dorthonion. Yes, he was born into the ruling house, yes, given the uncertainties of life it was always a possibility — but he was merely the Lord's nephew, the son of the younger brother of the head of the family who already had two living older sons of his own. (In fact, had Barahir died otherwise, and the rest of the band still survived — or if the war had not overwhelmed Dorthonion in the first place — based on authentic medieval precedents, it's anyone's guess whether Beren or one of his cousins would have been acclaimed chief of the tribe.) No automatic assumption of inherited privilege at all — not that there would have been, really, anything like what we tend to think of as "aristocracy" for the Beorings in any case. He inherited a duty, without any perks whatsoever by the time he got it, simply by default. And tried to fulfill it, singlehanded, for as long as he possibly could, until it was made irrelevant by forces outside his control.

It's even more interesting that his uncle Bregolas died alongside Finrod's brothers in the fighting — Angrod and Aegnor had been the lords of Dorthonion as vassals of their brother the King before the land was given to the Beorings, who took the defense over from them, and with whom they still defended the frontier of that country. The connections and parallels are more complex and deeply woven than at first sight…

 

 

"two noble kinsman": an ObRef to a play cowritten by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the tale found in Chaucer's Knight's Tale, a classics-inspired story of rivalry and broken faith and a battle for the hand of a lady…

 

 

Elwe/Elu: Who does, and who doesn't, bother to use the modernized version of Thingol's name, is not random. People from Aman will know of him first as Elwe, people born in latter days won't even know there was another way of pronouncing it necessarily, and the Sons of Feanor aren't going to give him even symbolic deference in absentia.

 

 

Caranthir: perhaps I read too much ancient history and political intrigue, but I can't escape the conclusion that for some reason, the Haladin found their rescuer even more scary, and the thought of his active involvement in their lives a worse prospect, than Orcs. One doesn't become refugees for no good reason, particularly just after having fought a hard war. Add that to the chroniclers' asides as to Caranthir's insolence, arrogance, hideous temper, and later actions — and it adds up, for me, to a picture of someone charismatic, dynamic, charming, and violent, whom you don't ever, ever want to tangle with if you have any sense… He is after all a Son of Feanor too.

 

 

Haleth: It's been at least three generations since the legendary Chieftain of the Haladin led her people to a new homeland in the western forests, and for most of us, fifty years ago is — a long time. A hundred years ago is a long time. A hundred-fifty years ago is a long time…two hundred a really long time… Intellectually we may even know that, realize that compared to say "geological time", it's nothing, but on a basic personal level — it's all "a long time ago." Even for those of us who really know history and study family lore, there's a certain cognitive dissonance involved in keeping the relative scale present. I do think that this would be the case for Beren, who never even had the opportunity to achieve the level of accustomed familiarity that his older relatives had with Elvenkind in the Leaguer — and that it would trouble Finrod, divided as in Canon between loyalty and prudential considerations.

 

 

Luthien older than Finarfin's children: Thanks to Finch for supplying this fact, which, though not appearing to make a whole lot of difference, affects a lot of things when the implications are drawn out.

 

 

Burning Brier, Sickle: the Seven Stars of the constellation we the Great Bear or the Big Dipper, or of old in England, Charles' Wain — a sacred symbol to the Elves, who called it the Valacirca, the Sickle of Elbereth which she placed in warning and challenge to Morgoth in the northern sky, and to the Edain as well, who named it additionally the Burning Brier, which evokes the idea of a thorn-hedge/spear-wall of defense against Anband. It's particularly meaningful to Beren, according to the Texts…

 

 

the ring of Finarfin: this is the second time I discovered I had in fact correctly intuited The Professor's intentions, which is a bit disconcerting. Any time you take something past a sketch or an outline you have to make all kinds of nitpicky decisions, from stage direction to set design — and hence consider the text and implications in far more careful detail than, say, for an essay test. One thing I found myself wondering was — when and why did Finrod give back the ring to Barahir's son? Since it has to remain in the family for the later descendents in Numenor to bring it back to Middle-earth, so that it becomes the signet of the Kings of Gondor.

Because — for me, at least — implicit in the notion of a pledge is the fact of the exchange: the token is given the first time as the visible sign of the vow, and then returned in the claiming of it. So although it's nowhere explicitly stated that Beren gave the King back his ring, it's still there, unless contradicted. And lo and behold! in LB there is, it turns out, a marginal note in one of the manuscripts that at some point Finrod should give the ring back to Beren. —Disconcerting, but also a bit of a morale-lifter for a scriptwriter. Obviously it's my call here, but I think (hope) not implausible.

 

 

"vassal": this exchange isn't just here to clarify something that tends to be obscure to modern readers, especially fellow Yanks — there's a critical plot point going on here that gets borne out later, namely — when, why, and under what circumstances is it not only permissble but required to "betray" one's alliegiances, and is it even properly treason at that point? What legitimate mechanisms exist, morally speaking, to permit transfer or withdrawal of loyalties? So that one is not simply obligated to follow orders, however ethically unsupportable they may be, nor even permitted to "stand idly by and see injustice done"?

Because Huan can't simply leave Celegorm and follow Luthien because she's "the damsel in distress," nor help her and Beren against his lord because they're cooler people than the Sons of Feanor. He has too much character and integrity for that — nor, in fact, does he. It takes him a while to decide, remember?

This is the problem of Antigone, by-the-by, which is answered pretty definitely in the same way by Aeschylus: Justice and the general moral imperatives trump all earthly laws, and political obligations. Of course Huan's situation is even more complicated in that he's already disobeyed one divine mandate as less binding than an earlier one: by taking part in the flight of the Noldor, but given to Celegorm as liege-dog by Orome. Huan is a very angsty character, and the complicated development of the plot outline involving his decisions in the versions and notes to the story is well-worth considering. But more on this in Act III.

 

Scene IV

 

Here's where I really get going with the compare-contrast-equate business of Elven-Mortal/Modern-Archaic cultural assumptions. Again, I don't consider this counter-Canonical, simply interstitial — not that I ever consider anything of my supposing to be Canonical in the sense of reflecting The Professor's intentions (unless some obscure note discovered proves it so) but simply that I try to make things plausible as I render them in more detail — what happens in the "meanwhiles" and "elsewheres," is all.

The overwhelming material prosperity and high standard of living of Nargothrond is one thing I wish to convey, but another, which is in fact more significant even, is the difference between even our Age and society, and Elvendom — that is, the relative time-scales and the inability to get past them. (And yet — we tend to be rather isolated, don't we, both on a personal and national basis, the concerns of our own lives overriding the sense of what is happening elsewhere, until it comes home to us somehow…)

The fact that the last remaining companions of Beren in Dorthonion and the ten warriors of Nargothrond who accompanied Finrod into exile were all at the Fen of Serech is Canon. I've simply drawn out and made plain what is only implicit in the originals, yet perhaps all the more powerful for its subliminality: the realization of the parallels buried throughout — but only scarcely covered! —Silmarillion and HOME has been one of the unfolding delights of venturing into the regions I once thought of as arid background material…

Another is that the Fall of Nargothrond dates from this point — it takes a while for the collapse to become total, but the foundations are blasted in this time. And why not? It isn't just that Orodreth is not as good a ruler as his brother. The combined forces of expiation and revenge and the fact that morale and leadership have been repeatedly shaken are powerful factors in the actions of the Nargothronders at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and afterwards. Turin's coming is like the echo that starts the avalanche — but the careless climber didn't cause that buildup of thousands of tons of snowpack up above.

What about the gap left by the loss of those who went with the King? This is surely no small factor either. They would not have been nonentities, random losers whose absence would make no difference to the life of the City, to be able alone of all the realm to disregard the danger, the Oath, and the overwhelming popular opinion against them — though not all, necessarily, of high political rank or standing (no more than a certain gardener in another Age) and thus I have taken the artistic liberty of sketching roles for the Ten, "who had ever fought/wherever his banners had been brought", and whose names, unlike those of the Beorings, are not given, save one. This is not an accident, though what it says about Arda may be a little disconcerting: the Silmarillion is the Elvenhistory of Middle-earth. —They know who they are.

 

 

"short enough": unlike Turin or Tuor, Beren is never once described as "tall" in any of the texts that I can remember. He is described in a note in HOME as taller than the norm for the Beorings, again an inheritance from his mother's Hador side with his lighter hair, but the fact that the other legendary heroes are as tall or taller than most Elves being so frequently mentioned leads me to think that Beren wasn't. Also, though this is not conclusive without a security tape of the event, the way the incident with Curufin trying to shoot Luthien plays out leads me to this as well — the angles could have been so as to contradict this, but with Curufin shooting to kill, I assume he's aiming for her heart, and when Beren jumps in front of her to take the arrow, he gets it in the shoulder. —Just another for the visual image of someone Totally Unsuitable For Her…

 

 

"summon kings": ObRef to the fact that Celebrimbor was vitally instrumental in the making of the Rings of Power, so important in the Third Age. —Sorry, I couldn't resist this one.

 

 

"cavalry": the Valinorean horses were brought over by Feanor's partisans in the stolen ships, and after the rescue of Maedhros and the reconciliation between the branches of the family, Maedhros ceded up a large number of their herd along with the overlordship of the Noldor to Fingolfin. 

 

 

"Amrod-and-Amras": this is a reference to an obscure latter development in HOME where it's chronicled that Amras, the youngest of Feanor's sons, was lonely for Valinor and spent the night that they landed before marching on aboard one of the ships. Feanor decided to burn them lest any think of turning back, and forgot to do a head-count first. Yet in Silm. it is said that the twins stayed together in Middle-earth and ruled jointly over their region, and were finally killed in the same battle. Which story is true? Well, in a world that has Balrogs and Barrow-wights and the Grey Company, it doesn't have to be an "either/or" question… This also makes use of various HOME remarks on the possibility and effects of possession in Arda. I don't know that Beren's cousins were twins, too, but given that they do run in families and the sons of Elrond being twins, it's not a random interpolation.

 

 

The Legend of Beren the Outlaw, stated to have spread even into Elven lands:

"Danger he sought and death pursued
and thus escaped the doom he wooed,
and deeds of breathless daring wrought
alone, of which the rumor brought
new hope to many a broken man.
They whispered 'Beren', and began
in secret swords to whet, and soft
by shrouded hearths at evening oft
songs they would sing of Beren's bow,
of Dagmor his sword: how he would go
silent to camps and slay the chief,
or trapped in his hiding past belief
would slip away, and under night
by mist or moon, or by the light
of open day would come again.

Of hunters hunted, slayers slain
they sang, of Gorgol the Butcher hewn,
of ambush in Ladros, fire in Drûn,
of thirty in one battle dead,
of wolves that yelped like curs and fled,
yea, Sauron himself with wound in hand.
Thus one alone filled all that land
with fear and death for Morgoth's folk;
his comrades were the beech and oak
who failed him not, and wary things
with fur and fell and feathered wings
that silent wander, or dwell alone
in hill and wild and waste of stone
watched o'er his ways, his faithful friends."

LL2: The legends and ballads of Beren's heroic one-man stand against Morgoth are chroncicled in brief here, as well as the inspiring but ultimately useless effect they had on their hearers. Beren's sword is identified as bearing the name "Dagmor," which has to break down as "Dark Battle" [dag~, dagor = battle, mor~ dark/black] but which since only two swords actually of black metal are ever spoken of in Middle-earth, and their forging is a singular event (Turin's blade Anglachel, and its twin, by Eol) I assumethat the name has the appropriate significance of "ambush" or "sneak attack" or "night fighting" or all of the three.

This is my play with the problem of canonicity, and which versions of a story are the "right" one — the changing and exaggerating of legends, the loss of some details and the inclusion of others. I recommend that everyone read JRRT's essay "On Fairy-stories" where he discusses this at some length in regard to the identification of various "legendary" stories with various historical figures, and what this means about human beings.

 

 

"wolfskin": concealing the out-of-place and distinctive smells of plastic and metal as well as breaking up outlines and killing reflections are very much concerns of modern hunters, and iron has an even stronger smell than steel. But it's also foreshadowing…

 

 

"mail that wouldn't rust": while Beren's hauberk is never explicitly said to be of mithril, it's described as dwarf-work and resistant to arrows and blows, and hence I think it a reasonable guess. As to where the House of Beor would have acquired Nogrod-manufactured armour, it seems obvious to me that it would have come from their liege lords. The circumstances are of my own devising, but not fabricated at random: I want to recall the facts of the Beorings' historical connection not with Finrod alone but with all his House, and the political ramifications thereof for the keeping of the Northern Boundaries. And assigning the gift to the Canonical deeding of Ladros — a province whose description is intensely evocative of the Highlands in Silm. — allows for a reminder of Third Age connections as well. Names no more than words come out of nowhere…everything's got a history.

 

 

One thing that is important and seems to be overlooked, perhaps as a consequence of taking the Geste in isolation from the rest of the history of the First Age, is how deep, in fact, the debt is that is owed to the House of Beor. There is this tendency I've noticed to look at it alternately as indeed I show Orodreth doing in the next scene, as a vastly disproportionate sacrifice — or as an example of irrational pride and devotion to an arrogant "honor" on Finrod's part. I hope I have succeeded in showing that it is a bit more complicated than that…Certainly the Elvish historians think so, at least.

"The sons of Finarfin bore most heavily the brunt of the assault, and Angrod and Aegnor were slain; beside them fell Bregolas lord of the house of Beor, and a great part of the warriors of that people. But Barahir the brother of Bregolas was in the fighting further westward, near to the Pass of Sirion. There King Finrod Felagund, hastening from the south, was cut off from his his people and surrounded with small company in the Fen of Serech; and he would have been slain or taken, but Barahir came up with the bravest of his men and rescued him, and made a wall of spears about him; and they cut their way out of the battle with great loss."   —Silmarillion,"Of the Ruin of Beleriand"

And also

"Their names are yet in elven-song
remembered, though the days are long…
For these it was, the chosen men
of Beor's house, who in the fen
of reedy Serech stood at bay
about King Inglor in the day
of his defeat, and with their swords
thus saved of all the Elven-lord
sthe fairest…"

(LL2: Inglor/Ingoldo are variants of Finrod's mother-name.)

Hathaldir is called "the young" in Silm., and hence like Beren for the reasons previously stated I have judged that likewise he (and perhaps others) might not actually been at Serech and yet still be part of the collective group, and known as one knows colleagues' family members by conversation. Beren's dogs are nowhere named, so I have given them traditionally-inspired mastiff names, but that he and his father had hounds, and loved them, and that he talked about them is Canon — Luthien discusses this with Huan during her enforced hospitality at Nargothrond later.

 

 

The fate of Beren's cousins, from LL2:

"since the black shaft with venomed wound
took Belegund and Baragund,the mighty sons of Bregolas…"

 

 

"the Singers": though called the Nandor, the ones who turned back, by those who went on to Aman, the Green-Elves, or Laiquendi, of Ossiriand called themselves Lindar, and were known as the greatest of singers among all Elves, despite their primitive lifestyle and lack of sophistication. The connections and implications of the various ethnic tensions among Elven groups is deserving of a much longer exploration than I have time for here. (Thanks to Ardalambion [http://www.uib.no/people/hnohf/] for this piece of information.) But it is Canon that they were upset by the coming of the Beorings and asked Finrod to get these tree-killing people out of their territory, which of course is what happened — see Silm.,"Of the Coming of Men into the West" for details. Later on, after the final meltdown of civilization in the First Age, there were "back-to-nature" movements among the surviving Elves and though merged with other elements, Green-Elven culture did become dominant once again, but none of that could have been predicted at this time.

 

 

High Faroth: According to some rescencions, in the very vague and indefinite hints of Beren and Luthien's second life, one of the places they stay for a time is this upland region — which puts a very eerie significance to Beren's Canonical sighting of it through the rainstorms.

 

 

Dungortheb: "not least among the deeds" of Beren, according toSilm., and tremendously evoked in Canto III in flashback. But he wouldn't ever talk about it in detail, for the reason stated.

 

 

It's stated that there was never anywhere as beautiful as Menegroth, where Melian reigned, and which indeed was like a living woodland underground — not like a mortal palace at all. Although Finrod patterned Nargothrond on Thingol's city, it isn't said to be the same in its design, and I tend to think the "outdoors" elements of Menegroth would have appealed very much to Beren.

 

 

Taliska — the native language of the Beorings, of which a partial grammar is said to exist but has not ever been released. (Thanks toArdalambion for this information.) It might also be of interest to the reader that, according to a note in HOME, the only reason that any of it survived at all was due to the interest and efforts of Luthien: Beren didn't see any point in preserving the lore of a dead nation, when in his view Sindarin was a far more beautiful language. She, however, thought she ought to learn his as well, since she had given up on her home in turn. More of this in Act III, however.

 

 

"I saw this thing once" — this is a dead literal translation of the pattern that begins many of the great Anglo-Saxon Riddles, like the one about the Iceberg, which take some everyday thing and redefine it in mysterious terms which are nevertheless completely accurate. All three of these amplified kennings, however, are mine, so don't blame the Anglo-Saxons for any lapses here. But there really is a constellation in Arda called the Butterfly — Wilwarin — though your guess as to why Varda put it up is certainly as good as my own.

Ic þa wiht geseah    on weg feranI saw this thing  on the wave faringheo waes wraetlice   wundrum gegierwedit was well-wrought    wonderfully craftedwundor wearð on wege   waeter wearð to banewonder went on waves water went to bone   —Exeter Book, Riddle LXVIII

 

 

chronometer: what use, really, would the agrarian frontier lifestyle of the Edain have for sophisticated metrical devices? But as Reall Cool Works of art, they have historically have had an appeal far outweighing any practical application. The one I have given Celebrimbor is inspired, ever so faintly, by the Great Clock of Wells Cathedral, where the Moon watches over all and knights joust and a messenger rings a bell — as well as by the latter inventions of clocks from the Renaissance and Baroque eras that look like palaces and fountains and wedding cakes and not like our mundane devices at all.

 

 

"that project of your grandfather's": ObRef to the story that Feanor created the palantiri — whether he actually made them, or simply designed them, is not certain. That they don't show up in Middle-earth until they're given by the Elves of Aman to the Numenoreans, is certain.

 

Scene V

 

Again, mostly just painting out the truth behind the songs — realities of logistics and terrain and the Arts of War, assumed common knowledge, assumed as default in the epics and chronicles and hence not requiring explication. I've conjectured and translated — but you will find no real anachronisms here, no more than anywhere else. The archaic custom of sword-bonding does, for example, equate to a safety-catch on a modern weapon — though peace-strings serve more for an accidental going-off of the user, than the weapon itself…

 

 

Alquantar: Quenya plural, "swans." The temptation to conflate withalae, a "wing" of cavalry from Roman tradition, was irresistable — and the research necessary to find the plural of swan yielded up one explanation for the idea-linkage of swans and cavalry in Middle-earth, a tradition I am assuming here goes far back before Dol Amroth's founding. The word-root of "swan" in the Elvish languages is "rushing" — which also invokes the wonderful Anglo-Saxon Riddle from the Exeter book about the silence of swans in the water and the singing ruckus of swans aloft in headlong flight. Add to that the wedge-shape of waterbird flocks and the intimidating size and ability to do damage of an angry swan, combined with their grace and the arched necks of horses, and it becomes an almost inevitable equation.

And yes, that does make for a pun there in the original Elvish…

 

 

My assumptions in regard to Beren's likely riding experience are derived from:

  • 1) the fact that after confiscating Celegorm's horse they keep on walking, rather than ride off, which makes a lot of sense given that if one is not a particularly confident rider that one would not want to attempt such an exit with a rather nervous and shaken animal especially, any more than an amateur pilot would be likely to hop into an F-15 and take off;
  • 2) the fact that the Beorings do ride to the rescue of Serech, but live in rugged highlands and mountain forests, not good horse country at all, and terrain where typically the riding beasts are small, scruffy, tough and bloodthirsty;
  • 3) the question of where in Dorthonion at the height of the invasion, Barahir's outlaws would be likely to keep horses — cavalry, even ponies, being comparatively high maintainance, noisy, and not especially happy living in swamps for the most part — they're certainly not using them by the end;
  • 4) the fact that by the time they reach the borders of Doriath the first time, Beren is sufficiently comfortable with the horse and with riding generally to undertake the long retracing of the journey back to the borders of Angband at high speed.

Hence I tend to think that he would have had early experience with horses, using the term very loosely, probably never have seen a full-size ancestor of the mearas before getting nearly run over by Celegorm, and given the combination of his ranger skills, empathy with animals, and low intimidation factor, wouldn't have taken very long to not only regain his earlier riding ability but to be at ease with a steed easily twice as tall and much faster than anything he would have ever ridden before.

 

 

The Plan as conceived in full detail: I don't believe that Finrod would have neglected to work out a plausible, essentially practical scheme for recovering the Silmarils, but this mission is entirely my own invention. I hope that it is essentially a practical one:

  • using light cavalry as it was anciently used, the equivalent of an airstrike, but here for transport and extraction purposes;
  • moving throughout the night so that any halts could be kept to daylight when Morgoth's creatures would be restrained by the Sun, not a problem for the forbears of Shadowfax nor their riders;
  • staggering the paths of each group slightly so that any guards roused by the first units would not be in exactly the right place to interfere with subsequent movements;
  • avoiding getting bogged down in engagements altogether for obvious reasons of casualties and speed, because the longer spent in any one place, the more time the Enemy has to move in troops;
  • cris-crossing the river to forestall the Enemy anticipating of their route and placing blockades in advance of them, since it wouldn't be clear at once where they would be at any given time in the valley;
  • using the same kind magical defensive illusions to confuse and deceive Enemy aerial intelligence found even as late as the Third Age, just as today electronic countermeasures, signal jamming and chaff, are used;
  • coming out on the eastern side of the Fens to avoid the narrowness of the valley on the west shore of Sirion and getting entangled with the mountain spurs there, and forming a single consolidated force to add momentum and prevent loss of stragglers when breaking through any Enemy outposts guarding the forts along the headwaters of Sirion;
  • using the forts of Fingon as a base of operations to regroup, repair and reorganize for a commando style raid on Angband, with a safe assumption that not only would the barest duty of hospitality be offered, but enthusiastic assistance and probably limitless volunteers;
  • taking all three if the opportunity presents itself, but considering the mission accomplished with the taking of one and proceeding with extraction plans if it seems too dangerous to go on;
  • coordinating so that following the completion of the mission the cavalry would be ready for pickup on the opposite side of the plain. This means that they would not have to retreat down the obvious route, back where the Enemy would be expecting them to return, but past the unsuspecting Enemy forces stationed in Northeast Beleriand and avoiding those mostly by staying up between the dunes and the burned forest of Nightshade, where nobody goes voluntarily.
  • Morgoth still doesn't know exactly where in Beleriand Nargothrond is, only that it exists and somewhere out there in the  old-growth canopy, shrouded by Mirkwood-like deceptions and guarded by extensive outposts is an Elven City that formed a major part of the Leaguer and is full of angry survivors led by Felagund; he knows Fingon is out there and where he stays, 'cause he's looking right at him across the Anfauglith, and he hasn't been able to dislodge his forces for the past decade; he hasn't been able to beat through or down the consolidated forces in the East of Beleriand under Maedhros and the other Sons of Feanor —  so the successful close of the mission would have left him in essentially the same state as before, only a lot angrier.

Would it have worked? The critical and unplannable part, what happens after scaling the gate-tower-mountains and breaking in, remains just that. A highly-coordinated and determined force of experts led by one, probably two, Noldor kings, prepared far more than they were ten years ago even merely psychologically for nasty surprises and taking full advantage of their own surprise and deception tactics and the resulting confusion among the Enemy of "This can't be happening!" — hard to say. (After all, they wouldn't have had Luthien with them…) But it would have been spectacular, successful or not, is my guess—

We go up in fameor we come down in flamebut nothing can stopthe Army Air Corps

—as my people used to sing…

 

 

The text of the Oath derives from The Lays of Beleriand, from an early fragment of a poem from about 1925 which describes the scene after the Treeslaying and contrasts ominously the three hosts of the Eldar as they react to the Darkness, the Foamriders wondering what is going on by the piers, forshadowing the ship-taking later that evening, and the earlier carefree day of the Vanyar giving a concert for Varda at her home on the holy mountain, together with the imagery of Fëanor challenging the Host to follow him with blazing torches in hand as he declaims his fiery rhetoric.

 

 

"Sparkly" is the literal translation of Finduilas' nickname, Faelivrin, referring to the effect of sunlight on water.

 

 

The course of my hubristic attempt to write out what the SOF's canonical seduction of Nargothrond might have sounded like, under the invocation of the Oath and the veiled threats of renewed Kinslaying, no doubt fall far flat of what would have been. But I wanted to try to make the scenario as plausible as I myself find it, working with the awareness of the terrible blow taken by the City in the Dagor Bragollach — not an abstract matter of troop numbers, but of lots of family members lost horribly in a small society, and the awareness of how the shadow of Alqualondë hangs over all the deeds of the Noldor in Beleriand, and understanding how geassa — being the Western-Indo-European form of karma — always involve past acts of injustice (sometimes vicarious) as part of the balance of dharma/righteousness. Things don't just happen out of nowhere…The occasional necessity of abdication to prevent bloodshed is found not only in the Celtic tradition but also in the Confucian writings of Mencius, and are in the spirit of the Tao Teh Ching as qualities of true leadership and authority, which is not about force or power but care and guidance.

Also the fact of the social fragmentation and uncertainty in Nargothrond following the Defeat is in part inspired by the events chronicled in Sil and the rest taken from my own observations of history and group interactions. I can't imagine that someone as cruel and cynical as Curufin would have failed to make use of Beren as an object lesson in his rhetoric, either…

The bit about the fault-lying in the failure of the Leaguer is particularly audacious, given that we're told in Silm. that the Sons of Feanor were chief in those objecting to any offensive action, against the High King Fingolfin's recommended tactics, because of the inevitable casualties caused by taking the battle to the Enemy. Of course, in the end, keeping him locked up only resulted in morecasualties.

And the "jewel/girl" line is an ObRef to the actual text of Celegorm's Curse as given in full in the Lay:

"Farewell," cried Celegorm the fair.
"Far get you gone! And better were
to die forhungered in the waste
than wrath of Fëanor's sons to taste
that yet may reach o'er dale and hill.
No gem, nor maid, nor Silmaril
shall ever long in thy grasp lie!
We curse thee under cloud and sky,
we curse thee from rising unto sleep!"

—It's a doozy, all right.

 

 

Finrod's assessment that the successful theft of even one Silmaril would severely damage Morgoth's credibility in the eyes of his commanders and troops derives from a line in Lost Road where it's noted that following the actual theft, Orcs laughed about it behind the Dark Lord's back — I imagine him perceptive enough to guess that consequence in advance. (And I can't help but imagine that happening, the Morgoth imitations and raucous laughter, given Uruk-hai humor in LOTR…)

 

 

I would never have thought of this myself, history is really stranger than fiction — Roman generals have been reported to carry specially-designed mosaic floors which could be dismantled for transport to furnish their command pavilions, so that barbarian dignitaries would be sufficiently impressed. When I first read this, (aside from thinking "I wonder if I could make one?") I had to wonder what the Imperial GIs thought of that…

 

 

"bribe-and-threaten" — invoking Yeats' great ghost story The Black Tower, excerpted here:

Those banners come to bribe or threatenOr whisper that a man's a foolWho when his own right king's forgottenCares what king sets up his rule.If he died long agoWhy do you dread us so?

There in the tomb drops the faint moonlightBut wind comes up from the shore.They shake when the winds roarOld bones upon the mountain shake.

 

 

The canonical interchange over the succession is my warrant for assigning the role of King's Steward to Edrahil, described as the "foremost among the ten" and based on my own experience that people tend to use idioms natural to them and familiar from their own work. (Not to mention that there is no greater position of trust and responsibility, when you come right down to it.)

 

 

Yes, I actually used "weird" in a statement about Fate. So the sentence works in both Old English and Modern English, because if you replace the word with its original, "wyrd," which means simply "Doom" or "Fate," it's also a correct and perfectly reasonable, if rather tautological, Anglo-Saxon declaration. I should probably pay a forfeit for macaronic (multilingual) punning, but it is an established tradition from the Middle Ages. Refers toSilm., the end of the chapter "Of the Noldor in Beleriand".

 

 

I have to think that "Your mother wears combat boots" would fall rather flat addressed to the son of a Shieldmaiden of the North.

 

 

"To me" — a traditional battle cry, but also evoking the shepherd's call to his herd dog — "Away to me," meaning circle around widdershins and come to a down-stay at heel. The continual equation of Beren, like Cuchulain of the Celtic sagas, to a loyal hound is not at all mine, but The Professor's, by the by.

 

 

nerhneta - the discussion of Noldor tactical survivals and terminology is found in Unfinished Tales, "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields," where, pinned down in a swamp by superior forces, Isildur's forces cannot use a flying wedge to break out but instead must form sandastan (Qu) or thangail (Si,) the thorny hedge of spears projecting from a staggered shield-wall which can be tightened up into a circle — and I imagine the formation employed in the Fen of Serech.

 

Scene VI

 

Morgoth's Parole - referring to the sowing of discord and seduction to rivalry carried out undercover by Morgoth after his release from prison following his first attempt to destroy all light in the world, when he was allowed to go about freely just as though he'd never done anything treacherous before and all was forgiven.

 

 

gambeson - a padded undertunic worn beneath mail for protection

 

 

The healing effect of water and water's sound is a common theme in Middle-earth, and like the protective aspect of water against Darkside influence derives from the presence of the Lord of Waters, the Vala Ulmo, who as the "Loyal Opposition" continues to actively meddle in the doings of the Elves after the Rebellion and the Ban, most overtly in the Tuor-Gondolin situation, but always and everywhere as he explains to Tuor. (See also FOTR.)

 

 

My own invention, but I assume that the Elven cultures would have had far more complicated and subtle and beautiful tunings and scales than even we have, of which there are far more than merely "major" and "minor" though this fact is often concealed like forbidden lore from beginning music students. And that, since they gave grammatical forms cool names, their musical modes would have cool appropriate names too.

 

 

Moving the discussion of whether the Oath somehow works on its own in the world from the prior discussion between Beren and Finrod is my one significant variant (as opposed to filling in detail) from canon: artistic license taken for dramatic balance, and not significantly affecting the story — in fact, I indicate that they've talked, as per canon, about the SOF problem already before the scene opens.But thinking about this in detail just made me start seeing parallels to the working of the Ring in the Third Age, and I wanted to give it its own particular emphasis.

 

 

"thing made by craft": what Beren said in contempt about Thingol's demand for dowry, rating the Silmaril against Luthien, presumed here to be recollected from his earlier recounting of events.

 

 

Bereg: one of two rebels among the Edain who were tempted by Sauron-in-disguise to reject the Eldar and return back East across the Blue Mountains. Amlach of the House of Hador tumbled to the fact that he was being used and had, and returned to the war against Morgoth with renewed fervor, but Bereg of House Bëor led a group of discontented partisans back East, where they disappeared from recorded Middle-earth history. See Silm., "Of the Coming of Men into the West," for details; particularly invoked is his line, "Let the Eldar look to it! [ie, the Leaguer] Our lives are short enough."

 

 

The presumption that Finrod might have been not completely thorough in his account of the Revolt of the Noldor is based on the fact that he and his family didn't happen to mention it to their hosts Thingol and Melian until forced to, and his and his siblings' reluctance to speak ill of others, as well as the wretchedness of the past events. And that Beren might well have not paid a lot of attention to that part of the Lore as a kid comes from the common response of a lot of us, apparently, to that part of the History — that troubled combination of Eeeegads! and What???

 

 

"lands beyond Gelion": as eventually this is exactly what Beren does; I provide this here as foreshadowing, inspiration, unifying of themes, any or all of these. The fact that some of the inhabitants of Ossiriand are of the same tribes that historically have been allied with Doriath, whose king and royal house died coming to the rescue of Doriath in the days before Melian set the Girdle about it, and who gave up on warfare and involvment in the war thereafter is merely one more link in a very complex mesh of implications.

 

 

Finrod's song, apart from the obvious invocations of the Arda Mythos, is modeled in part on the Canticles in the Hebrew Scriptures of Daniel and some of the Psalms, in part on G.M. Hopkins' Pied Beauty, and in part on the Anglo-Saxon Metrical Verses from the Exeter Book which begin "Cyning sceal rica healden," contain the line "orthanc entea geweorc," and are often aka "the Gnomic Verses" pronounced of course 'Nomic' — and thus I am both repaid in kind, and justified in my punning by the highest authority…

The epithet "Unburning" derives from the symbology of Ghanian traditional reincarnatory monotheism, where the idea of that which burns eternally without being consumed or destroyed is used as one of the ways to describe the Divine; it is also evocative of the Stoic belief in Fire as the Element underlying the universe, and the essential nature of the soul.

 

 

The discussion re darkening their armor (reference LL1, Canto VII) both invokes the canon of Elven magic being a natural, not a supernatural process, and the entire question of what's "magic" being confusing to them (FOTR, the conversation with Galadriel in Lothlórien) — and various exchanges I've had over the years regarding technologies that more sophisticated people don't even question, such as polarization, after which explanations I tended to go away thinking "Yup, — magic."

 

EPILOGUE

 

I just tend to think that the SOFs are the sort of people who wouldn't be able to resist coming down to gloat, even if, for prudential reasons, discreetly.

And Huan, who we are told in LL1 loves the King, would surely also be there to say goodbye.

FRONTSPIECE — Houseguests from Hell

(Some of the detail here is far clearer in the full-resolution version for printing, which will open in a new window, and is about 1.2 MB.)

The three tile designs behind the throne represent three sigils used by Finrod in Middle-earth — the first two are traced directly freehand from JRRT's own designs, and the third is my interpretation based on textual description of a device that I have not seen any authoritative rendering for as yet but only verbal descriptions.

The uppermost and central design is the emblem of House Finarfin, with golden sun rays which also evoke Egyptian lilies in their termini. As Finrod is in the peculiar position of having taken up the overlordship of his group after his father's conscience will no longer allow him to go on, and in a sense is the vicarious king of his people here in Middle-earth, it seems fitting to me that he would employ the heraldic device of his father's House, just as Fingolfin, as High King of the Noldor after Maedhros' relinquishment of the right of the Eldest, bears his father Finwë's symbol of the Sun-in-Splendour for his own.

The left sigil is Finrod's personal badge representing his role as liege-lord of Bëor: the symbols of a harp and blazing torch on a green field are invocative of the history recounted in Silm., wherein Finrod is inspired to wander off on his own while hunting with his kinsmen and discovers the first of the clans of the Secondborn, who have crossed the mountains to find peace and hope to discover the Valar, based on tales and rumors from the Avari who taught them in the East. There he took up the harp of their leader, Balan, as they slept, and began to sing to them of the story of the making of Arda, and the Marring, and the High-Elven lore, and both they and he found that he could understand their thoughts and convey his meaning to them with his music, and thus they were able to work to a common linguistic understanding. After convincing them that he was not in fact a Vala, Finrod assumed the role of protector and teacher and became ultimately their King, and Balan received the accolade of Bëor, which is translated as 'vassal,' and Finrod got the often thankless job of mediating between the other Elven kindreds and the influx of Mortals from beyond the mountains, those who became the Edain. The Harp and Torch are therefore both historically literal and symbolically figurative.

The rightmost symbol is the device found also on the ring given to Barahir by his King after the Battle of Sudden Flame: Finarfin's personal badge of obscure origin, showing two golden serpents beneath a crown of flowers, that "one upholds and one devours" — in this instance I've made the device rendering in a more Indo-European style, reminiscent of the protective serpents rendered in exquisite goldwork knotted through jewelry from the height of Classical Greece and Rome. This design fit the area better than the alternative, a cadeuceus-style layout, as well as fitting the text.

The Nauglamir design is entirely and hubristically my own, but inspired by the fact that it's described in a term that I have only heard used of the kinds of great gemmed collars such as the ones made for Tutankhamen — both graceful and weightless-seeming on whomever wore it. The weight and balance of the Egyptian collars and the exquisite detail and technical skill employed in crafting them does in fact seem magical. But in additon to the agrarian themes of the original collars, with their gem-crafted Seeds and Flowers, and the wings of the sacred birds, I've worked in the common world mythic elements of the Sun and Moon and Stars, the Indo-European symbols of Salmon and Wave and Beech Leaf, and the bird opposing the Eagle is the Swan which is mighty in Celtic lore as well, and in the center is the flame representing the Secret Fire, the Flame of Anor, which the wearer serves. I've attempted to do the idea of it justice…

For the design style of Nargothrond, as opposed to that of Menegroth, I've employed a form of the Industrial Design version of Art Nouveau, of which Christopher Dresser is one of the more famous workers — it seems with its splintering rays and angles that could be light, could be leaves, could be mathematical paradigms, (could be birds' wings, too, for that matter) to be particularly appropriate for the Noldor. However you'll note that the more organic Sindarin style is employed as well where apt, and that every individual's gear and costume is different and unique — neither mass-production nor conformity being particularly characteristic of Elven society! (And, consistently, Beren's own sword-belt is held together with knots — replacement buckles, and blacksmiths, being no doubt hard to come by under the New Regime in Dorthonion.)

 

Chapter Text

black is the color

TINUVIEL AT BAY: A CACCIA OF BELERIAND

Act III of The Lay of Leithian retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script (with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare) (and thanks to M. Moliere & Miss Austen for assistance)

 

Dramatis Personae & Cast, in order of appearance [this is how I'd cast them - you're free to supply your own actors, of course.]

    The Human Bard Gower (appearing courtesy of The Rose Playhouse) Derek Jacobi (appearing courtesy Henry V)

    Luthien, called Tinuviel, Princess of Doriath Claudia Black (appearing courtesy of Farscape)

    Orodreth, Prince of Nargothrond Hugh Grant (appearing courtesy Sense and Sensibility)

    Celegorm, Son of Feanor James Marsters in suave, charming, and gentlemanly mode (courtesy Mutant Enemy)

    Curufin, Son of Feanor James Marsters in sly, caustic and vicious mode (courtesy Mutant Enemy)

    Finduilas, Princess of Nargothrond, daughter of Orodreth Gelsey Kirkland (appearing courtesy the Baryshnikov Nutcracker telecast)

    Celebrimbor, Son of Curufin Alexis Denisof (appearing courtesy Mutant Enemy)

Gwindor, a Lord of Nargothrond Ioan Gruffydd (appearing courtesy A&E's Horatio Hornblower series)

    Huan of Valinor Special guest appearance as Himself

  Assorted Nargothronders of both Houses: Rangers, Citizens, and Knights


 

Act III: SCENE I

Gower:

In longsome time 
fair Luthien to Nargothrond hath fared 
by pathways strange and secret under star 
and light of moon, 'scaping the trammels set 
by love that seeks too hardily to save 
drawn forth from that shelt'ring snare 
by binding far stronger than that rope of hair 
her path sheer straight from Hirilorn's crown 
--a track more steep than scales Gorgoroth down. 
    Now as a prize to the Elven city borne 
taken in her hasting flight by the Hound of Celegorm, 
the Nightingale of Doriath with close-pent wings 
rants against her cage; weeping, herself she flings, 
-- having exchanged but snare for snare -- 
in futile dread and rage and hot despair. 
    Rising her sureness of yet one treason more 
by hours: first Daeron, jealous; then swore 
Elu Thingol, and yet forswore, though formal-true; 
then Daeron again, breaking his vow implied: 
whereon her father cedes wisdom to fear and pride 
prisoning her, whilst mourning her mother stood aside. 
    This new betrayal less false than all of these, 
that she, and only she, is purposed to deceive, 
-- not self, in fond disguise of pure devotion. 
Of all her kindred, all whom 'friend' should claim, 
but one, as yet, hath proven true: -- the same 
who clear once called by her heart's true name. 

[The great hall (or probably, indeed, a great hall) of the fortress-palace of Nargothrond. A banquet is underway. In the high seats are the Regent Orodreth and his household, and in the places of honor, Lords Curufin, Celegorm, and their entourage. Especially honored on the royal dais is Luthien of Doriath.  She does not look the part of an Elven princess of high degree.  Her hair is bobbed short and rather wildly curly, her clothes are defiantly the travelworn white dress and blue wrapper, and she is not at all serene, but rather pale and stressed-out yet nonetheless determined. (She looks a bit like an older version of Trina Schart Hyman's illustration of Ronia, the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren, as a matter of fact, if Ronia were wearing a costume designed by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema instead.)

Orodreth:

Dear lady, you've not touched your plate at all.  Is our food too rich for one accustomed to simpler fare?

Luthien:

No, my lord Regent -- it's only that I have no appetite when I think of Beren in pain and privation.  How long till your army can ride forth?

Orodreth:

Highness, it is not that easily arranged. Such -- such things take time --

Luthien:

-- It's been two days since you brought me here.  Two entire days! He could be dying!

Celegorm: [aside to Curufin]

We could be so lucky --

Curufin: [low]

Hush.

Luthien:

--And I've seen no sign yet of any readying whatsoever. You told me, my lord Curufin, that you would expedite the preparation of a rescue mission, and I'd like to know what progress has been made. You haven't kept me updated at all.

[Conversation all around drops off to an all-time lull, for a variety of reasons; even the background music dies down as the harpers attempt to play low enough that they can follow the exchanges.]

Curufin: [very polite but patronizing nevertheless]

Lovely princess, it takes time as I explained before, to ready such things as equipment and provisions and horse and armor and all the equipage of war. You can't just grab a spear, a shield, and go, you see.

Luthien: [frowning]

That's funny, because we never stand down completely.  Are you trying to tell me that Nargothrond is so complacent about your secrecy that you're completely unprepared for combat?

Curufin: [indulgent patience]

Planning an expedition to Angband is not like routing a few squads of probing Orcs, milady. There are plans to be made, complex preparations, and much work to be taken care of, lest we simply run headlong into catastrophe as your friend has done.

Luthien:

    [coming to a new level of suspicion]

I see. Forgive my lack of understanding -- I've never waged a war, you see.

[to Orodreth]

You will let me know as soon as your men are ready to ride forth? And if there's anything I can do to help things -- mend gear, bake lembas, fletch arrows or ready medicinal spells -- I'll gladly work night and day until all's done.

Orodreth: [coolly, but not with obvious sarcasm]

Highness, we certainly are grateful for your offer of assistance, but Nargothrond scarcely needs such further heroic efforts from yourself. But we will certainly keep you advised of what progress has been made.

[Celegorm shoots him a narrow look, displeased. Celebrimbor raises an eyebrow, but keeps his thoughts to himself. The Regent's daughter and her fiancee look distressed.]

Celegorm: [changing subject by force]

Dear Lady Luthien! The voices of Melian and her fair daughter are renowned throughout the lands. Surely in return for your welcome and guesting here, you could spare us one shortest of songs?

[Luthien stares at him in disbelief.  Something snaps.]

Luthien:

Yes. -- I will sing you a song that you have perhaps not yet heard.

[She rises and gathers herself as if going into battle; the cold gleam in her eyes betrays the fact that she is also very much her father's daughter, however different their styles of combat.]

Bard:

Your Highness, what mode shall the accompanying flow be cast in? The primal mode of Starrise, or the threnodic mode of Moonrise, or the simpler, yet more vigorous strains of Sunrise?

Luthien:

None. There's no accompaniment. It should be a duet: I'll take both parts.

[hums note softly, finds the octave. Takes a deep breath and forges onward.]

O fare thee well, I must be gone
                    and leave you for a while --
                  Where e'er I go I will return,
                      if I go ten thousand miles!

               O ten thousand miles it is so far
                    to leave me here alone,
                  While I may lie, lament and cry
                    and you, you'll not hear my moan!

                O the crow that is so black my love
                    will change his color white --
                  I'll never be false to you my love
                      till the day, day turns to night!

                O the rivers they all will run dry
                    and rocks melt in the sun --
                  I'll ne'er prove false to the one I love
                      till all these things be done!

 

[There is silence -- the hush of profound appreciation that is Elven applause.]

Orodreth: [at last]

Superb . . . superb. Is that one of your renowned Daeron's songs? Menegroth is justly proud of her sons -- and daughters!

Luthien: [in a small precise voice]

No. That is one of the songs of Dorthonion. My Beren learned it from his mother Emeldir, who sang it with his father Barahir and learned it of her father who was also named Beren, who gave it to my Beren's grandmother when first she came to dwell in Dorthonion from Hithlum. It is a very old song. It was believed that his grandfather's mother sang it first. I am glad you like it.

[She sits down and demurely sips her wine, with no indication in her manner of having just suffered defeat, nor that she was attempting any Working in her song. There is a different kind of silence in the banquet hall.]

Curufin: [to Celegorm, undertone]

That is not happening again.

 

Chapter Text

Gower:

Confident of their confirméd vic'try now, 
the sons of Feanor count o'er their spoils, 
the full-achieved, as bold they do allow, 
and the newer prize that's taken in their toils –

[The royal apartments, now occupied by Orodreth's household, and with a much less "lived-in" look to them -- though not cluttered before, it's clearly not a place belonging to an artist-architect-strategist-explorer-linguist-loremaster-musician, now -- merely a central location for government. Curufin and Celegorm are once again making free of the place, but the feel is very different when they come in and sprawl in the chairs by the fireplace. Orodreth is trying to work at the table, despite their presence. Huan is, once again, apparently dozing on the hearth.]

Celegorm:

I never get over how nice these digs are. Cousin Finrod certainly didn't stint himself. You've done well by the move, hey, Orodreth?

Orodreth: [flat voice]

I don't recollect that you were lodged in the kennels prior to and including this summer. If you wanted improvements you'd only to make them. That is, after all, what everyone else did.

Curufin: [ignoring this, continuing discussion with Celegorm from outside]

I wonder if they're really betrothed, or if she's only saying that to make it sound more respectable?

Orodreth: [dryly]

Yes, clearly that's of the most tremendous and pressing concern to Her Highness.

Celegorm: [ignoring this too]

I doubt it -- he wasn't wearing any rings but the signet, and she's certainly not got one either.

Curufin:

Well, naturally -- where would he get any silver to make one? Not that he'd know how in any case. And even if she supplied both of them, it would be too obvious -- no chance of keeping it secret if she started wearing a ring all of the sudden.

Orodreth:

I didn't get the impression she was trying to be secret about it, myself, but rather that she thought it was no anyone else's concern but their own. --Is that even a custom of Middle-earth originally? It could well be something our parents' generation came up with, back home. I wouldn't know about that myself, of course:

I was never the one interested in "was" and "might have been" and "could be" --

Celegorm:

--What's the matter with you? Weren't we boon companions before, always with the merry jest and the shared glass and the riding to the hunt and the cheer of good fellowship, Orodreth?

Orodreth:

Well, yes, but that was before you led a revolution against my . . . House -- we were all equals, in those days.

Curufin: [sweetly poisonous]

And now you are ruler, my lord --

Orodreth: [icy]

Now I am Regent, my lord -- a mere placeholder, and no more. When are you going to tell her? Or are you planning on waiting for her to get tired of waiting first?

Curufin: [colder still]

I thought we had reached an understanding in which you, and your House, were not going to interfere with us, and ours. Is that not so? Or am I mistaken, Lord Regent?

Orodreth: [sardonic smile]

My concern is the well-being of this City, and its realm, and its people. Apart from that, and outside of that, is not my concern. How you rule the affairs of your own household, so long as you do not risk Nargothrond by it, is your own business.

[goes back to scanning and occasionally signing parchments. The brothers exchange Looks.]

Curufin: [going back to their conversation]

Dark-elf or not, it's unbelievable that any of our Kindred, however distant, could fall so far--

Orodreth [shaking his head]

The daugher of Melian, a Dark-elf? Do you actually believe your own -- talk? --My lord.

Celegorm: [with the exasperated tone of someone going over something for the nth time]

Even if he wasn't a mortal, can you imagine anyone -- and of royal blood! -- being so lost to propriety as to strike up a relationship with a chance-met stranger of no estate and think it feasible that an alliance of blood and honor should be undertaken between them? Doesn't she, at least, understand that marriage is a binding not simply of individuals but of houses and traditions, that there are all kinds of implications for everyone else around them, and that no one, not least a scion of a ruling House of the Eldar, can act on their own whims without regard for these facts?

Orodreth: [as if observing to himself, aloud]

Oh no, it isn't as though anyone else in that family has ever run into someone in the woods by accident and spent time with them exclusively and not told anyone about it nor consulted with others nor sought advice before making it final and fait accompli, now, is it?

[nonplussed silence from the brothers]

--One might, in fact, consider it practically a family tradition . . .

Curufin:

You know, I don't care for your tone at all -- my Lord Steward of Nargothrond.

Orodreth: [not looking up from the scroll he is reading]

And unless you're interested in taking over all the mind-numbingly tedious tasks of management which now fall to me, with far less assistance, and in which you've never shown the least bit of interest heretofore, -- that fact is signally irrelevant, my lord cousin. --Unless your brother is perchance planning on forgoing some of his own sport to take up the slack . . . ?

[long silence]

Curufin: [chilly]

--It's good we understand each other, isn't it?

[offhand, to his brother:]

Pass me that lute, will you?

[testing the strings, to Orodreth:]

Whose is this? Finduilas'? She shouldn't leave it tuned up, it'll ruin the frame, you know.

Orodreth:

  --Have you not your own chambers, my lords?

Celegorm:

Yes, but they're not so nice as yours.

[There is a brief staring contest, before Orodreth shakes his head in disgust and gathers up all his parchments and writing equipment in angry, exasperated gestures.]

Orodreth: [curt]

If anyone's looking for me, I'll be working in the privacy of my own old office.

[leaves with his portfolio and scribe's case while Curufin plays a cheerful little syncopation on the strings, discordantly out of tune]

Celegorm: [sadly]

I don't think our cousin likes us very much any more.

Curufin:

You did notice that he wasn't absolutely committed without reserve on the matter of noninterference?

Celegorm:

I guess we aren't going to tell him about the Letter, are we? --How's that coming along?

Curufin: [smiling in anticipation]

Almost there. I've still got a few phrases that need work, and there are a couple of legal technicalities I want to be sure of before I send it off. I'll have the final draft done for you to look over in a few days.

Celegorm:

The one bad thing is, we won't be able to see Elwe's face when he gets it. I wish there were some way to scry that scene!

Curufin:

True, alas. That would be -- amusing.

[sighs]

Ah well, if wishes were horses then -- beggars -- would ride, indeed --

[They exchange grins. On the tiles Huan, head on paws, gives a soft worried whine.]

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Gower:

Having crossed the gulf, the narrow bridge (though not sword but hair) 
Tinuviel will brook no longer biding, as caged woodthrush seeks the air—

[An empty hallway in Nargothrond. It shouldn't be spooky-looking at all, only deserted and rather winding, so that you can't see very far along it, because it follows the natural contours of the cavern from which it's been carved. Luthien appears around a curve, walking very carefully, one hand on the wall as though it were pitch-dark not pleasantly lit.]

Luthien: [under her breath, to herself]

-- I never get lost. I don't understand it -- everything feels jumbled, disorganized, I can't find any center to it --I can't find East, I can't find West, all I can tell is up from down -- and I'm not even sure about that --

[she sags against the wall]

Oh, Beren, I'm no use to you at all! I've accomplished what? nothing -- I can't seem to make anyone understand the need for action -- you'd think they'd see the need for urgency right off, though -- There's something wrong here, some fog or darkness clouding everyone's mind, it seems, that they can't think straight, can't keep their priorities straight --

[even more worried]

I wonder -- no, surely not -- but -- I wonder if -- perhaps with the King being gone the wards are breaking down and Morgoth's managing to influence people somehow? I've heard of it, I know he tries it all the time with us and Mom stops him: is this what it would look like? Everybody muddled, acting like nothing's happened and everything is normal, no matter how crazy it is under the circumstances? Going about their daily business when they should be mobilizing like there's no tomorrow?

[frowns, shaking her head]

. . . but then I thought we had all the time in the world, too, even though I knew better, and now I grudge every hour I wasted this Spring -- so perhaps it's just that they can't help it, and I've changed so much that I can't understand us now . . .

[There's a noise behind her and she jumps up straight and whirls around in a single movement, facing that way -- never forget that she's been a dancer longer than most civilizations have lasted. Sharply:]

Who's there?

[There is no answer: she girds up her shawl and strides around the arc of the passage, camera following]

Who is -- Ah!

[Huan is standing there, looking a bit apprehensive]

Luthien:

Ohhh! --Hello. Come here--

[she holds out her hands and claps at him, making chirping noises]

Come on, don't be scared, good boy--

[Huan comes closer, shy-dog mode -- though if he were not a Hound one might think he was embarrassed instead]

Good dog!

[he sniffs her hand, then licks it, and she scratches his ears]

I'm sorry, I don't have any treats for you. I was wondering where you'd got to. --I wish you were my dog. That would surprise them at home, wouldn't it -- you wouldn't let them shut me up in a tree if you belonged to me, I'll bet. Where have you been? Oh, but you're a working Hound, I suppose you've been out doing your job, hunting Wargs.

[Huan wags tail; she pats him hard on the neck like a horse]

Beren would like you so much, he used to have dogs -- I wonder if you met him while he was here? I'm sure you'd love him too--

[Huan leans against her and whuffs in her hair: she wipes her eyes against his coat. From the same direction as Huan Celegorm comes around the passage and sees them]

Celegorm:

Huan!

[they are both startled by this]

--Don't be frightened, my lady, he won't hurt you.

Luthien:

Oh, I'm not. --I know.

Celegorm: [apologetic]

You seemed a bit shaken up when you were last around him.

Luthien:

Well, I was. Literally.

[Celegorm gives her an awkward smile]

Celegorm:

Yes, I know -- I'm -- I'm sorry about that, Your Highness.

Luthien:

I think twelve apologies is enough, milord, don't you? No harm was done. And the time could be better spent, I'm sure.

Celegorm:

Ah. --Right. What are you doing wandering around all by yourself? Can I help you?

Luthien:

I don't know. I was trying to find the Regent's office, and someone gave me directions -- several someones in fact --  but I think I must have taken a wrong turning somewhere. Or several.

Celegorm:

You know, you really shouldn't be just roaming about without a guide -- it could be dangerous, my lady.

Luthien: [narrows eyes]

Dangerous?

Celegorm:

There's all kinds of stuff goin' on here, you know. Workings you probably never even heard of, high-powered security features and maintainance and construction--

Luthien: [dryly]

I imagine that I can avoid walking into a hot stove or tripping into a cistern on my own, Lord Celegorm.

Celegorm:

Where are your ladies? Not slacking off on the job? Shouldn't you have an assistant?

Luthien:

I sent them away. I'm not used to having so many people around all the time. I haven't seen more than one or two people at once for weeks now -- until you caught me.

Celegorm: [ignoring the hints]

Oh. But -- who looks after your things?

Luthien:

I do. Why?

Celegorm:

I wish you'd accept some new clothes. You -- you shouldn't be obliged to go around in those awful old rags.

Luthien:

I told you, I don't feel comfortable taking charity from Nargothrond without having presented myself properly as a guest seeking asylum to the King my cousin, given the unofficial and destabilizing circumstances of my arrival. There's been enough strife in our families as it is . . .

[aside]

. . . and I'm harder to ignore this way . . .

Celegorm: [blandly]

He wouldn't mind, you know.

[Huan's tail stops wagging and his head droops under Luthien's hand]

Luthien:

I know. But I still just don't feel right about it. And besides -- this outfit has sentimental meaning for me: it's the first dress Beren saw me in. And I made it myself, it isn't something my mother made for me -- I didn't take anything they gave me -- so for a lot of reasons I'm rather attached to it.

Celegorm:

But -- the edges, the what-d'ye-call-ems, hems, are all coming off. Getting to be less and less attached to it, so to speak.

Luthien:

It's not so bad. I can just rip the loose bits off.

Celegorm: [embarrased]

But, well, I mean -- they're going to get awfully grubby, aren't they?

Luthien: [shrugs]

I wash them in the sink and put them on chairs in front of the fire at night. That's what I did while I was on the road. Only streams, of course, not a basin. That would have been a little much to carry along.

Celegorm: [distressed look]

But -- surely -- you weren't just hanging about the woods in the altogether, waiting for your garments to dry?!

Luthien:

Oh, no, I just wore my cape until I finished wringing them. Damp clothes are just an annoyance, anyway. They dry out fast enough if you keep walking quickly.

[Celegorm looks at a loss -- the expression of someone in the difficult situation of wanting to say that's barbaric and revolting but recognizing that it would be impolitic to say so, and also wanting to find some way to excuse it just because of who the person responsible is...]

Luthien:

Anyway, where is my cape? Surely the Sages can't still be trying to figure out how it works? They ought to ask me, if they can't figure it out, though I probably won't be able to help them duplicate the results, since I made it all up as I went along.

Celegorm:

Ah. --Yes. You'd have to check with my brother about that, I really couldn't say myself. He'll know how they're coming along -- ask him when you next see him, all right?

[aside]

Which'll be quite a while if he can help it.

Luthien:

Maybe you can help me find him after we talk to Orodreth, then?

Celegorm:

My lady, I'll be happy and delighted to spend the day with you.

Luthien:

The day?! Surely it won't take that long to get to Orodreth's office!

Celegorm:

What? Oh -- I mean, it might take a while to get in to see him. He's awfully busy, you know.

Luthien:

  Then can we go find Lord Curufin first, and ask him about my cape?

Celegorm:

Oh, he isn't around right now -- he's out with the Border Guard right now.

Luthien:

So can we go find him?

Celegorm:

Well -- they've ridden a good ways out --

Luthien:

And?

Celegorm:

It's dangerous out there, your Highness . . . besides, what do you need it right now for? You're not planning on leaving us so soon, I hope!

Luthien:

So? It's mine. And I'm not comfortable having it out of my hands. It is part of me, after all.

Celegorm: [chuckles]

Was, you mean.

Luthien: [narrow look]

My hair is still mine. I didn't give it away.

Celegorm: [grinning]

So, if you gave me a lock, then --

[pulls a curl and lets it spring back]

--would that mean you had a, hah,  split personality?

Luthien: [annoyed]

Please don't touch my hair. --Can we go and find the Regent's office, now, milord?

[As Celegorm bows and starts walking leisurely back along the way he and Huan came, she steps up the pace so that he has to hurry to stay level with her. Something falls from the edge of her blue wrap and hits the floor with a sharp clink.]

Celegorm:

Oh --

[halts her]

Luthien:

What is it?

Celegorm:

You lost a star. --Part of a star, at least. A ray, looks like--

[He bends and picks up the gem for her.]

Luthien: [blankly]

Oh.

[keeps walking, disregards it]

Celegorm:

Don't you want it? I can have someone sew it back on for you--

Luthien: [shrugging]

I can do that. It -- just -- isn't very important, really.

Celegorm:

May I have it?

Luthien: [blinks]

You've a shortage of quartz, my lord?

Celegorm: [laughs]

I was going to make it into something else for you, since your mantle's such a wreck; I thought it might make the heart of a nice pendant. Though actually I'd get my brother to do it -- he's the artist of the family.

[pause -- Luthien just looks at him]

What? Don't you wear jewelry in Doriath? Or just things made from natural stuff, like, oh, flowers and leaves and all?

[pause continues]

Luthien: [flatly]

Aren't there really more important things to be devoting your energy to? --Such as getting the rescue mission underway?

[pause]

Celegorm: [utmost sincerity]

--We Noldor are good at multitasking, your Highness.

Luthien:

Ah.

[Huan's head and tail go lower]

Celegorm: [hurt]

You don't sound as though you believe me. I'm crushed, Lady Luthien, absolutely crushed--

Luthien: [troubled]

Well, I'm not entirely reassured by what I've seen -- or haven't seen. And you still haven't explained why you pretended you didn't know what I was talking about when you met me, or why you pretended to be "Lords Atarin and Turcofin of Nargothrond" --?

Celegorm:

We weren't pretending. Never said we didn't know what you were talking about, did we?

Luthien:

But -- you know what I mean -- you certainly implied it --?! And you did lie about your names and all, didn't you?

Celegorm: [hurt]

&bbsp;    I wasn't lying. Nargothrond is our home now, ever since the War drove us out of the North Country, just like your friend Barahirion.

Luthien:

And your names?

Celegorm:

We use names from both sides of the family in Aman. The custom's catching on here too, I've noticed. One from your mother, one from your father -- plus the extras everyone picks up along the yeni. So those really are our names, you see. Just not all of 'em.

Luthien: [musing]

Well, I suppose it saves a couple the trouble of actually having to agree on something, doing it that way.

[Celegorm laughs -- Luthien gives him a frowning look: it wasn't meant to be a joke. They start walking again]

But why did you let me go on like that, like a complete idiot, and not tell me you knew all about it or who you were until we reached the City?

Celegorm:

Well, if we'd said, "Oh, hullo, we're some of Feanor's boys, just happening through in your direction with an armed party," wouldn't you have taken off again like a pheasant breaking? After all the harsh words your father's had for us?

Luthien: [very dry]

Given the way things have been going between me and my family, lately, I'd be far more likely to assume gross exaggeration and given you the benefit of the doubt -- but I suppose you couldn't've known that. . .

Celegorm:

And how were we to know that you weren't some phantom or figment of the Enemy's making, sent to lure us into an ambush or whatnot? I mean, it isn't every day that my Hound brings me a gorgeous girl instead of a disgusting dead wolf, you know. Not until you were inside the City's defenses and didn't disappear or turn into a wraith or something fell like that.

Luthien:

--I've heard of those . . .

[the Carillion is heard in the halls]

Oh! There's that bell-thing again -- it's been another what, four hours? Six? Can we hurry, please?

[She darts on ahead, forcing Celegorm to catch up to her, Huan trailing him with tail dragging the tiles until they are out of sight around another curve.]

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Gower:

Those who venture, forsaking paths, in forests dark and dolesome, 
may well find it harder far, returning to ways wholesome—

[The royal apartments. Most everything that was Orodreth's is out now. Through one of the inner chamber doorways Curufin can be seen -- he goes as if to open a small box lying on one of the tables, but hesitates, drawing his hand back before touching it. Instead he opens a large flat case next to it and starts to reach in, but stops as Finduilas comes stalking quickly into the suite. Hastily he shuts it and turns around, coming out into the antechamber.]

Finduilas: [acid]

So are you just moving in and taking over openly, now?

Curufin: [shrugs]

Ask your father, Sparkly.

Finduilas:

I did. I want to hear your version.

Curufin: [mild]

What does it matter, since you've already made up your mind?

Finduilas:

--So you are.

Curufin: [raises hands]

I didn't say that. You did.

Finduilas:

But you implied it.

Curufin: [surprisingly unsarcastic throughout]

No, you did. --Did you want something other than to snarl at me, little cousin?

Finduilas:

I'm here for my music things. And the Nauglamir.

Curufin:

Yes, I was surprised to see he'd forgotten it . . .

Finduilas: [biting]

You know he won't touch it. If it weren't so valuable he'd leave it on the throne with the Crown, but he says there's no sense in tempting people.

Curufin:

Well, you know where it is.

[Finduilas sweeps past him and comes back out with the large case under her arm.]

Finduilas:

Is that her cape in that casket beside it? The one that feels like there's water or wind coming off of it?

Curufin:

Why do you ask, when you already know?

Finduilas: [caustic]

What are you keeping it for, anyway? Shouldn't it be in the Research Department for study? Or else give it back to her?

Curufin:

    Little cousin, are you being naive or just affected?

Finduilas:

Oh! I hate you. Don't talk to me!

Curufin:

I know we've had our differences --

Finduilas:

Differences? You take over our home, and you call that -- "differences"? You threatened us with civil war, and those are "differences" --?

Curufin: [holding up his hand, overriding her interruptions]

--Did I ever do that? No. That was the construction your uncle and his partisans put on my words, forcing a confrontation for reasons of their own. Ask yourself honestly why, after so long a time without difficulty -- whith everything at last back to normal, or as close to normal as we will likely see in Nargothrond -- he should put us in such a position, fabricating an incident whereby such a clash was made inevitable? If that is not at all suspicious, I don't know what is--

[pause]

But that's neither here nor there. I won't argue with you when you've made up your mind -- especially when you know you agree with me . . .

Finduilas:

Stop making it sound like I'm the one being unreasonable -- what do you mean, "agree with" you?

Curufin: [shrugs]

--You don't want to hear what I have to say, so what does it matter?

Finduilas:

Stop that! You're treating me like a child -- again.

Curufin:

I beg your pardon. It's difficult being the one to see what those who haven't, alas, the same tragic experience can only imagine, and build opinions based on lofty ideals and half-heard facts not fully understood. I'm afraid I tend to get a bit impatient, which comes out in sarcasm.

Finduilas:

Don't try to win me over to your side. I'm not stupid.

Curufin:

I would never suggest it. Merely -- young, and easily led.

Finduilas: [haughty]

May I remind you, cousin, that I crossed the Grinding Ice, too.

Curufin:

Indeed. --And why did you have to undergo that ordeal? Who led your group into that disastrous adventure? --We didn't tell you to follow us; it isn't my family you should be blaming for that expedition, now, --is it?

Finduilas:

Oh, be quiet! You twist everything around --

Curufin: [interrupting]

Yes -- that's what your sweetheart tells you, and I'm sure it's far more pleasant, as well as easier, to listen to him than to me.

Finduilas:

--Gwin doesn't tell me how to think!

Curufin: [clearly disbelieving]

No? Well, you should know best . . .

[she does not answer]

Curufin:

I don't expect you to change your mind about me. But I would request that you ask yourself -- you don't have to answer me, either -- just ask yourself, honestly, without worrying about what you should think, about permission-- do you truly think that it's a good thing? --This business of one of us, getting romantically involved with a mortal?

Finduilas:

I don't see that it's anyone's business but theirs.

Curufin:

Oh, you haven't thought about it at all, then.

Finduilas: [tossing her head]

You're impossible. I don't want to hear your rationalizations.

Curufin:

Of course not. You might have to actually think, then. --No, don't stamp your foot at me and stomp off, these shoot-from-ambush-and-run tactics aren't worthy of a Noldor princess. If you really believe I'm wrong, you'll be able to prove why.

[Finduilas just gives him a Look, but doesn't say anything to contradict him, or leave.]

Curufin: [mock surprise]

What, you're going to give me a chance to explain myself? I'm staggered by your generosity, your Highness! How can I repay you?

Finduilas: [dryly]

--Don't press your luck, cousin.

[but she is starting to smile though she fights it]

Curufin:

Certainly not, I wouldn't dare -- all right, then, how is this? The ex-Lord of Dorthonion is undoubtedly a warrior of great prowess in the fight against our common adversary. I would never deny that. But is that enough? Does that actually mean anything, when you come right down to it?

[Finduilas starts to interrupt, but he holds up his hand, and she waits]

Consider the facts -- the inescapable facts of the world -- which you surely know far better than she, on a practical level, not an intellectual one, having spent so much of the time since the Return actually in day-to-day contact with Men, not simply having heard about them secondhand from the extremes of hostility and favoritism, as she. You are aware of the brevity of mortal lifespan. You have heard more than mere legends and romantic tales -- you also have heard the true and dreary stories of petty squabbles and small concerns that involved the Beorings and their allied nations over the centuries. But all that--

[He frowns, looking troubled and reluctant to go on -- she gives him an impatient look]

All that -- might not matter, were the Lady Luthien not who she is, but a simple woodland maiden with no other role in society. Her right to ruin her own life, her foolish self-deception as to the inevitable tragedy of such a union, would be hers alone. But that is not, unfortunately, the case. --She is, after all, like you the heir to a great responsibility, the throne of one of the few Elven dominions capable of withstanding the Enemy's assaults in these sorry days--

Finduilas: [interrupting]

--I'm not the heir to the throne!

Curufin:

--If not you, then who is? Why else does your father enlist you to do his work with him? He, at least, understands the need for prudence, howsoever his romantic ideallism wars with his sense of duty.

Finduilas:

My father can't stand you.

Curufin: [raises his hands helplessly]

We do not always know our friends -- nor, I venture to say, even like them, contradictory as that may seem.

Fiunduilas: [sarcastic expression]

Friends.

Curufin:

Say, at least, that we have common cause -- that we -- all of us -- value Nargothrond and this realm's people above any abstractions of "duty" and "honour" and that as a consequence, we are bound to be misinterpreted and misjudged by those who let heart rule head. --Have you not experienced that yourself? Are not you, and your future father-in-law, made scapegrace for the unwilling recognition of that duty by your fiance?

[she does not answer]

I see that you do.

[Finduilas goes as though they had not had this conversation to get her lute and folders of sheet music. Her hands are shaking, her knuckles showing on the Nauglamir's case  and she drops the portfolios -- while kneeling down to gather them up one handed, the lute strap slips off her shoulder. Curufin scoops it all together, puts the lute back up for her and hands her the music folios. She glares at him, her expression very still now, not scornful, just hostile.]

Thank you for at least hearing me out, Highness. Just -- think about it, that's all.

[She says nothing, and walks out with head held high. After she is out of sight, Curufin smiles.]

Chapter Text

[The Throne Room. It is deserted and dim inside. Huan enters, very slowly, almost plodding, his head and tail still dragging. He approaches the throne and stands there, not moving, before collapsing down suddenly with a huff and putting his nose down on his outstretched forelegs. He lies on the lowest tier of the dais, not asleep, anxious.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

Blindly spun, the webs, snares and toils of deceit,
haply may snare not only purposed prey, but other feet--

[The antechamber to Orodreth's apartments -- it's more of an indoor formal garden, with benches and carved planters integral to floor and walls and some water in raised squared channels -- very Amarna in style, in fact. Luthien and Celegorm are sitting across from each other on an angle of benches, while an Aide of the Regent sorts scrolls from boxes into a rack in an annex on the side which has apparently been converted into an outer office. He keeps giving them Looks, covertly. There is a definitely closed look to the double doors leading to the inner rooms -- they don't look like they're meant to be opened at all.]

Luthien: [earnest]

So I've been thinking it over, and I think, personally, that we shouldn't rely on our forces alone, but ought to send word to your other cousins out West and try to get some reinforcements for the assault -- probably keep them for surprise and ambuscade on a retreating path, that seems like it might be most effective. Of course, you might have already thought of that. Anyway, what do I know about offensive missions, and perhaps it's completely foolish?

[She waits expectantly -- Celegorm is looking at her earnestly, his head a little on one side, kind of smiling, but with a bit of a glazed expression. He doesn't answer.]

Luthien:

--Are you even listening? You look like someone whose next words are going to be -- "I think I know why the clouds are white sometimes and why they change colors others." Or maybe, "Do you think one could build a flet that would go all the way across the river?"

Celegorm:

Eh? What? No, no, I'm paying attention -- I assure you, no one could possibly be paying more attention to you than I am right now. --You were saying--?

Luthien: [exasperated sigh]

I was saying that after we deal with rescuing them I am going to insist on a full-fledged plan of attack. I understand why for reasons of propriety and the rules governing quests and all, my cousin might have refused your offer of assistance, but obviously a small covert-ops mission is too dangerous, and we've got to use all the resources at our disposal.

[Orodreth's assistant gives them a sudden sharp glance from where he is working/eavesdropping, with an angry glare at Celegorm afterwards]

My father might take exception, but so long as the exact words of his demand are fulfilled, I don't think it matters one jot who actually pulls the damned thing off Morgoth's crown and so long as we show up with enough of an escort, I'm not worried. Even if he tries to argue the legality of it, let me assure you, no one has ever won an argument with me when I'm right. I just don't think most things are worth arguing over, usually -- I guess I take after my Mom more that way, along with my hair. --Did that make sense?

Celegorm: [staring into her eyes again]

Mm-hmm . . .

Luthien:

And we should take Huan along, I imagine he must be just as good in a real fight as in a hunt--

Celegorm:

Oh, he's a terror in battle, death-on-four-legs to Orcs just like wargs, always where the fighting's thickest -- Hey, there, you didn't mean "we" when you said "we" there, did you? As in you, yourself, did you?

Luthien:

No, I meant "we" as in us, our side, that's all -- I can't think that I'd be anything but in the way, I'm no Galadriel, though I'm better-than-fair at patching people up afterwards.

[aside]

Though I'm beginning to think I'd better, so that there's one person whose mind isn't turned into mush by the Enemy!

Celegorm:

No, I can't see anyone calling you "tomboy", even with that haircut, hah!

Luthien: [frowning]

Where is Huan, anyway? I thought he was over there by the, I guess it's a pond, but obviously he isn't...

Celegorm:

Oh, he always wanders about, shows up when you need him. He'll turn up for supper, too, you can be sure.

[pause]

You really do like him, don't you?

Luthien:

I think he's wonderful. I wouldn't mind having a Hound like him at all.

Celegorm:

I warn you, he eats like a horse.

Luthien: [half-smiling]

Yes, but you wouldn't need a horse with him around, would you?

[Celegorm laughs]

Celegorm:

I must say I'm still surprised -- but not really I suppose -- more in awe of, your courage. I keep expecting you to be terrified of him.

Luthien: [wry]

What, because he chased me up and down trees and all around the woods like I was some kind of giant black squirrel before carrying me back to you like a puppy?

Celegorm: [blinks]

Er, yes?

Luthien:

Why? I could tell -- once he stopped chasing me -- that he's Good and wouldn't ever hurt anyone not on Morgoth's side.

Celegorm: [admiring]

You're awfully perceptive.

Luthien: [bitterly]

Heh.

Celegorm:

Hey, did I tell you that Orome himself gave Huan to me?

Luthien:

Yes, you did. Now--

Celegorm: [oblivious]

He taught me the language of nature, how to understand animal communication and tracking and weather and so forth, you know. That's why I'm such a great hunter, y'see.

Luthien: [actually interested for the first time in something he's said]

Oh, really? That's just like Beren.

Celegorm: [taken aback]

What? --You're joking.

Luthien:

No, it's true. --I don't suppose he would have said anything if there wasn't a need for it -- it isn't like he brags about his accomplishments, "Oh, I'm this great hero and the Terror of the North and all," it's more like -- "Oh, so you're that Beren?!" and you get back "Er, which one? You mean me or my grandad?" It was hours of that before I got him to admit that yes, he was the one in the legends Mablung had been hearing, and I can't remember when I heard so many qualifications and disclaimers in a single conversation. He used to be the best hunter in his homeland, too, before he gave it up.

Celegorm: [chuckling]

Well, you know how it is, we all say we are, the best at huntin' or fishin' or any kind of a sportin' thing!

Luthien:

Oh, no, I've seen him track things in the dark and charm animals out from cover to eat from his hand.

Celegorm: [nonplussed]

Well.

[pause]

--I don't expect he learned it from a god, all the same.

Luthien:

No, he's almost certainly self-taught.

[she stops talking and looks rather fixedly ahead, then sniffles]

Celegorm:

Oh, don't cry -- please don't, I can't stand to see a lady crying--

[takes her hand]

Everything's going to be all right.

[clasps it in his other hand]

--Trust me.

[While she is trying not to break down, Finduilas enters with her various burdens. She is almost at the impromptu reception office by the time she notices them there, to her great and not-too-pleasant surprise. Setting down her music stuff on a bench she takes the Nauglamir into the annex and engages in a hasty whispered conversation with the Aide, before going over to where Luthien and Celegorm are sitting.]

Finduilas:

Luthien. I -- I understand you've been waiting, to talk to my father.

Luthien: [nods]

Y--yes. He's been in meetings all day. Or night. I'm not sure which it is now.

Finduilas:

I'm so sorry. He's -- not going to be free for at least another bell. Probably two.

Luthien:

Oh. Ohhh.

[She shakes her head, taking a deep breath, and makes an exasperated noise]

Celegorm: [sympathetic but patronizing]

I did try to tell you, milady . . .

Luthien: [distracted, shaking her head]

Why--? I don't -- I --

[she leans against a bit of decorative wall, panting]

Finduilas: [anxiously]

You look faint -- Have you eaten at all today?

Luthien:

I -- I'm not sure. I don't know what time it is down here --

Celegorm: [masterful]

--Why don't we see about having something sent up to your rooms, and I'm sure our little cousin here will be happy to look after everything, and as soon as our good Regent gets free we'll have someone pop along to let you know, all right? No sense in you wasting your time and starving here for no good reason, is there?

[Reluctant, but not really up to arguing with both of them, Luthien allows Finduilas to take her arm and lead her outside. Celegorm wanders around, looking at the art on the walls with a critical eye and surveying the results of the unpacking.]

Celegorm:

What a mess this place is in! Though I dare say you've made a lot of progress.

[The Regent's Aide gives him a foul Look; Celegorm keeps poking around the solar]

So she likes Huan, eh?

[grins]

Aide: [stiffly]

Do you need to see His Highness about anything, my lord?

Celegorm: [waves hand languidly]

No, not at all. Carry on with your filing and whatnot; I've got to see a dog about a girl myself . . .

[He strolls out, whistling; the Aide slams a scroll case into its pigeonhole with a loud bang.]

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Gower:

    --Met but with silence, the anxious traveler pursues
answers -- prevented from her own pursuit, seeks clues
to the dark mystery wrapped in Nargothrond's fair hues--

[Interior of Luthien's apartments. The outer room is a small solar, from which a hallway leads to the private suite, and has a paneled door opening onto the hallway that is meant to stay open. Around the room are arched panels  made to look like windows, which are murals made of cut stones set in like stained glass and discreetly lit. The decoration is more naturalistic here than elsewhere in Nargothrond, less abstract, and it is of course exquisitely lovely. Luthien is standing there with Finduilas, looking frustrated as well as tired.]

Finduilas:

Do you feel better now?

Luthien:

Not really. --I think your dad's avoiding me.

Finduilas:

Oh, no, I'm sure you're mistaken -- he -- he's just terribly busy. I hardly see him -- and I'm his assistant!

Luthien:

Then why can't I talk to him?

Finduilas: [patiently]

Because he's too busy.

Luthien: [leadingly]

With--?

Finduilas:

Well -- Nargothrond, of course.

Luthien:

And--?

[pause]

The rescue mission--?

Finduilas:

Oh -- well -- of course -- that too.

Luthien: [unconvinced]

Hm.

[walks over to the nearest of the artificial "windows" and runs her hand across the carvings]

Finduilas:

Aren't those wonderful? That's the view looking west from our house in Tirion.

Luthien: [making conversation]

The trees are very beautiful. They look almost like real beeches.

Finduilas:

Oh, those aren't beeches, they're mallorns. They only grow in Aman -- they're sacred to Yavanna, you see..

Luthien:

Well, they look like they'd be perfect for climbing. I can see why she loves them.

[Finduilas gives her a funny look]

Did you bring these with you? They seem -- awfully -- large.

Finduilas:

No, my aunt made them. These are her rooms when she comes to visit, and she did all the decoration for them herself.

Luthien:

Your aunt is an astounding person. I think she's the only Elf to ever master our double-harness loom in a single day.

Finduilas: [not trying to sound patronizing, but doing a darn good job all the same]

Well, she is Noldor, after all.

Luthien: [frowning]

Have you seenthe loom my mother invented? The one that weaves the same pattern on both sides, only with different colors? It takes most people two days just to set it up. And isn't your family half-Teler, anyway? What does that have to do with anything?

Finduilas: [nervous giggle]

Well, -- obviously -- you understand --

Luthien: [clearly doesn't]

How long does it take you to set one up? I know she takes the loom she made with her, so maybe you've worked on it. Mine was only a quarter-sized version and it took longer to make enough width because of that, and it still took me forever to warp it all in -- I think I must have spent half the night getting it strung.

[curious]

How come you never came to visit us, when your family did?

Finduilas: [awkwardly]

Oh. Well. So far to go, you know.

Luthien:

It isn't that far, I've traveled it. And I didn't even have a horse.

Finduilas:

It's just . . . there were so many things to do here, and . . . you know . . . nothing really to do, by comparison.

Luthien: [dry voice]

Yes, that's why your aunt stayed with us all that time, because there was nothing to do there.

Finduilas: [condescending]

Oh, don't be so sensitive. I'm sure it's a wonderful place. You must be very homesick for it, I'm sure.

Luthien: [shrugs]

It isn't my home any more. It was. But my home is with Beren now.

Finduilas: [shocked]

But you must have some regrets, leaving your family and your home and everything you've ever known --

Luthien:

There is one regret I have, yes.

[brief pause]

-- That I waited so long to follow after him.

[recovering/covering, tapping on one of the mallorn images]

How tall are they?

Finduilas: [a little thrown by the change and topic]

Um -- tall -- I don't really know exactly . . .

Luthien:

I wonder if they're taller than Hirilorn -- you could certainly build a house there, all right. Looks a good deal easier to get down from, though. Huh.

[she shakes her head]

Finduilas:

I can't imagine what you must have been thinking . . .

Luthien:

Mostly -- I hope I tied that knot properly.

Finduilas:

Oh! No, I meant -- for all of it.

Luthien: [gloomy]

They can't do this to me -- How can they do this to me? -- Star and water, that's a long way down! Not in any particular order.

[pause]

--Was that what you were asking about?

Finduilas:

Well . . .

Luthien:

I mean, really there wasn't a lot of thought, just planning, if you see what I'm getting at. By the time I actually succeeded in escaping I'd already done all the agonizing over it -- there was just a lag between, unfortunately.

Finduilas:

I more meant, have you really considered it? Do you think it was the wisest thing to do? Given the war situation, and your family, and your responsibilities to your kingdom and all?

Luthien:

I'm sorry, are you trying to say I shouldn't have run away, I should have stayed stuck in a tree forever?

Finduilas:

Not exactly, but, well, I mean they wouldn't have left you up there forever, really.

Luthien:

Considering the fact that their preconditions for release were completely unacceptable, and considering how stubborn we all are, forever is exactly what we're talking about here.

Finduilas:

But can't you see their point of view at all? I mean you can't really blame them for wanting you to be safe, especially with what you said they said about those Orc-raids having been targeted at you all along--

Luthien: [interrupting]

I told you I think they were just saying that. Or rather my dad was, because Mom didn't say anything, which I think means it wasn't true, though not necessarily, because I've never heard her tell a lie in my life -- I don't think she can. Though come to think of it I haven't ever heard Dad tell one either. --But I still don't believe it, given the situation.

Finduilas: [shrugs]

Anyway, you can't deny that there are Wolf-riders and awful Things out there -- it only stands to reason that they shouldn't want you to get hurt by them. Imagine how they'd feel if you were captured by the Enemy!

Luthien:

What, the same way I feel knowing Beren's a prisoner?

Finduilas:

. . .

[pause]

Luthien: [relenting]

Look, I gave them every possible chance. If they didn't want this to happen then first, they shouldn't have lost it when they heard about Beren -- did you know that Daeron was actually hoping the search parties would shoot him, that's why he told my father? I was almost angry enough to throw him out of the tree when he admitted that -- and secondly they shouldn't have pulled that craziness about a Silmaril on us, and then they shouldn't have expected me to just sit there and say, "Oh, well," when my mom says he's been caught! What did she think I was going to do with that information?

[she begins pacing back and forth agitatedly, rant gaining power, while Finduilas is being a Good Listener]

Luthien:

So at that point, they could have given me a division and said "All right, you win, we're not going to approve, but at least you're going to go about it properly," but no -- we get hours of lectures as if I was some stupid little kid caught stringing triplines in the house or something dumb like that, and not listening to me at all, and then "Well, we're going to have to lock you in your room, but you'd get sick, and you'd probably get out anyway, so we have just the solution!" --And then thinking that somehow having Daeron lecture me instead was going to work, and not only that but make me "get over" Beren? "Oh, we'll just substitute him instead and she won't notice"--? "We like him better, so of course she will too"--? I mean, really now!

[she pauses for breath, huffing indignantly]

Finduilas:

But you can understand that, can't you? I mean, from a n-- a -- an outsider's point of view, Daeron has a lot going for him. He's even famous at the High King's court. Everyone loves his music, and even if the cirth aren't as pretty as our writing, they are fast and easy. And they've known him long enough to know if he's reliable and trustworthy and Good, after all.

[pause]

Luthien: [very dry]

If what my parents meant when they said all my life, that the most important things were truth and goodness and right judgment and so on, and I should only ever marry someone she saw really embodied all of them, -- was that I should really marry the old family friend and world-famous artist, composer, and inventor of a unique compressed data-storage system who just happened to have never thought of me as anything but a little kid until I finally found someone who embodied all those qualities -- then they jolly well should have said something before!

Finduilas: [discomfort]

Should they have to? I mean . . . really--?

Luthien:

Ah, come again?

Finduilas:

Well, obviously they thought he was suitable for you, if they encouraged you to spend so much time together for so long.

Luthien:

Actually it was because he made a very good babysitter when I insisted on climbing into my mother's yarn and trying to crawl through the looms. My father loves music but he isn't much of a musician himself, and they could always distract me with the flute. And then when I was older they all decided he could teach me too, and that would work out well. How was I to know that one day out of the blue he'd stop thinking of me as "cute little kid sister" and think "--A tender goddess!" instead?

[snorts]

--Idiot!

Finduilas: [shocked]

But -- he's a genius, Luthien!

Luthien:

I don't care how many disciplines Daeron counts as a Sage in -- he's still an idiot. The fact that he would think that getting my true love killed would make me like him better, or at all, just goes to show that lore isn't everything.

Finduilas:

But don't you feel at all sorry for him?

Luthien:

Of course. I started talking to him again, didn't I?

Finduilas:

Well, yes -- but that was because you need his help again, you said. Don't you feel you were just using him, rather?

Luthien:

No, it was long before that. I listened to his apologies for days before I made up my mind to escape and figured out how and enlisted him. But regardless -- are you trying to say, that because I needed his assistance, I should not have talked to him, but only if I hadn't needed anything of him should I have forgiven him? That seems rather cruel, not to mention counterproductive.

[pause]

Finduilas:

That doesn't make any sense.

Luthien:

That's what I thought.

[pause -- she leans back against a "window" and folds her arms]

I'm sort of getting the impression that you disapprove of what I've done.

Finduilas:

Well -- I did think it was incredibly romantic at first -- but then . . . I actually thought about it, and -- Luthien, how?

Luthien:

Ah, "how" what? That covers an awful lot of territory.

Finduilas:

Luthien, he's a child! He's not even half a yen old, and -- It's -- it's just wrong. In so many different ways.

[long silence]

Luthien:

Do you know how much older my mother is than my father?

[pause]

Neither does she.

Finduilas:

How can you not know how old you are?

Luthien:

Well -- there wasn't any way to reckon time for most of her life, so it's really a meaningless question. But the measurable part -- in the sense of there being landmarks, so to speak, is from before there were the Stars, before any of our people awoke, and before there were any differences between Elf and Elf in Middle-earth.

Finduilas:

  All right -- but that's different.

Luthien:

How?

[Finduilas just gives her an exasperated look, as though she is being tiresome]

I'm serious -- this is what I keep asking, and not getting answers to.

[starts pacing again as she talks]

You're being just like them. "Oh, Luthien's gone crazy--" "He must have put some kind of Enemy sorcery on you--" "What's wrong with you? Don't you care about your mother and me?" "--You always used to be so responsible!"

[Finduilas, getting tired of turning around every time Luthien does another turn up the room, takes a chair from the octagonal table in the center of the room and leans forward, being Very Serious.]

Finduilas:

But don't you think they have a point?

Luthien: [short laugh]

I'm here, aren't I?

[pause]

Finduilas:

I mean, really, to just get engaged to some random stranger you met out walking in the woods? Did you actually think they wouldn't get upset? Even leaving aside the problematic fact that he's a human and not one of the Kindred.

[Luthien laughs out loud]

What? Why are you laughing at me?

Luthien:

That's the family legend, cousin! Don't tell me you haven't heard -- that's what my parents are famous for! It's this great romantic story they tell all the time, about how they met, how Dad heard Mom singing and left everything behind to follow her and when he touched her Time stood still for them and neither she nor he ever looked back to Aman after that. I've heard about it all my life from them, about how your priorities change when you meet the the right person and not worrying about what the world thinks and all. They're being raging hypocrites about the whole thing.

Finduilas: [nonplussed]

Well, yes, true, --

[recovering]

-- but that was then. Things were different when they were young. The world is a more complicated place, now, and they have responsibilities, and so do you. You can't expect them to not be at least concerned, and to have grave reservations about it.

Luthien:

Why? If they really trusted me to be wise and sensible like they said they did, then they would respect my judgment in this too.

Finduilas:

Now you're being naive, on purpose.

Luthien:

Naive?!

Finduilas:

You don't really think that anyone looking at it objectively would consider it reasonable or appropriate for you to just enter into a relationship of such magnitude without consulting your elders or taking any advice first?

Luthien: [raising eyebrows]

That's what they did.

Finduilas:

Yes, but you're the Princess now, you're not just some private individual, not answerable to anyone. You have to take practical matters into consideration, including how it will affect the people around you -- because that's the most important decision in one's life, choosing whom one will marry!

Luthien: [dry]

Then, wouldn't you agree, it's too important to be decided by committee?

Finduilas: [shaking her head in exasperation]

Gwin and I thought about it for several decades, before we decided to get engaged, just getting to know each other and making sure it would be a good thing for both of us, and we made sure our families approved first. It's much less trouble--

Luthien:

--Look, you may be indecisive as all get-out, but I've never been used to living my life as a reflection of other people's opinions. I've always gone and done exactly as I pleased, and my parents never had a problem with it. Until now.

[Finduilas blinks at the sheer bluntness of her dismissal, but decides to overlook it]

Finduilas:

But what did you expect would happen when you finally told them about him? Or were you even going to?

Luthien:

I expected that they'd be reasonable and realize that that they'd been mistaken about humans all along, I expected that they'd be sensible enough to see his worth too and that they'd treat him with the respect he deserves. I meant to introduce people to Beren a few at a time, after he wasn't so nervous any more, and have them get to know him in a setting where he was comfortable.

[bitter smile]

--It never occurred to me that he wouldn't know who I was, which I suppose was rather arrogant of me, but I honestly assumed he realized I was the King's daughter and I had no idea otherwise until I had to find him and tell him about the problem, and he said, "You have parents?" in this shocked voice -- he thought I really was completely independent and on my own.

[sighs]

He wasn't angry though, he just sort of laughed and said, "It figures," in this gloomy way, that he hadn't had anyone trying to kill him for over a year and he shouldn't have expected it to last.

Finduilas:

But then once you realized they were not going to be pleased, or sympathetic, didn't you have any second thoughts about throwing away your position and your happiness for a Man?

Luthien:

Finduilas, he isn't just "a Man" -- he's Beren. Of all the people I know or have ever met -- he's the most beautiful.

[Finduilas gives an astonished laugh]

What?

Finduilas:

Luthien! How can you say that?! Beautiful--?

[Luthien just Looks at her]

He -- he's so scruffy, Luthien! Even when he tries, he still looks such a mess! I mean, really, his hair -- couldn't you have at least cut it for him?

Luthien: [astounded]

Is that what you think is important?

Finduilas:

It isn't just that -- he's got scars. And his hair is already going pale the way theirs does--

Luthien:

So? My father's hair is completely that color.

Finduilas: [patronizing]

You don't know much about Men, do you?

[Luthien gives her a Look again]

It means they're getting old.

Luthien:

Beren's not old, not even by human standards -- you were just complaining about that.

Finduilas:

It isn't just that, it means that their bodies are starting to wear out.

Luthien: [an edge creeping in]

I heard that Beren made it here from Menegroth half as quickly as I did. And I can go without sleep a lot longer than he can. That doesn't sound worn out to me.

Finduilas:

But he was in awfully bad shape when he got here.

Luthien:

--So was I. It's not much fun travelling cross-country by yourself, without anyone to help you and no proper gear. --But you know, you can do it, and -- you still get there. He's not "worn out" or old, Finduilas, he just went through a horribly stressful time and was very sick for a while afterwards. If you'd ever seen him fight you wouldn't even ask.

Finduilas:

When did you see him fight?

Luthien: [shrugs]

Well, not fight, exactly, but I've watched him practicing lots of times.

Finduilas: [bewildered]

Why?

Luthien: [holding out her hands]

Because it's beautiful. It's like a dance of another kind. Don't you ever watch your Gwin at training? Beren's spectacular -- I think he's as good as Mablung that way. Oh, and they have these dances with swords, real dances, that they do -- used to do -- for Arien, I finally got him to stop being self-conscious and show me, and they're amazing. And rather scary. Just the coordination and the sharp edges and everything--

Finduilas:

-- Luthien, are you listening to yourself? Do you know how twisted that sounds? How -- how unladylike? My aunt is a little wierd that way, but with four older brothers encouraging her, everybody kind of expects it. But you -- I mean, you're not a warrior, and -- swords, for the gods?!

Luthien:

What? Just because I don't do it myself doesn't mean I can't appreciate it.

Finduilas:

But -- don't you think there's something wrong with using violence to honor the Powers? They don't approve of war and weapons.

Luthien: [raises eyebrows]

News to me -- my mother doesn't have a problem with them as such. And didn't they do an awful lot of it themselves before we showed up? The Wild Hunt and the assault on Angband and all?

Finduilas:

How can you have such a neutral attitude towards fighting?

Luthien: [shrugs in turn]

Maybe because we'd been doing it for centuries before you all arrived. We don't have your superstitious attitude about it. Or about weapons.

Finduilas:

Superstitious?!

Luthien: [shrugs]

Well, you're obviously very uncomfortable with them, in a "we'd rather pretend it's not something we really do, just on the side, out of necessity," kind of way and I've noticed that before among you Noldor, a lot of you. You just, well, make a bigger deal about it than we do.

Finduilas: [superior tone]

Surely you don't mean to say that you think War is a good thing?

[Luthien stops pacing and puts her hands on her hips, giving her a very ironic Look]

Luthien: [very dry]

Considering that there was a very real chance of us getting wiped out by Orcs before you ever showed up, and we stopped it only with appalling casualty levels, and considering that we still have to deal with incursions -- and therefore casualties -- on a regular basis along the borders, and considering that my mother, and her assistants, and that includes me, are the ones to deal with the consequences -- the chances of that are pretty fair slim, wouldn't you say? --How many poisoned arrows have you had to dig out of people lately, cousin?

[Finduilas gives an incredulous laugh, not sure she's serious]

What, you've never had to cut metal fragments out of someone before? Without letting them bleed to death while you're at it? It's not my idea of fun, either.

Finduilas:

We have trained specialists to do that kind of work properly. Anyhow, you're changing the subject.

Luthien:

No, I'm not. You already did.

Finduilas:

Honestly, Luthien, that's rather childish, don't you think? The point is, that he won't live very long, no matter what. Not by our standards. And then what?

[earnestly]

Have you thought about this? About the fact he can't possibly live more than sixty years more, at most? And that for most of those -- if he lives so long -- he'll be decrepit? And afterwards he won't be waiting for you in Aman, either.

Luthien: [wide-eyed]

--Thank-you for putting it so clearly, I never would have guessed that, despite the fact that we rent a quarter of our western frontier to mortals and we've only been hearing about them from Finrod since they first showed up in Beleriand.

[raising her voice slightly]

Of course I understand that Beren's people are more fragile and short-lived than we are! What I don't understand is why you are all so blasé about the fact that your King is in prison, isn't it stranger that you don't seem to care about getting your people out than that I want to get my true-love out -- and you're treating me like I'm the irrational one here?

[pause]

Finduilas:

You don't have to be so rude. But I understand that you're still exhausted and extremely stressed, so I'm making allowances.

[Luthien only stares at her, then runs her hands through her hair, making it stand up even more, and turns away to look at the "window" that shows mountains in the distance, putting her palm flat against the carving.]

Luthien: [leaden voice]

--Yes. I'm that. Thank you, cousin.

Finduilas:

And what if you have children? What will they be?

Luthien: [turning back]

Er, --people?

Finduilas: [exasperated]

Please try to be serious. I meant, would they be Elves or mortals? Can you even have children together?

Luthien:

I don't know. As far as we know we're the first mixed-race couple in history. Except for my parents, of course.

[raises her hands]

--Does it matter?

Finduilas: [still more exasperated]

Luthien, I'm trying to have a serious conversation!

Luthien:

Why do you think I'm not? If we can, we can. If we can't, we can't. Worrying about it won't change things. Mortals aren't guaranteed children either -- nobody's actually guaranteed anything in life, are they, really? I mean, look at what happened to the gods!

Finduilas:

But what will you do after he dies? I know it isn't the same, but still -- it would be awfully strange to marry a second time. I can't imagine what anyone else would think of it, how they would feel, knowing . . . It almost seems indecent, frankly.

[Luthien turns around abruptly]

Luthien: [disbelieving]

Why would I want to marry anyone else?

Finduilas:

But . . . but you'll be . . . you'll be all alone.

Luthien:

I never wanted to marry anyone before I met Beren. Why should I think that would ever change?

Finduilas:

But . . . eventually you'll meet your soulmate, of course, and what then?

Luthien: [gesturing widely]

Finduilas -- he is my soulmate. I will never love another. --Who could compare? It would be unjust to anyone else to set him against Beren.

Finduilas: [nervous laugh]

You're so melodramatic, Luthien. You can't mean it.

Luthien:

--Are you so blind that you really can't see past externals? --That fine clothes and combed hair are the most important things to you? You'd never make it in the woods.

Finduilas:

It isn't just that, it's everything. The -- the gulf, of background, culture, everything that goes with age -- I don't see how it could work. I mean, yes, he's certainly a hero, and I do appreciate his valiant efforts against Morgoth, but when all is said and done there isn't anything he can actually do except kill things, is there?

Luthien: [shaking her head, wry]

Is that what he said? He's too shy. He sings beautifully. And he has the true dancer's grace.

Finduilas:

Now you're sounding superficial. --Aren't you?

Luthien: [looking up at the ceiling]

No, -- I was just trying to correct your misunderstanding that he has no talent, that he's inferior because he doesn't care about art. That's just not true.

Finduilas:

But does he make anything? He said not, to Celebrimbor.

Luthien:

Finduilas, when would he have had time to make anything, or learn to make anything? He was hunted like a wild animal for most of the last ten years, while he was hunting down Orcs and trying to defend the last holdouts who hadn't fled the North-country already. --Do you know he had to bury his father and family and all his friends? I cried when he told me how his dad didn't want to send him to find out if it was true that Sauron himself had come out from the Fortress to get them, because he was afraid he'd never see him again, and -- it was true, but not that way. Can you imagine living that kind of life?

Finduilas: [nodding]

Oh, so it's that you felt sorry for him. Well, I can understand that, but -- to risk your life, your happiness, because of sentimentality is rather excessive. Spouses should be equals -- that's what "match" means, after all. Pity isn't enough to make a lasting relationship.

Luthien:

No, I'd been seeing him for some time before he told me about the really miserable bits -- I only knew some of the legends of Beren, and frankly I was more than a bit intimidated and figured he'd think I was rather silly and useless compared to him. --And now you're going to say, "Hero-worship isn't enough to build a relationship on." Right?

[Finduilas gives her a Look, but doesn't say anything.]

I've got Ages of practice at this -- I only did it half the summer, I can probably do both sides of the argument if you want to leave.

Finduilas:

Please don't be so hostile, cousin. I'm only trying to help you, because I don't think you've really thought things through. Being sarcastic doesn't help matters any.

Luthien:

I'm tired of this being treated like a fool. I thought you were on our side, and now you're doing it too! Didn't you talk to him while he was here? You must have seen how kind and intelligent and noble he is --

Finduilas:

--Luthien. Look me in the eyes and tell me: Do you truly believe he is -- could possibly be -- your equal?

Luthien:

Yes.

Finduilas: [knowing look]

You're just saying that.

Luthien: [angry]

No, I'm not! --Well, yes, I am just saying it, but I'm "just saying it" because I just believeit. I wouldn't "just say" it if it was otherwise. What's wrong with you?

Finduilas:

I'm just afraid that you've put yourself into the position where you have to keep saying and defending what you've started out because you're too proud and too committed to keeping your own opinions to actually be objective.  I don't think you're being fully honest when you say that you think you're really suited well. I think you're rushing into things. I grant completely that Lord Beren is a wonderful human being -- but he's still a human, not an Elf.

Luthien: [icy]

You might have gathered I'm not very pleased with my parents right now, but one thing in my father's benefit -- he's at least consistent. He doesn't despise mortals but use them anyway.

Finduilas:

You're putting words into my mouth, Luthien! That isn't what I said.

Luthien:

No? Because it sure sounds like it. That you, at least, think they're good enough to fight your war and get killed in it, but not as good as real people.

Finduilas:

You're reading things into what I said that aren't there. I just don't see how this can work. What can you possibly have to talk about, for example? How can you converse on the same level? --What do you see in him as a potential consort?

[silence]

Luthien:

--The world.

[brief pause]

Finduilas, the way he sees it -- the way he simply revels in learning about it, about everything, about music and trees and the names of the Stars and the stories and making things and everything -- it's as though I'd never seen it properly, all the things I thought I knew and understood and have taken for granted for centuries, and now he's learning them all for the first time, and I'm seeing it new as well--!

Finduilas: [very knowing tone]

That doesn't sound anything like a match of equals. It sounds like you enjoy having him around because he's so much more ignorant than you that he can't help but look up to you, and that makes you in turn feel like a Sage, because it's incredibly flattering to have such unquestioning respect and admiration.

[kindly]

--Which is understandable. Luthien:

You're quite wrong about that. Beren isn't ignorant, he knows lots of things -- his mind's like a dark mirror --

Finduilas: [frowns]

--That doesn't sound attractive at all

Luthien: [exasperated]

Haven't you ever seen a pool at midnight when it's so black you can't even see the trees in it, only the stars are reflected with absolute clarity and it seems like it goes on forever, it's so deep--? That's what his thoughts are like, he just observes, with this amazing detail, and the faintest light is caught and noticed -- and then it's as if it changes, like the same pool freezing over, only instead of ice it's silver, and everything's reflected brightly and light is cast on all kinds of things nobody else ever saw before, and that's what talking to him is like. --Why are you so worried about me when--

Finduilas:

--Well, it is worrying. It's unprecedented, it's very strange, and you just keep trailing off when you're asked about him as if you're embarrassed about it all or talking as though unable to say anything sensible,  so what else are we supposed to think?

Luthien:

No, that isn't it at all--! Do you -- you don't just talk about your private moments in public with everyone, do you? To people you don't know very well at all? Especially when everyone's been unsympathetic to it earlier and all your friends have deserted you.

Finduilas:

Well, he left you too, so you could say he deserted you as well.

Luthien:

No, deserting me would have been if he'd said, "--I'm really sorry, it's been great knowing you, but I'm going west to see if I can find any of my own people left and settle down with a nice mortal girl who doesn't have insane relatives giving me the choice between death, life imprisonment or a task that all the Kings of Arda and all their armies couldn't manage between them." Which, if he'd said it, I really couldn't have blamed him very well, either. Finduilas, Beren and I . . . he . . . he's -- I'm doing it again.

[shakes her head, laughing bitterly at herself]

All right, little cousin, you want details, you want to know it all, you want to understand. I will tell you -- but you have to promise not to be negative about it, not make sarcastic remarks while I'm telling the story.

[she sits down on the bench across from Finduilas' chair, under one of the "windows"]

So -- what do you want to know first?

Finduilas:

Well, you've never even really explained how you two met -- I thought no one could get into Doriath without your mother's permission. Were you outside the borders somehow?

Luthien:

No, he just walked right through them without even noticing them. And Mom never knew he was there, either.

[darkly]

--Which should have told them something right away.

Finduilas:

How could it, if they didn't know he was there?

[Luthien closes her eyes, rubbing her temples]

Luthien:

I meant, when they found out.

Finduilas:

Oh -- I see. So you really just ran into each other, completely randomly, without any introductions or anything, without knowing who the other one was, and decided that you were soulmates just like that. with just one look? Honestly, Luthien, that doesn't make any sense! How many people do you really know who haven't grown up together, or at least known each other for Great Years, before falling in love?

[Luthien starts to open her mouth]

And you're going to say your parents again, aren't you?

[pause]

Luthien: [deadpan, loftily]

--It was a very long look.

[Finduilas glares at her]

It was a little more complicated than that. It seemed like coincidence at the time, but I'm not sure really . . . was it coincidence for my parents? I just felt one night that I had to go to the upper reaches of Esgalduin -- I guess it was like Beren deciding he had to come down into Doriath, that that was where he was supposed to be, except that I didn't have any wargs hunting me, of course. I said to Daeron, "Let's go to Neldoreth, we haven't worked in Neldoreth for such a long time." And he said, "Because there's no one in Neldoreth," and I said, "Except trees," and he said, "Oh, well, trees! That's rather boring, don't you think? They're not very appreciative an audience." And I started teasing him about being too vain to be a proper Sage, that the truly enlightened don't care about applause and that he was just concerned to impress the Singers, and if he was that lazy I'd just go by myself, I didn't really need an accompanist-- So he made this show of "Oh, the things I put up with for little Luthien, catering to her every whim," and we went . . .

[she stops, looking into the middle distance]

Finduilas: [reminding]

Luthien . . .

Luthien: [wry laugh]

--Right.

[giving herself a little shake]

Anyway, we went to Neldoreth, and Beren heard us and came to investigate -- and that's another sad thing about it all, Daeron hating him and Beren having no more idea of it than I, because he simply admired Daeron's performance skills and compositional abilities without limit. Daeron couldn't have asked for a more appreciative audience, Beren had never heard anything like it -- not that anyone has, of course, Daeron really is that good -- but not even remotely similar, their music's completely different from ours--

Finduilas: [patronizing]

Well. In quality perhaps.

Luthien: [checking]

What do you mean?

Finduilas:

Well, Men don't really have any culture of their own -- they've borrowed it all from us, you know, starting with the language.

[pause]

Luthien: [chilly]

That isn't what Finrod says. He's always talked about the creativity of mortals and their ability to make new things, to adapt.

Finduilas: [uncomfortable]

Oh. Well. He would.

Luthien:

Explain, please?

Finduilas:

Well -- everyone knows my uncle is an incurable extrovert, going around talking to everybody, Dwarves and the Nandor and the coastal folk and the locals and--

[breaks off]

Luthien: [very dry]

--Us?

Finduilas:

. . .

Luthien:

Sorry -- do go on--?

Finduilas:

. . . but mortals have always been a particular hobby of his. Very likely because they are so ignorant and helpless on their own, not like the Naugrim or the native tribes.

[Luthien gives her a shrewd look.]

Luthien:

--Really. You don't say.

[aside]

I wonder where you got that from. Not from listening to him!

[aloud]

Well, I don't agree with you on the matter of culture. But anyway, you wanted to know about the romantic parts, and you were supposed to not keep interrupting me and making caustic remarks.

[looks severely at Finduilas]

Do you want me to go on, or not?

Finduilas: [contrite]

I'm sorry. Please keep going.

Luthien: [tossing her head]

Right, then. --Beren came right out, he had no idea how surprised we would be, of course, and Daeron shouted to me that there was a stranger, and took off, but I just stood there, I couldn't believe it, until I saw this shadow out in the open at the edge of the wood, and I still couldn't believe it, because I couldn't recognize anything about it -- I had no sense of any sort whatsoever looking at him, and Daeron was calling me like I was an idiot, and then I got scared and disappeared into the woods as well -- and he vanished too.

Finduilas:

Vanished?

Luthien:

Completely - there was no sign of him after, and we decided we must have been startled by shadows, or an animal, and laughed at ourselves afterwards, because we knew that no enemy could have come through the Maze.

[getting indignant again]

And there, you see, is the thing that's the crux of this whole stupidity. If Daeron really thought that Beren was a danger to us, to Doriath or to me -- then why did he wait for almost half the year before even breathing a word of Beren's presence in the woods? He knew perfectly well that Beren was not evil, not dangerous, and not a threat, and any attempt to justify his behavior by claiming "good intentions" is just so much nonsense. If he really had them, he should have gone straight to my parents and our captains and got them out there that night, and not gone sneaking around for nearly two seasons dithering about it.

Finduilas: [trying to put the best construction on it]

Well . . . perhaps he just wanted to be sure . . .

Luthien:

You don't even believe that, and you're saying it. So -- was it at first sight? No, for me: I saw a shadow. One that frightened me -- but not like anything fell, not like the fear of hearing a wolfpack on the borders or waiting for casualties to come in from a battle or like the sense you get when the wind is blowing steadily out of Angband for days. It was like . . .

[long pause, Finduilas clears her throat politely]

--It was like the start you get when you're out on a clear day and not a cloud in sight and the sun is suddenly cut off, and you realize it's not a cloud -- that shadow on the ground is wings, and you look up quick in hopes you don't miss them before they're past.

Finduilas: [short laugh, quickly stifled]

Are you trying to say that he was a divine messenger?!

Luthien:

No, I was saying it was like that, that sense that of something meaningful and important -- real fear, not because of anything so trivial as physical danger, but because you realize that here is something different: a change, a choice, -- a challenge, and you can either accept it or refuse it but you can't not do either. --Haven't you ever had anything like that in your life?

[Findilas looks away nervously]

Oh, of course -- the Return. That was a decision you had to make, right, not let other people make it for you. --Or did you?

Finduilas: [severely]

You don't know what you're talking about, Luthien, so please stop.

[forcibly returning the conversation to topic]

But obviously that wasn't what made you decide you were soul-mates, or Daeron betray you -- it doesn't sound like under normal circumstances you'd ever have ended up together, from what you've just told me.

Luthien:

Yes, --obviously -- there's more.

[sighs]

I couldn't help having this nagging conviction that there really had been someone there, and that because nothing evil could get through, I shouldn't have been afraid, and that I needed to find out who or what was there. So I went back, many times, and I even dragged Daeron into Neldoreth again once or twice, in case it was the flute-playing that had been the important part, but although I sometimes thought perhaps someone was there, some sort of unknown presence, I never saw him again.

[smiling in spite of herself]

--Until I decided to call the Spring there, and he came as if from nowhere and joined me in my dancing and I was so astonished I didn't even react at first -- here I'd been looking, and then when I wasn't, he appeared -- and I didn't know what to say or do, and he put his arms around me as if he knew me since forever, and I was so startled I just ducked away and ran. And he followed me, and called my name, and it was as if the whole silent forest called out to me then . . .

[long silence]

Finduilas: [very strained]

Was he afraid of you before that? Was that why he stayed hidden?

Luthien:

No, he wanted to speak to me, but he couldn't manage to do so until that night.

Finduilas:

Why?

Luthien:

He didn't know why, he just couldn't. Every time he wanted to approach and talk to me it was as though he were bound and gagged, and he could only watch until I was gone, and then follow me.

Finduilas: [appalled]

So not only was he a complete stranger, but you're saying he was crazy as well? And you wonder why your parents were upset!

Luthien:

No! They didn't know about that. And he wasn't crazy. Not much. It was just something he had no control over.

Finduilas:

That's part of what "being crazy" entails, Luthien.

Luthien: [gesturing fiercely]

But you've seen him -- you know he's as sane as I am. It was just circumstances. --Not like Feanor, who did it to himself, from what everyone's said. Beren's not dangerous.

Finduilas:

He's a warrior, Luthien, of course he's dangerous. Add mental disturbance to that and -- what were you thinking?!

[silence]

Luthien: [very softly]

He called my name. He called my name, and I knew from the first instant I heard his voice that he would never ill-wish me, never harm me, and I stopped and waited for him, because I had to, and he came running up to me and -- I saw him -- Not a shadow, but him, his eyes, he -- he was like the brightest of fire, brighter than anyone else I've ever met, and -- he kissed me, and everything . . . just . . . stopped . . . we could have stood there for hours, just looking at each other --

[ruefully]

--we did, because all the sudden the nightingales weren't singing, the blackbirds were, and the sky was getting light and I panicked because I was so far from home and it was the first day of Spring and everything we had to do for it that I hadn't even started and I was -- rather -- overwhelmed, and I went dashing off before he could call me again or before I even remembered to ask his name . . .

[silence]

Finduilas, he called my name --

Finduilas: [coolly]

How did he know it? Did he spy on you and Daeron talking?

Luthien:

No, you don't understand, it was my own name, not Luthien, not my old one, the first one anyone had ever given me -- except "little" and that's hardly a proper aftername, is it?

[softly]

He called me "Nightingale" . . .

[Finduilas says nothing, with visible effort]

Luthien: [rapt]

I went back home and all that day it was as if I was two people, not one, the calm ordinary one on the outside that everyone saw, just plain old Luthien, doing her rituals and tasks and practicing and walking around on the earth, and -- someone new, someone who was soaring through the air, singing, as though the nightingale had become a lark, someone who didn't just belong as part of Doriath, but who owned the whole world, who could do anything, because a mirror had been held up to me and for the first time I saw that I had wings -- and no one noticed.

[shakes her head, frowning slightly]

And then at sunset I walked back to Neldoreth, and I was so frightened, I didn't know if it was real anymore, or if -- I just wandered around, hardly knowing what direction to take -- and I found him, as if I couldn't have not found him, and he was so different, not the tireless hunter who'd been following me but someone exhausted and sad, just lying there on the ground by the stream --

[in a rush]

-- and that's not what drew me, that he was weak, all right? --

[sighing]

and when I went up to him and touched his face and he looked at me and the amazement in his eyes -- I knew he'd been as afraid as I was that it wasn't real, that I wouldn't come back, and I knew I hadn't set my heart too high or in vain . . .

Finduilas:

Why would you think otherwise?

Luthien:

I didn't know what kind of spirit he was -- he'd disappeared before, he had come through the security system without getting caught in it, you never know who you might meet in a forest--

Finduilas: [trying not to smile]

You -- you thought he was a Power in disguise, like your mother?!

Luthien: [intensely]

I didn't say that, I only said I didn't know what he might be, I couldn't tell-- I just knew then that he was real, that he was someone I could never have imagined, a strange dominion given to me alone to explore, and know, and understand, and that I could never have dreamed such richness existed, and that this was what I had been choosing towards since that first glimpse of a strange shadow on a Summer night -- and so yes, it was a very long look after all.

[longish silence, Luthien looks hopefully and anxiously at Finduilas, who is impassive.]

Finduilas:

Well. That's a very unique story --if most unconventional.

Luthien: [snapping back into combat mode again just like that]

You want unconventional, you should listen to my parents when it's really late, or early, rather, and the wine's been flowing and they're getting all sentimental and reminiscing about the oldest days. Then you'll hear the story about the first time my father saw my mother and she was taking a nap in some leaves and he touched her hair and got knocked out for probably years before he woke up and went looking for her again. I tell you, we've got nothing on them.

Finduilas: [dismissive]

Oh, well, people are like that.

[superior tone]

But can't one sort of see why Daeron might feel justified in spying on you? If you'd been encouraging Beren--

Luthien:

--Don't make me responsible for Daeron's neuroses! If he'd actually used that famous mind of his none of this would have happened. --Probably. I wasn't encouraging Beren to spy on me, I was trying to encourage him to reveal himself -- if he was really there. I didn't know. All I knew was that there seemed to be an invisible presence watching over me in Neldoreth -- a benevolent one -- but nothing I'd ever heard or sensed before, but still -- familiar, somehow.

Finduilas:

That doesn't sound romantic at all -- it just sounds creepy.

Luthien: [frustrated]

It wasn't creepy -- it was a little spooky that he was able to sneak up on me twice -- only the first time was sort of by accident, and it was really funny, actually, because there I was standing so perfectly hidden that he almost walked right into me, I must have jumped ten feet -- but that's because he just disappears when he's in the forest, he's not just quiet, no one can even sense him, not even Beleg -- except I can, now -- his mind just changes and becomes perfectly still, like a fox's.

Finduilas:

That still sounds creepy.

Luthien:

Well, it isn't -- you've met him, he isn't creepy, -- he's Beren. It -- I -- Oh, honestly! Do you think Huan's creepy, having him around, having him watching you?

Finduilas:

You're just making it sound worse and worse.

Luthien: [raising her hands for a moment, letting them fall into her lap]

You're just choosing not to understand.

Finduilas: [thoughtful]

Wait - you said you hadn't worked in Neldoreth for a while; that means you weren't just dancing, you were wielding an awful lot of power, both yours and the land's, correct?

Luthien: [wary]

Yes . . .

Finduilas: [meaningfully]

So he got caught in a Working. I see.

Luthien: [wary]

What's that supposed to mean?

Finduilas: [condescending]

Mortals can't cope with power unshielded and without precautions. Something that has only the appropriate effect on one of us has much more drastic and unpredictable impacts on them -- though of course you couldn't be expected to know that. If he just wandered into the middle of it like that, with no idea even of what was happening to him, it would be almost like training the horses, like a yearling being calmed for saddle or a foal imprinting -- he wouldn't be able to help it. And with the forest's power invoked too, -- no wonder he never wanted to leave that area. He was simply bound to it, and you.

Luthien:

No. That's not true.

Finduilas: [sympathetically]

Look, I do understand why you wouldn't want to believe that, because well, it isn't very flattering to think that someone is only attracted to you because of something that might as well be no more than animal instinct, as well as the fact that you must be feeling responsible already for the difficulties it's caused, but one does have to face facts--

Luthien: [interrupting, shaking her head]

--No, you don't understand -- perhaps it was like that a little, at first, but -- no -- Beren's not under any working of mine, you might as well say he put a working on me, with his voice! He really does love me--

Finduilas:

But how could you tell? It doesn't sound like the action of a rational individual uncontrolled by anything to be willing to just obey a mad, impossible, and suicidal order without even stopping to think about it, does it? It sounds like -- and please don't get angry, cousin -- someone who's been brainwashed by the Enemy, really. Are you really sure that he's in love with you, or has he only been overwhelmed by your aura instead?

Luthien:

Beren doesn't do anything without a reason -- granted it might be a really horrific reason, like taking on Sauron single-handed because there wasn't anyone else left to do it -- but he isn't this weak-minded person who just does things because someone else wants him to. It might seem like a completely insane decision to you, but if it's the only way to do it, like taking on an entire company of Orcs to recover his father's hand, or crossing the Ered Gorgoroth, then he figures out the most simple way and just starts and keeps on til he's done it. If my father had actually listened to me talking about him he wouldn't have expected that asking for the wretched jewel would ever deter Beren from claiming my hand. How can I d--

Finduilas: [breaking in]

--Now you're making him sound rather frighteningly disturbed again.

[Luthien runs her hands wildly through her hair again, with the suggestion of one only barely restrained from screaming]

Luthien:

Either I'm not explaining very well or you're not listening very well. Beren is unlike anyone I've ever met, in the best way possible, and when I met him I finally understood exactly why your uncle would want to put so much time and effort into working with mortals when he doesn't have enough time to do the things he really wants to do anyway, and more than enough work already.

Finduilas: [sharply]

I don't know what you mean. My uncle always does just what he wants, going off wandering about talking to people instead of finishing the projects he's already working on.

[Luthien does not miss her discomfort at every mention of Finrod in the conversation]

Luthien: [rather condescending]

--You don't know what he does, do you?

Finduilas: [defensive]

What do you mean?

Luthien: [amazed]

You really don't. I always wondered when he and your aunt would joke about how odd it was that they'd let a dilettante dreamer like him be in charge, whether they were really joking or whether it wasn't a bit serious. And now I know I was right.

Finduilas: [annoyed out of gentility]

Would you please explain yourself or stop being cryptic, Luthien?

Luthien:

Do you have any idea how many minor wars and territorial disputes he's stopped or averted, just by "wandering about talking to people?" Do you have any idea how much chaos you all threw Beleriand into by just turning up out of the dark and carving up the countryside? Cutting down trees and sticking up towers on sacred sites and insulting people you didn't even know existed? Not to mention the fact that a lot of the Kindred blamed you for the Sun anyway. If he wasn't so good at "wandering about talking to people" do you think things would have been so easy for you?

Finduilas:

Why would anyone blame us for the Sun? Do you mean those tribes of nomads in the hills? Isn't everyone happy to have the light? --Except for fell things, of course. They should be grateful that we came to save them from the Enemy!

Luthien: [sighing]

Oh, honestly, I'm too tired to try to explain a thousand years of politics and cultural upheaval to -- from scratch.

[aside]

--to someone who clearly hasn't been paying attention to the last half-millenium of them!

[aloud]

Short version -- Shade is nice. Finding your large familiar boulders chopped up and turned into a watchtower isn't. People riding through on big noisy animals with lots of other big noisy animals looking to kill other animals noisily is very disturbing to people who don't kill anything, ever. Sometimes it's hard to see what's so much more preferrable about you lot, and you've no idea the amount of damage that a determined bunch of saboteurs can do in a very short time. Part of the Singers' frustration with Men, I'm sure, was spillover from having been pushed out by Noldor for so long. "Oh no, not more of them, from the other side of the world!" and so on.

Finduilas:

Surely you're exaggerating. --But you've changed the subject again.

Luthien:

I'm not and I haven't. Pay attention when people talk, sometime, you'd be surprised. They have a word for you, you know. "Swarn" -- it means someone who's so stubborn that it's just impossible to work with them. Finrod think's it's funny -- but true.

Finduilas: [sighing]

We were talking about -- about you and Beren, not about politics.

Luthien:

I thought earlier you were saying it was the same thing. I agree, I just don't see it as a bad thing. It wouldn't hurt Doriath to have his perspective and lore to add to our own, how could it?

Finduilas:

But are you being fair to him? Have you thought about it from his point of view?

Luthien: [dangerous]

--Explanation, if you don't mind?

Finduilas: [voice of reason]

How could he ever hope to have a normal life with you, even if your parents hadn't reacted so badly? Wouldn't it have been better -- from his standpoint -- to go to his own kind and find one of them for a mate? At least that way he could have had a home and a family and a place where he would have belonged, after all. Don't you think you're being rather selfish, even if he wouldn't ever say so?

Luthien:

No, actually not. I'm not so arrogant as to say that no one else could have healed him, or that he might not have been able to recover on his own, but after what happened to him in Dorthonion all those years, and then the Mountains of Terror on top of that, he was not well at all. Even a season in Neldoreth had only begun to diminish his stress levels, and you know how peaceful that area is --

[frowns]

-- no, actually you might not, since you've never visited, but it is -- and he'd been isolated so long he could hardly talk. As you've so kindly pointed out, I haven't your family's experience of mortals, but I got the strong impression from Beren's stories that it isn't considered normal among Men to live year-round in the woods and on the heath in complete solitude, and that he wouldn't have fit back into their society at all. Though in Doriath, if he hadn't been human, no one would have blinked at it.

Finduilas: [genteel shiver]

I still don't understand how you could have dared to let him touch you that night.

Luthien: [forced patience]

Because I could tell he was Good the way I could tell Huan was Good even if I didn't know exactly what he was.

Finduilas:

But you couldn't know that--

Luthien:

Well, yes, I did--

Finduilas:

But you were taking such a risk--!

Luthien: [giving up, flippant]

No I wasn't, it's not as though anyone can catch me out in the open.

Finduilas:

Our cousins did.

Luthien:

That wasn't them, that was Huan.

Finduilas: [shrugging]

Well, anyway that's irrelevant. The crucial issue is that you're not the same as he is, and vice versa, and you never will be. It can't end happily.

[silence]

I'm right, aren't I?

Luthien: [matter-of-factly]

Nope. At least about us being different. That's the irrelevant part. I don't expect that things will be easy for us, or that we won't have unhappiness. And about endings -- I've seen far too many people die of grief -- though not lately, thanks to Mom -- either by fading or going out and getting killed with stupid risks, to think that anyone gets a happy ending. Not our Kindred, or his. --Haven't you?

[Finduilas says nothing]

And what you said before? That's not any different from my parents, either. My mother's not just immortal, she's an Immortal. Since as far as I can tell from her nobody knows what's going to happen when the world ends, and since you're so very sure that we're all just going to stop, and that's it, then they're in exactly the same position we are, by your standards.

[pause]

Finduilas:

But -- they'll have thousands upon thousands of years together, just like everyone else.

Luthien:

So? That's just longer. It isn't different.

Finduilas:

Did you raise that point with her?

Luthien:

Of course.

Finduilas:

What did she say?

Luthien: [bitter smile]

What she always says, when you say something she doesn't like. Which is to say, nothing.

[pause]

Finduilas: [rallying & going on again]

But really, it comes right back to one thing -- the fact that he's mortal. He isn't like us, and he never can be. Their fate is different, and it doesn't make sense to become so involved with someone who can't belong to Arda the way we do, and whom you shan't ever see again after such a short time. You're only setting yourself up for misery, can't you see?.

[silence]

Luthien: [slowly]

So . . . from what you're saying, the logical conclusion would be . . . that the Trees weren't really valuable either, because they died. They shouldn't have been loved, either, then, isn't that so?

Finduilas: [shocked]

Luthien! How can you say such things?

Luthien:

What? It's true -- it does follow.

Finduilas: [standing up in agitation]

But that -- that's -- that's blasphemy! You can't talk about the Trees that way!

Luthien:

Why not? You're saying that Men aren't worth caring about because they don't live as long as we do. Well, everyone here has outlived the Trees, and if you're going to say it about one then you've got to say it about the other. You shouldn't have loved them so much in Aman, since they were mortal, too.

Finduilas: [appalled, gesticulating]

You -- you just equated him with the Two Trees! Luthien, you -- I'm not going to listen to any more of this, you're just too outrageous, -- though I suppose you can't help it because you never saw them. But -- it -- it's absurd, ludicrous, indecent -- you can't compare any mere person to the Trees, it's an insult to the Earthqueen to even think of it, let alone a human!

[Finduilas is overcome with sputtering agitation, shaking her head and looking away at the ceiling. Luthien just waits until she settles down.]

Luthien:

Finduilas. You've met him. Look at me -- look me in the eyes, and tell me -- that he isn't as much of a person as you or I.

[silence]

Finduilas: [stubbornly]

It's still wrong. It just is.

[pause]

Luthien:

Well, you don't have to approve. I'm not looking for that -- only help saving him. Which ought to be your top prior--

Finduilas: [over her]

--You really don't care what anyone else thinks, do you? That's so arrogant!

Luthien: [bemused]

Arrogant? Arrogant is people deciding that they know better than me what's good for me. Arrogant is people telling me what they think I want to hear and going and doing something else altogether. Arrogant is -- telling me I'm going to be grateful for it somewhere down the road.

Finduilas: [frowning a little]

I really think you should have given Daeron more of a chance.

Luthien: [shaking her head]

I feel like I'm walking around in circles. Now that we're back here again, can we stop? I'm terribly tired and this isn't helping any.

Finduilas: [instantly solicitous]

Oh, of course! I'm so sorry. Can I get you anything before you go to bed? Something to drink?

Luthien: [sighs]

No, thank you, cousin. Just -- make sure you get me up as soon as your father's free.

Finduilas:

O--of course.

[Finduilas leaves; Luthien stands still afterwards for several minutes before going over to shut the door. She pulls a pair of chairs out from the inlaid table in the middle of the solar to the fire, but then sits down in one of them, staring into the flames, instead of preparing for sleep. After a moment she sighs and leans back, looking up at the star-gilded ceiling.]

Luthien: [whispering]

I can't even convince Finduilas now . . . --We're doomed . . .  

Chapter Text

Gower:

Half-mad or horn-mad, the lunatic believes him sober-sane,
and in his ranting plots perceiveth not the shape of his own bane--

[The royal apartments -- Celegorm is rocking back in his chair, laughing, while Curufin walks up and down before the hearth, reading from a scroll in his hand]

Celegorm:

Oh, that's just too perfect! Oh, I wish I could see his face then -- let's have that last bit again --

Curufin:

    Right, then:

[reads]

"Since you haven't managed to hold onto your own daughter, it seems you're not fit to have care of her, and (just as with the rest of Middle-earth) the task of caretaking having fallen to us, we will undertake to defend her from the perils of the dubious lands we found her wandering unescorted in -- and do (no doubt) a far better job of it. After all, we could hardly do worse, seeing as you've been unable to maintain the security of your vaunted borders, against even a solitary Mortal. With all due regards -- this by me, Curufin Atarin Feanorion of the House of Finwe, for Celegorm Turcofin Feanorion of the House of Finwe, of the Dominion of Nargothrond.

PS: No need to send a present, we're provided for just fine here, and we'd not care to deprive you of any of the little you've managed to" -- heh -- "hold on to. But we do expect a good dinner when we come to visit next -- Father-in-Law."

Celegorm: [wipes eyes, gesturing]

He's going to go completely critical -- absolute boilover and meltdown -- where do you come up with these things?

Curufin:

My favorite's the bit where it goes:  "You really should be grateful to us, considering that we've taken care of the problem that you carelessly allowed to occur, and still more carelessly allowed to continue. Doubtless a little applied Noldorin ingenuity would have found a way around such an imprudent promise, but don't worry, your trespasser's out of the picture -- permanently -- and you've gained not one, but seven, sons-in-law (any one of whom far outranks the least of your subjects) so you've come out it well ahead all the same."

Celegorm:

Or, or, what about: "If you'd wanted a Silmaril, you should have talked to us first--

Curufin:

Oh yes --

[reading]

"--having seen your daughter's beauty and heard her voice, we would have rated her worthy of three, not one, and you could have joined our family and acquired a legitimate stake in them. But no harm done, despite your clumsy efforts to enlist our halfwit cousin (half-Teler, and no doubt a connection there) in your intrigue-- obviously it's time for some fresh blood, fresh thought, fresh power in your House, wouldn't you agree?"

Celegorm: [a little worried]

You know . . . Maedhros is not going to be happy when he hears about this. About any of it, actually.

Curufin:

Well, to be perfectly honest, I don't really care what Maedhros will think about it.  It won't be as though he can actually do anything about it.

Celegorm: [more worried]

You're not -- suggesting -- I mean, he is the head of our family--?

[he gives Curufin an anxious look, hoping he's misunderstood]

Curufin:

I love our big brother dearly, but let's be completely frank here -- ever since he came back he's been, let us say, a few arrows short of a full quiver. I mean, giving up the Succession? Can one even do that? So while I respect and acknowledge him as yes, the head of our House, I don't feel obliged to consider his opinion and even his orders -- especially potential ones -- as automatically binding on me. --Or you.

Celegorm: [relieved]

Oh. --I agree.

Curufin:

Once it's a fait accompli, he'll be obliged to accept it, and that it's for the best -- the advantages to having Beleriand consolidated into a single powerful force under one coherent rule will be unarguable. It's the only way we'll ever get them back, after all.

Celegorm:

What about Fingon? A lot of people -- even ours -- do accept him as the High King, you know.

Curufin:

Well, considering as His Highness is high up in his mountains and can't really come out of them, he's made himself largely irrelevant for all practical purposes. A nominal High King doesn't bother me one way or the other, especially given the numbers. If he wants to try conclusions with us, let him -- I'll just point out to him that a two-front war with a Dark Lord on his back porch is a really, really bad idea.

Celegorm:

That's why I leave the plotting and planning to you. I get hung up on one detail or other and you have the gift for going around and making it all fit together properly.

Curufin:

Yes, we do make a good team, don't we? --So, any thoughts on who we should send with it? It'll have to be someone we can trust, people who won't talk out of turn, you might say -- but at the same time someone we won't miss too much if Elwe reacts as I suspect he might and tosses them in the lock-up.

Celegorm: [frowning]

That is a problem. Who can we spare for a couple-score years until we've finished consolidating here?

Curufin:

Too bad we can't send Huan -- I can't imagine even Old Shadows would dare to try to toss him into a cell! --Where is he, anyway? I haven't seen him about for a while now.

Celegorm: [smugly]

Ah, that's my plot. I've left him with Luthien, who's taken quite a fancy to him, thus winning me points in absentia as it were.

Curufin:

Really? I'd think he'd be the last one she'd want to see. She was terrified when we found her.

Celegorm:

Oh, you know, girls and nature and all -- sentimental, don't y'know? -- and he's so cute when he wants to be, just like when he was a puppy.

Curufin:

Doesn't he get bored?

Celegorm:

No -- he can never get enough attention, you know how it is with dogs.

Curufin: [grinning]

Ah. She has snacks for him.

Celegorm: [grins back]

That too. Oh, and it makes a handy excuse for coming by to chat with her when I collect him.

Curufin:

Well, I'm glad that's going well. Now we have to figure out how we're going to get this out without Orodreth noticing -- or any tattletales noticing for him.

Celegorm:

Oh, pfft -- him!

Curufin: [resting his arm on the back of Celegorm's chair]

It's just the kind of thing he would kick up a row about. And we don't want that. The critical thing is to minimize strife -- let our enemies fight multi-front wars, not us.

[Celegorm nods slowly in agreement.]

Now, I'm guessing it will take about a fortnight at a reasonable travel speed, allowing for at least one autumn storm in there, just to be safe. We can arrange with our chaps on the Borders to take care of provisions for the messengers, and avoid drawing attention from Household by taking supplies...    [the camera pulls away from their plotting, fadeout]

Chapter Text

Gower:

Like to the ghost that sitteth down at table, welcomeless,
amid the feasting guilty, roameth Tinuviel in her distress.

[The Great Solar. Luthien wanders through, appearing vague and distracted, looking around in rather a lost way. People stop talking briefly and look at her nervously, but do not approach her or speak to her. One woman in the robes of a Sage starts to get up and then sits down with her few companions in their alcove again. At the Carillon's court Celebrimbor is there doing something to the Chronometer; he watches Luthien's approach worriedly, but continues with his adjustments.]

Luthien:  [aloud to herself]

Oh.

[stopping in front of the fountain]

That's what I was looking for.

[She fills her hands and bathes her eyes -- it's clear she's been crying a lot. Afterwards she takes the cup and fills herself a drink, and then sits down on the edge of the fountain and starts pouring cupfuls of water back into the basin with a fascinated expression. In the distance the Sage gets up again, pushing aside the hand of one of her companions who tries to hold her back, and moves determinedly towards the Princess of Doriath, coming up behind her]

Sage: [sharply]

Your Highness --

[But before Luthien has a chance to respond she breaks and flees back into the angles of the cavern, disappearing behind a column.]

Luthien: [puzzled frown]

Yes--?

[She looks around, but does not know who addressed her; after a moment she shrugs and goes back to playing absently with the water. Noticing something, she starts looking more closely at the ornate carvings and eventually gets up and kneels on the floor to see the base of the fountain better. When she doesn't get up Celebrimbor of all the people staring or trying not to do so obviously leaves off his work and goes over.]

Celebrimbor: [hesitant but concerned]

My lady?

Luthien: [offhand]

I've found another one.

Celebrimbor:

Another what, my lady?

Luthien: [looking up at Celebrimbor, who kneels down next to her]

Another serpent. See? He's right there, pretending to be a stem, but look, there's his eye, and there's his smile, behind that leaf. They're all smiling -- happy little serpents. I've found seven of them so far now. --Finrod made this, didn't he?

[Celebrimbor nods]

They're like Beren's ring. --It's such an odd device. Oh look, there's another one, eating a flower, or carrying it. What are they? They look like grass snakes a little, but the scales are different, they don't have those lines down them.

Celebrimbor:

I'm afraid I don't know what they're called here, my lady, I -- I think they only live in Valinor. "Green-eyed golden house-snakes" I suppose would be the closest translation.

Luthien:

Do they really eat flowers?

[Celebrimbor nods]

They're not -- that big, are they? Or are those supposed to be very small flowers? No -- there's one with a flag-iris, pulling it out of the water. Are they real?

Celebrimbor:

Indeed yes, my lady.

Luthien:

Oh, my.

[pause]

They still look sweet. Not like adders at all. --But surely they don't make things? How would they do it? I can see why, I suppose, it would be like making a fancy subtlety for them, but still I don't see how they could do it with just their mouths.

[Celebrimbor looks at her rather anxiously]

--Flowers. Wreaths. Making things with their food. --But they're serpents.

[as he still looks blank, with a touch of impatience:]

--On the emblem.

Celebrimbor:

Oh. For some reason they struck my great-uncle's fancy. I think there was a story about it, something funny--

[Luthien looks at him with mild interest, and he continues:]

Oh, yes, now I remember. --Finarfin had made a garland for Earwen, when they were courting, and brought it to where she was working, but then he got distracted when he saw the project and set it down somewhere, and started, er, helping. Except then they got into a bit of a disagreement where the piece should go that she was carving, and he wanted to do something to bring out the grain of the wood and she wanted to leave it to weather, and they got rather cross about it, and he said something like "Don't let's fight -- I brought you flowers."

Luthien: [puzzled]

--But what does that have to do with finishing wood?

[Celebrimbor gives her an odd look and laughs politely]

Celebrimbor: [continuing]

-- but then he couldn't find them, and she said he must have forgotten them, and it got a bit sharp again, -- and then they noticed that the pair of house-snakes had found them, somehow gotten the wreath off the bench, and were dragging it back to their hole. Except they weren't getting very far, because one of them wanted to stop and eat them right there, and the other was trying to keep going, and the string was slowing the first one down -- and Earwen started laughing and said, "Look! That's us!" So they decided to carve it for over the door, to remind them of . . .

[pauses, then goes on with a hint of bitterness]

. . . well, you know, need for cooperation and compromise and how silly they'd been and how easy it was to get caught up in one's own perspective without thought of anyone else having a valid point of view and so forth. And it just sort of stuck as a family joke, only after a few Great Years nobody even thought about it any more.

[without changing his tone, quietly]

--My lady, if you're troubled it would be better to speak to the healers and send for music rather than resorting to excess of wine for your spirits.

Luthien: [affronted]

I'm not tipsy.

Celebrimbor: [regretful]

Forgive my impertinence, but it's . . . apparent that you've had more in so short a time than your stamina will bear.

Luthien:

I'm not. I haven't touched wine at all today.

Celebrimbor:

Then what's wrong, my lady?

Luthien: [astounded]

Is that a serious question?

[pause]

Celebrimbor:

I -- I meant anything most particular, right now. That -- I could help with.

[Luthien sighs]

Luthien:

I don't think -- I've slept more than half a watch or so a night -- since Beren was captured. Sometimes not even that. And I haven't been let go outside since I came here, everyone says it's too dangerous.

Celebrimbor:

Well, there have been more wargs around this season than any time since the Fortress fell, so it isn't an exaggeration.

Luthien: [shrugs]

I didn't see anything. And my people believe it's unhealthy to spend too long indoors, and I have to say it certainly seems to be true.

[splashes her hand in the water]

Maybe I'll just camp out here. I could probably sleep here all right. The fountain sounds so nice, I could almost forget I wasn't outside.

Celebrimbor:

You're not serious--!

[realizes she is serious]

My lady, that's . . . not going to be possible. --You can't just, er, "camp out" in the Hall of Hours, as though it were a bivouac in the field!

Luthien:

Why not? Finrod wouldn't mind if he were here. He lived on our main staircase practically all of one visit, copying the friezes -- we just put up extra lights and some ropes so no one would trip on him or step on the scrolls if he wasn't there, and Lord Edrahil kept bringing him meals and taking the plates way and poking him to make sure he ate and checking that he hadn't accidently rinsed brushes in his drinking goblet, and we all got so used to it that for months after they'd all gone we still were only using the other side of the steps . . . I wouldn't even be in the way, over by the wall here.

Celebrimbor:

That's -- true . . . but . . . His Majesty isn't here and . . . that just isn't done, Your Highness.

Luthien: [uneven smile]

If I do it then it will be, won't it?

Celebrimbor: [dismayed]

It's . . . beneath your dignity, to sleep on the floor, my lady.

Luthien:

No, it isn't.

[pause]

The other option would be to bring the fountain to my room. Which would be less convenient and not very considerate of everyone else. Though I'm sure my cousin would give me it if I asked as well. --If he were here.

Celebrimbor:

Does it have to be this fountain, or would another do? I could probably make or find a smaller one, if you would like . . .

Luthien: [shrugging]

It's the pitch of it. Some fountains just sound hollow, others annoyingly busy. This one is properly musical. --That's how I knew it was Finrod's work before I saw the snakes on it, because of the tone. He retuned all the fountains at Menegroth, which was nice of him, even though it rather annoyed my parents that he started the project without asking. I didn't realize how much of a difference it could make -- did you even realize that, that water could be tuned like a drum?

Celebrimbor: [regretful]

Yes, I know. We -- discussed it, a few times.

Luthien: [frowning, as if realizing something]

You're Lord Curufin's son.

Celebrimbor:

Yes.

[He looks like he would say something else, sarcastic, but doesn't]

Luthien:

Your uncle said I should speak to him about getting my cape back from the Sages but I haven't been able to track him down.

Celebrimbor:

He . . . can be a difficult person to talk to.

Luthien: [earnest]

Will you try to get hold of him for me, tell him I need to speak to him, that I need my cloak back, or at least to know when they'll be done with it? I'm getting worried about it, and I don't want to be rude or seem ungrateful, but I can't find anyone who claims to know where it is, except your father secondhand through Lord Celegorm.

Celebrimbor:

I'm -- I'm afraid I don't have any control over his doings or goings, Your Highness, which are -- many.

Luthien: [forcefully]

I understand these things. Believe me, I do understand about the troubles of rulers, and the business of running realms, and the responsibilities of lords. --Talk to him for me when next you see him. That's all I ask.

[long silence]

Celebrimbor:

I -- I will, my lady.

[pause]

Was there anything else you wanted here? Anything you need that isn't being provided for you?

[Luthien stares at him for a moment]

Luthien:

No. Huan wanted to come up here. I think it's up.

Celebrimbor: [looks around]

Huan?

Luthien:

He's not here right now. He went off somewhere while I was getting supplies.

Celebrimbor: [baffled]

--Supplies?

Luthien: [a bit frustrated, repeating with emphasis]

Yes, supplies. See?

[she unknots a corner of her mantle and shows him a handful of dried fruit and pastries]

Celebrimbor:

But . . . won't the household bring you whatever you ring for?

Luthien:

Yes, but you never pass up the chance to grab something when you can. --Beren taught me that, though I never expected to have to use the knowledge. I can't walk past a hazelnut thicket now without checking, or a tangle of berry canes, or a birds'nest, in case there's something I can scavenge.

Celebrimbor: [faintly]

You don't need to, now, my lady, you're safe and -- and provided-for, here.

Luthien: [shrugging]

It gets to be a habit.

[sighs]

I wish I had the canteen I made out of reeds, it was such a nice compact one, but I dropped it when I was treed by Huan and forgot to pick it up.

Celebrimbor:

--Reeds . . . ?

[realizes too late to stop himself how annoying this is getting]

Luthien: [very slowly]

The hollow things that grow in swampy depressions and along riverbanks. --And resin. The stuff that comes out of pine trees. It's very sticky. It makes the water taste odd but it keeps it in. --Did you not speak Sindarin much in Aglon?

[Celebrimbor blinks, doesn't answer; after a moment she bites her lip]

Um. That was really rude of me. I'm sorry. I'm just -- so horribly tired.

[she fights successfully to keep from breaking down.]

Celebrimbor: [gently]

Shall I escort you to your suite, Your Highness?

Luthien:

No, I should probably wait for Huan. He might get worried if he came back and couldn't find me. I'll just stay here.

Celebrimbor: [still troubled]

Very well, my lady.

[He returns to working on his clock, and Luthien watches him for a moment before putting her head down on her knees. Curufin enters, obviously looking for his son, and stalks over to where Celebrimbor is taking something apart.]

Curufin: [quietly enough not to make a public scene, but not pleasantly]

Are you still wasting your time with that toy? Shouldn't you move on to something else? Or are you going to compulsively tinker with it for the next Great Year, too?

[Instead of answering, Celebrimbor nods over in the direction of the fountain. Curufin following his look sees Luthien asleep next to it and frowns, not expecting or pleased by this.]

Celebrimbor: [quietly]

She's been looking for you to talk to you, Father. Do you wish to wake Her Highness?

[Grimacing, Curufin turns quickly and strides off. Celebrimbor looks first relieved, then disgusted with himself at his stratagem. In the background Huan makes his way through the Hall of Hours, sniffing the air, and heads towards them. When he gets to where Luthien is sitting he stands in front of her, patient-dog-mode, huffing on her feet until she notices he's there and grabs his ruff to pull herself up. Trailing shreds behind her, she walks with a handful of his fur, as if they were arm-in-arm, and they go out without stopping or speaking to anyone else. A visible relief on the expressions of the crowd, save for Celebrimbor, who keeps working with a bitter & self-mocking smile.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

   --Slipped in thus stealthily, poison to the mind
most subtle, lingering, and potent one shall find--

[The apartments of Lord Guilin's House -- the style here is very high Noldor, even more so than in Orodreth's suite: more geometric and abstract, though still with natural and organic themes (more early Dynastic and Assyrian, less Amarna). There is a lot of glass in the ornamentation, both blown and cut, both functional and used for atmospheric effect of light and color. Finduilas and Gwindor are having an animated conversation in the main hallway.]

Gwindor: [arms folded, very abrupt]

I can't believe you're going on with this. It's completely inappropriate.

Finduilas: [exasperated and pleading]

It's been planned for months, Gwin. It would be far more awkward if we canceled it now.

Gwindor:

It's still inappropriate.

Finduilas:

We talked about it before -- if you were going to object you should have said something sooner.

Gwindor:

If you will recall, Finduilas, -- I did.

Finduilas:

Yes, but then you stopped.

Gwindor:

Because you clearly had no intention of listening to anything I had to say.

Finduilas:

Well, I'm sorry. But it's too late, to change it, now.

Gwindor:

It's never too late.

Finduilas:

Gwin, your father isn't going to cancel. Would you just -- oh, honestly--!

[she breaks off, shaking her head, turns away and folds her own arms. Brief pause.]

Gwindor:

Well, perhaps I won't be here.

[Finduilas whirls]

Finduilas: [outraged]

Milord, are you trying to be funny? Because you're failing dismally.

Gwindor: [just as haughty]

I wasn't jesting, your Highness. If you insist on holding celebrations with your snobby Eastern friends, you can just count me out.

Finduilas:

Gwin! They're your friends too.

Gwindor:

Not any longer.

Finduilas:

You're not serious, are you? Do you know how humiliating that would be, for you not to be here? You don't mean it really.

Gwindor:

I mean it. If you refuse to use your wits and your sensibilities and mindlessly accept things as they are, it's my duty then to think for both of us.

Finduilas:

How dare you!

Gwindor: [offhand]

Someone's got to -- it might as well be me.

[not so snottily]

Please try to look at things rationally--

Finduilas:

Do not try to slip out of this after those words, milord Guilinion! I will not put up with such arrogant, insulting, rude behavior without an apology!

Gwindor: [exasperated]

Faelivrin--

Finduilas: [raising her voice still more]

Don't you dare call me that right now!

[Enter Lord Guilin]

Guilin:

--Children, what's the matter? You're disturbing the whole household with your arguing.

Finduilas: [holding out her hands]

Sir, your son is being impossible. Again.

Guilin: [sighing]

Gwin, why must you take out your ill-humor upon your lady? Isn't there enough sorrow these days?

[Gwindor rolls his eyes]

Finduilas, dear, what is this trouble over?

Finduilas:

He's being hateful about the Gathering tonight. Calling me insensitive and frivolous, as if doing nothing instead would help--

Guilin: [reproachfully]

I'd hoped you were going to be mature about this, Gwin. I -- if you're going to attack anyone, attack me. Not the Princess. After all, I'm the one who made the decision; I should bear your scorn, not she.

Gwindor: [fiercely]

Father, if you cared so much for my good opinion, then why haven't you taken it into consideration before making decisions? Keeping me sheltered like so much glass isn't going to bring back Gelmir. --Or the King.

Finduilas:

Gwin! How can you be so cruel?

[Gwindor stands still, his expression angry and pained, and suddenly slams his fist against the panelling. One of the elaborate sculptures on the wall separates from its mount and drops onto the stone floor, shattering. Finduilas covers her ears instinctively, cringing, waiting for the breakage, and bursts into silent tears. Gwindor looks appalled and ashamed.]

Guilin: [sadly]

Son. --Did that aid anything?

Gwindor:

Faelivrin, I'm sorry--

Finduilas: [sniffling]

It doesn't matter, I'll make another one.

[Gwindor goes over to her and puts his arms around her.]

Gwindor: [whispering]

I'm so sorry, I lost my temper, I--

[she shakes her head]

I'll be here tonight. I promise. I won't say anything. --I'm sorry.

Finduilas:

It's all right.

[The Carillon sounds -- she starts.]

Oh! I've got to meet my father for dinner. I need to go change and see about a lot of things first.

[wipes her eyes]

Please excuse me, Lord Guilin.

Guilin:

Not at all, my dear. Please give him my regards. --Are you quite yourself again?

Finduilas: [bright smile]

I will. Yes, I'm fine, thank you.

[she gives Gwindor a quick kiss and goes off briskly. Her fiancee does not look away from his father's recriminating expression, but after Lord Guilin leaves he sighs and carefully begins picking up the broken pieces of blown glass.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

The lessons of an idle hour's gaming may be well-learned,
by fairest maid no less than him whose scars hard-earned
befell in fight more worthy than when ship and city burned--

[Luthien is sitting by the hearth with Huan, both of them watching the flames, him behind her rather like a sphinx with his head over/on her shoulder, (the way horses like to.) Celegorm, shown in by an attendant, looks around the solar for a moment before seeing them on the floor and is surprised. He has an ornate & longish box under his arm.]

Celegorm: [hesitantly]

Er, hullo, I was just looking for Huan -- I see he's there with you still . . .

Luthien: [looking around]

Yes, he's a little hard to miss.

[She gets up and comes around the Hound and greets Celegorm with a polite nod as to an equal; he takes her hand and bows over it with just short of exaggeration. She does not look quite so drugged and haggard as before.]

Celegorm:

Well, how's my little pup doing? Behaving himself?

[Huan stretches and whines, wriggling, conveying I'm-a-good-dog-but-I-don't-want-to-move]

Luthien: [wistfully]

Oh, yes. Do you have to take him away so soon?

Celegorm:

No, not at all. In fact, -- I was thinking you might like to play a few rounds of chess to divert yourself, so I brought a set and a board along . . ?

[looks at her with an expression of mild hopefullness]

Luthien:

There's already one in this room,

[remembering manners]

--but that's kind of you. --Oh--

[her eyes light up]

-- wait! with two we could play mortal chess.

Celegorm:

Mortal chess?

Luthien:

Yes, Beren taught me how to play it. It's very interesting. I'll teach you, if you like. I find our version rather dull now, to tell the truth.

[she takes the box and carries it over to the table, grabbing the other set off a sideboard as she goes]

Celegorm: [lightly]

Hm. Wouldn't have guessed he could fit a set in that little kit of his. Or was it yours?

Luthien: [serious]

Oh no. You can play it with rocks and acorns, or bits of stick with the bark peeled off some of them. All you need is two colors and one bigger than the rest, to be the king-stone. And some flat ground and a twig or a flat rock and charcoal to draw the lines.

[she takes out all the pawns, leaving the rest of the figured pieces in the case.]

Now if you'll give me the other set--

[she takes out the red pawns only from this set and sets the pieces up tafl-style -- the red pawns go in clusters at the centers of the four sides, the white pawns go in the middle of the board, and in the center of them one white king.]

Celegorm:

Where do the rest of 'em go?

Luthien:

That's it. Now we play.

Celegorm:

You're joking!

[Huan comes over and sits down between them, leaning his head over the table to watch the game curiously]

Luthien:

No.

Celegorm:

But you can't win this. Or -- that is, only red can win, all the time. The unlucky soul playing center certainly can't.

Luthien:

Oh, you can -- it's just very hard. That's why I find it so much more mentally stimulating than ours, with everything all equal and balanced to start with. Very symmetrical, not very realistic. --Unless you could somehow bring out secret ones all of the sudden.

[he is looking at her rather oddly]

Just like in the Leaguer. This isn't realistic really, having everyone know what forces are on each side, since we're all trying to hide ours from the Enemy and he from us, and trick each other into mistaking what's what. --But at least this is more like what really happened. --And you can win it, which I think is a hopeful sign.

Celegorm:

Even outnumbered. And surrounded.

Luthien:

Yes. As long as you don't lose your leader. The trick is to keep moving and get free.

Celegorm: [rubbing his lips pensively]

How do you take pieces, if they all move the same way?

Luthien:

Any warrior trapped between two enemies is down. And you only move in straight lines, ahead, back, or either side. I go first -- see, like that. Now you go.

[They go through the next few moves carefully]

Celegorm:

Oh, you made a mistake, you just went two squares with him.

Luthien:

No, that's right: you can go as far as you think safe. Generally you don't want to get out ahead of the line, though. Realism again.

Celegorm:

Hey, wait, your chap's down -- he just went between two of my pieces.

Luthien:

No, you can dash between two enemies already there.

Celegorm: [wry]

Now you tell me.

Luthien:

Sorry. It's just if you're engaged with one and someone else comes up behind you, then you go down. I believe that's an accurate reflection of how it works in real life, reduced to essentials, isn't it?

Celegorm: [heartfelt]

This is a weird game.

[moves]

Luthien:

--Path!

Celegorm:

Eh? What's that?

Luthien:

I have to warn you -- I have a clear path for escape there. --That's another way games differ from real life.

Celegorm:

So . . . if I move this warrior here, your king is blocked, and you don't have an out any more.

Luthien:

Right. But he won't last very long, because I'm coming up alongside of him here, and now -- he's down.

Celegorm:

But -- hmm.

[he scowls at the board, a bit chagrinned]

Luthien:

That's all right, I lost all the time at first, too. No matter what side I was playing. It took a few bouts before I got the hang of it.

Celegorm: [indulgently]

Oh, you mean before he let you have a win.

Luthien: [sharply]

Beren didn't let me win.

Celegorm: [nodding in patronizing fashion as he moves]

Right, right.

Luthien: [snapping her piece down]

He didn't. --He wouldn't dare, I'd know.

Celegorm:

You really think I'm going to believe this can be won by the defending side?

Luthien:

When you see it.

[Celegorm moves, and she moves instantly, taking two of his pieces]

Celegorm:

You can't do that!

Luthien:

Both of them were flanked. It's just like draughts: as many as are in range.

[he frowns, moves again, and she counters again]

--Field!

Celegorm:

What's that mean?

Luthien:

It means I win. See?

[points]

Even if you could block this side, you can't get your troops over to the other side fast enough to stop me from breaking through here.

Celegorm:

I'll be damned. You did win. --Are you sure you didn't cheat?

[Luthien looks indignant -- his expression and tone change completely to sincerest gallantry]

Oh, what am I saying? Of course you wouldn't cheat, you're a lady and far too fair and honorable for that. You've bested me in fair fight.

Luthien:

I've had far more practice at it. Here, I'll set up again and you'll know what to do now.

[she starts rearranging the pieces; after a moment Celegorm catches her first words and gives her a wary look

Celegorm: [aside]

--Did she really say what I thought she said? . . . surely not . . .

[aloud, staring hard at the board]

Of course, you realize it's really ironic, dont'ya know, when winning consists of turning tail and running for dear life! You can tell no Noldor mind came up with this game--

[he chuckles, but stops at her look and settles down]

--All right, so I want to prevent you from bracketing my pieces, or they'll all be picked off and flattened . . .

[suddenly stunned with realization]

--Wait, I know this -- it's a confounded sandastan!

[grinning]

Hah -- my lady, you won't draw me into this hedge so easily again. Your move, I believe, Your Highness?

[intensely they go through the next series of moves in silence.]

Well. I think -- I've won. Your warriors can't get out out of that quadrant, can they? And your king can't get to the edge with my men there, right? So either you surrender now, or, you come out and get cut down one by one. Hm?

Luthien: [nodding]

Very impressive, my lord.

Celegorm: [smiling into her eyes]

I'm a fast learner.

Luthien: [not looking away]

But -- if this were real life, that might not be the end of it.

[She reaches into a box, takes out the rest of white pawns and sets them in a wedge at the opposite corner. Definitely--]

--Keep playing.

Celegorm:

Hey! You can't do that! --Can you?

Luthien:

I just did. It's called -- the Serech Variation. Your move.

[Silence. Huan whines. Celegorm swallows hard, and breaks from her glance to consider the board. After a moment, he makes an uncertain jerky slide, and she moves at once to counter. He gets back to business, and keeps pulling pieces away from her encircled king to throw them in front of her attack, but she just keeps moving, without stopping to consider the next move.]

Path. --And field.

[Celegorm stares at the board dismayed, and then looks up at her.]

Celegorm:

But you lost just about all of your forces to do it.

Luthien: [coolly]

And that, too, is more like real life -- isn't it?

[Celegorm doesn't say anything, although he tries. She reaches around the board and catches both of his hands in her own, staring intensely at him]

--You know what we have to do. You know how to do it. You've told me how it should be done. You've told me how Finrod befriended you and took you in and supplied your material losses out of his own stores without asking for any return or putting you "in your place" over it ever since the Sudden Flame -- and you told me I could depend on you. I am depending on you. --We are. Celegorm Turcofin Feanorion, will you redeem your pledge to me and your debt to the King and avenge your father all in one? --Which may perhaps even help effect a reconciliation not merely between my family  and myself, but between our Houses as well, if only you but throw off this mirk that clouds all our minds and press forward without further delay!

[Celegorm stares at her, entranced, visibly torn, struggling to speak]

Celegorm:

I --

[his expression changes from receptive to baffled]

--would, -- but--

[he shakes his head sadly]

--it isn't entirely in my control --

[meaningful tone]

not as though I were Regent, after all--

[Luthien lets go of his hands, flattens hers on the table and stands up from her chair]

Luthien: [ominously]

Are you saying Orodreth is a traitor? That he's delaying on purpose--!?

[Celegorm is intimidated in spite of himself by her expression and backs down]

Celegorm:

I -- I didn't mean to imply that, my lady, only, only, -- only that he -- well, it's difficult to say, being friends for many years, but -- he -- he isn't -- well, you know, about the Fortress and all . . .

Luthien:

Know what?

Celegorm:

I really . . . shouldn't say . . .

Luthien:

You've said already -- too much, or too little, my lord.

Celegorm: [sighing]

He's got no nerve left for fighting. It seemed to happen with the onset of Sauron -- who as you might know is a spirit of no ordinary power and ability -- but I'm convinced it really all started with the Bragollach --

[sp reading his hands regretfully]

not that I can blame him, certainly, not like he's the only Elf to be undone by that disaster -- but giving up the Fortress without a fight, running back here without even a retreatin' action -- there's a reason why he's never held command or even taken the field since then.

Luthien:

But he is not the only warrior -- soldier or officer -- in Nargothrond!

Celegorm: [more confidently]

But he's in charge. He's the one who sets the tone, you know, that a command takes its lead from the commander, and so on. Without the will bein' there at the top, the bottom ranks can't have it either. Morale and whatnot, doncha know.

Luthien: [shaking her head, bewildered]

But -- but that doesn't make any sense -- if he can't handle the responsibility of ruling, then it would make sense to do everything possible to get the one who can back safely--

Celegorm:

True -- but, you know -- people don't always behave rationally, what?

[rising]

Oh -- Lady Luthien -- you won't mention to him that I told you about this, will you? He's very -- sensitive, about the rout -- understandable, of course.

[he takes her hand and bows over it]

Luthien:

Are you going so soon?

Celegorm: [awkwardly]

I -- I must.

[sudden inspiration]

You asked me to see what I could do.

Luthien: [taken aback, uncertainly]

Oh. Oh, good. Thank you. --May Huan stay a while longer? If you please, my lord?

Celegorm: [smiles]

Of course, my lady.

[He bows again and leaves, still a bit shaken, though covering it well]

Luthien: [beyond upset]

--Oh!

[leans on the table, her head hanging down]

Did I actually accomplish anything? --I don't know--

[Listlessly she starts putting the remaining chessmen away -- then struck by a sudden inspiration she picks up one of the white castles and turns it around in her fingers]

Luthien: [thoughtful]

So cousin Orodreth was there . . . I'd not realized that. For years. That means he knows the area well -- and the Fortress.

[A look of focussed determination comes over her face. She puts the piece away, tosses the end of her mantle over her shoulder like a cape and folds her arms squarely.]

I need to talk to him. About everything. And the way to reach him is Finduilas -- I'm afraid I've got to catch her and not let go, even if I lose what's left of my mind as a result. --Oh well--

[looks at Huan; without irony:]

--Could I trouble you to find her for me, milord?

[Huan gets up, wagging his tail slowly, not unwilling, but not enthusiastic, and he sounds rather troubled when he replies:]

Huan:

  [short bark]

Luthien:

You don't have to stay while we talk, unless you want to.

[Huan comes over to have his ears scratched before going out on his mission; Luthien goes over to a "window" and perches on the frame as if it was a real windowsill.]

Luthien: [musing]

--He didn't even notice that I let him win the second time . . . it's worse than I realized! But I don't know what to do, except talk -- if it's being underground, really, I've got no hope -- but if it's being cut off from the sky, you'd think it would be the same at home -- hah, perhaps it is! -- but no, nobody stays all the time in the Thousand Caves. Or perhaps it's also the fact that Mom's there, and her presence counteracts the lack of stars. And then -- that could explain, actually -- with Finrod gone there's no one here who's strong enough to make up for the absence . . .

[traces the joins along the edges of the carved trees with her finger]

I wish Galadriel were here -- she wouldn't allow such a muddle and nightmare to go on. She'd know what to do, and do it. But instead -- we've just got me . . .

[she sighs heavily and leans back on the frame, closing her eyes]

Chapter Text

Gower:

A broken faith less easy to repair when riven,
one finds; yet may the pieces, severally, be truly given--

[The royal apartments. Celebrimbor enters from one of the farther chambers with a small chest and sets it down on the table, where there are a number of pieces of carved marble and bronze piping. Taking a piece of cloth from the chest he starts wrapping up the disassembled fountain and packing it in the box. One small basin he picks up, and blows across it like a flute, with a distant look. Behind him Curufin comes in, and he is all business again.]

Curufin:

So first you sneer at me, and then you go and help yourself to our lamented kinsman's belongings. --I do admire your mental flexibility, son.

Celebrimbor: [not looking at him, going on packing]

I helped with this project. There's a difference -- subtle, but I should think you'd appreciate subtlety . . . Father.

Curufin:

You watch that disrespectful mouth, boy, unless you wish to fend for yourself in the Wilds. I could arrange for you to stand a season on the remote watches, you know. How much fiddling about, I wonder, could you manage out on patrol or in a roundhouse? I doubt you'd get such a dose of fawning appreciation from your comrades as you do around here.

[Celebrimbor flushes but doesn't say anything else.]

What are you thinking?

[his son grimaces, but still doesn't answer]

I asked you a direct question. Your continued silence is insolence. --What are you thinking there, Celebrimbor?

Celebrimbor: [looking at him defiantly]

That -- as usual -- our mothers were wiser than ourselves.

[it is Curufin's turn to flush]

Curufin: [biting off each word]

I don't expect you to understand my motives, nor consequently to appreciate them -- but you could at least try to make an effort -- particularly when it's for your benefit--

[Celebrimbor's expression hardens -- before things escalate further, Celegorm enters. To Celebrimbor:]

Celegorm:

Get out, I want to talk to your father.

Celebrimbor:

Presently -- I'm almost done.

Celegorm:

Now.

[He comes over and starts to grab a component and toss it in: Celebrimbor seizes the valve back from him and leans defensively over the table, blocking him.]

Celebrimbor:

Don't touch any of this!

Celegorm:

Snap at me and I'll muzzle you. --Punk.

[Glaring, Celebrimbor quickly but carefully puts the remaining pieces inside and closes the lid. As he picks up the chest to go--]

Curufin:

Where are you taking that lot?

Celebrimbor:

To Her Highness of Doriath. She misses the sound of water. I offered to help.

[as he is almost out the door]

--I do follow through, when I make promises.

[The Sons of Feanor give the grandson of Feanor a dirty parting Look]

Curufin:

What's going on?

[Celegorm wanders around the chamber for a minute, not answering right away, leaning on furniture and tapping on mantlepieces.]

Well? Out with it!

Celegorm:

I just had a . . . very troubling encounter with Her Highness.

Curufin:

Sparkly? Or the other one?

Celegorm:

Her Highness of Doriath, nitwit. Finduilas just looks down her dainty nose at me, and I just smile at her, and she just goes off in a huff. She's no trouble.

Curufin:

What sort of trouble are we talking about, here?

Celegorm:

She was putting some kind of trance on me, something that made me start to forget all about our priorities and all. I've never felt anything like it.

[he looks at Curufin with desperate hopefulness, waiting for explanation and reassurance]

Curufin:

Was she singing?

Celegorm:

No. Not even humming.

[pause]

She just looked into my eyes, and I wanted to tell her everything and grovel on the rug and beg her pardon. Five minutes longer and I'd have been arming up to head out, I swear!

[Curufin looks alarmed and angry]

Oh, and she did invoke my full name.

Curufin: [thoughtfully]

Well, naming is the second oldest form of power there is, after song -- though to hear our cousin go on about it they're the same thing. But if you were able to walk away from it without any difficulty I wouldn't worry about it. She isn't that strong, it can't have taken that much power to overwhelm a couple of Dark-elven sentries, probably already sharing a wineskin and careless with overconfidence. Concentrate on impressing her -- though I'd recommend not looking at her eyes.

[Celegorm sighs regretfully]

Celegorm:

Most prudent thing, I guess. Oh well. Besides, as long as I'm paying attention it isn't like she can get anything past my guard. Right?

Curufin:

I'd think not.

Celegorm: [smugly]

You'd be proud of me -- I managed to make Orodreth take the fall, and at the same time appealed to her delicate sensibilities not to bring it up to him. The way he's hiding from her, there's no chance she'll get the chance to, anyhow. Well, thanks for taking a load off my mind! --I think I'll go bother our good Regent for a bit, now that I think of it. He can give me some pointers on how to achieve rapport with Sindarin Elves, eh? Being related to 'em and all.

Curufin:

Just don't give the plan away to him by accident. He may be unimaginitive, but he isn't a complete fool.

Celegorm:

Don't worry, I won't breathe a word. I was thinking I'd make it seem like I'm worried about her health, her state of mind and all. I mean, obviously she's not quite normal, what?

Curufin: [smiling dryly]

The "Mad Princess of Doriath." Obviously she needs the best care we can give her. --I like it.

[they share a complicit grin]

Well, much as I'd never admit it before him that I've overlooked anything, 'Brim's reminded me there are all sorts of storage areas and work facilities about here that I've not investigated. So that should keep me busy for quite a while. Good luck on your, er, fishing expedition . . .

[Celegorm claps him on the shoulder and goes out cheerfully; Curufin begins opening cabinets fitted into the marquetry and panelling of the apartments]

 

Chapter Text

Gower:

No hits so palpable, so lasting keen, shall e'er be felt
as they that strike hearts where once friendship dwelt--

[Orodreth's office. Boxes of scrolls and bound ledgers are lined up along the walls and next to his desk, and stacks of them and loose sheets of parchment cover the top of it. He is holding a page in his hand as though reading it but not looking at it. The door opens suddenly: he looks up, startled, then angry, as Celegorm strolls in.]

Orodreth: [biting]

It is customary to knock, even if one is too busy and overwhelmed to manage to schedule an appointment, you know.

Celegorm:

Oh, come off your high horse, cousin, I've seen you silly with wine too many times to take you seriously--

[Orodreth continues to look around past him]

What?

Orodreth:

Where's your shadow? Or did he finally figure out how to make her invisibility cloak work?

Celegorm:

Ha ha. Cur's busy.

Orodreth: [setting down the paper and shaking his head]

That's a change.

Celegorm:

You could at least be civil, you know.

Orodreth: [sighs]

I could, I suppose. --What can I help you with, my lord? How may the Regent's office be of service to the House of Feanor today?

[Celegorm grimaces but forges on]

Celegorm:

You've been to Doriath; I haven't. --Don't say "Obviously" or anything like that. Just -- answer the question, all right?

[Orodreth says nothing]

What's it like there? Is she typical? All this independence and do-it-yourself and not seeming to notice the -- the -- grandeur of everything or the honor that's rendered her? I mean, it's almost like she's some kind of wild creature that doesn't recognize the work of people as being any different from trees!

Orodreth: [drumming his fingers on the desk]

Typical? No. I would not say that. Not even before. But yes, Doriath is a very different place from anything our people have ever built. It has to be. There are so many different ethnic groups living there, with separate traditions and their own historical soveriegnties, and they mix them all up and swap them around, which makes it even more confusing to someone from Aman.

Celegorm:

What do you mean, "swap 'em around" --? How do you do that?

Orodreth:

Oh, Teler using Sindarin names, Singers borrowing Telerin musical instruments, Sindar copying Laiquendi pottery designs on leatherwork, and everyone trading songs back and forth.

Celegorm:

But -- "sovereignties" --! That can't be what you meant.

Orodreth: [shrugs]

Then I must have imagined the time that Angrod was arranging a fishing trip down to the Confluences and Elu told him to check with our great-aunt about whose it was then, as the local tribes had been exchanging it for stories and they'd had a Singing recently, and he wasn't sure who would have to grant us permission to take fish from the waters.

Celegorm:

What, they gave it away for a song? You're joking!

[Orodreth shakes his head; Celegorm snorts in disgust]

Daft!

Orodreth:

And of course there is the fact that the boundaries of Doriath proper are impenetrable, so that there is no need for the kind of careful watching and intensive security and secrecy that the rest of us must maintain outside.

[leans back in his chair]

After all, if no one can get inside, you don't need to worry about the presence of Enemy agents or invaders, and after a few Great Years of that I don't think anyone from Menegroth would even understand the basis for our policies and rules. It may be the model for this City, but it runs on a logic all of its own.

Celegorm:

Is logic even the right word for it, eh?

Orodreth:

Well, if there's no chance of invaders getting near your gates, what do you need to have people on them all the time for? The doors just stand open all the time, and you haven't wasted anyone's time that could be better spent on creative pursuits. And with all the preexisting cultures and lines of authority that converge there, there's little of what we would call formality -- does a Sindarin Lord outrank an Elder of the Following of Denethor? When a craftswoman of the local village recalls the Second Kindling and a war orphan with no name from father or mother is one of the foremost warriors of the land -- then best offer the same honor to all, and not worry about who ranks whom.

Celegorm:

Sounds like a proper mess.

Orodreth:

It works, though.

Celegorm:

I don't see how.

Orodreth:

No? Well, I have. It just does, somehow. I gather that when you have a minor goddess as Queen, many of the ordinary little difficulties of getting people to cooperate, and do their jobs responsibly, simply disappear on their own -- they don't require alternately bludgeoning and coaxing people into keeping up with their duties.

[shakes head, ironic expression.]

For instance -- you might find this story interesting -- we heard that in the aftermath of the Burning there was a spillover of enemy troops into Brethil, which isn't in Doriath but is technically part of their domain . . . as even you should concede, since they've managed to hold on to it, so to speak.

Celegorm: [uncomfortable]

Oh come, don't be such a bad sport--

Orodreth: [impassive, slightly mocking tone]

It was after I lost Tol Sirion, to put a precise date, and cause, upon it. My great-uncle won't have anything to do with the people who live there, they being mortals, which suits them admirably, as they're not much for government -- you might remember them, they used to stay in your brother's territory until they were almost wiped out by a fair-sized army of Orcs, and decided they'd prefer a home with a less exposed location, which is another story entirely -- but he still sent in Captain Strongbow and a massive relief force at lightning speed to deal with it before they were almost wiped out this time.

[he does not appear to notice Celegorm's glare]

--Though knowing Beleg, it probably went more like: "Orcs in Brethil -- I'm rounding up volunteers and we'll already have gotten there by the time you receive this and Her Majesty will already have told you so I'm not sure why I'm sending this at all."

Celegorm:

Can't imagine anyone of my people talking to me that way. Or any Noldor ruler.

Orodreth: [bitter smile]

--Can't you? Never paid much attention around here, did you?

[Before Celegorm can figure it out]

Elu really has to be upset to be handing out death threats and locking people up -- I can't think of anything to compare to it, except for when he threw us all out temporarily as a matter of principle and banned the Old Tongue for good measure, after he found out about the Kinslaying.

Celegorm: [frighteningly grim]

Do not bring that up again, cousin.

[Orodreth just looks at him, raising one eyebrow, not acknowledging the order]

[brightly:]

Go on, go on, I can't believe you don't have any more to say about it!

Orodreth: [raising his hands]

What else is there to say? To describe it properly would take -- an Age, and then not be done. It's too much, too real, for that. But it's generally very easygoing, once you're inside -- Doriath is the sort of place where if you want to live in a tree, instead of a cave, no one will mind -- and they won't, ordinarily, make you stay there if you don't want to, either.

Celegorm:

So -- is Elwe really a proper King at all? Sounds like anarchy to me.

Orodreth:

Oh yes. Very much so. Make no mistake of that.

Celegorm:

Why? If people just wander in and out, and no one's in charge and everyone is equal--

Orodreth:

--Because he is the center of it all -- or rather, they are, for you can't think of Elu without Melian -- the axle upon which the Stars revolve, so to speak . . . and because all choose to follow, remaining in their Circle.

[softly]

--That's the heart of it, isn't it? That's all that matters -- the rest is just . . . ornament, when you think about it. It doesn't mean much, if there's no holding-to there, nothing to keep one from spinning off into the Void as one pleases . . .

Celegorm: [oblivious]

So what's she like? I mean, really?

Orodreth:

She isn't crazy, if that's what you're getting at. She just sees things . . . differently from . . . nearly everyone, that I know of.

Celegorm:

What do you mean?

Orodreth: [shrugs]

She has a strange way of looking at things, as though from an angle high up, or far below, the best I can explain it -- as though someone were to paint you a picture of a ship from under the sea -- you'd look at it and wonder what it was, before your mind adjusted to it and it would still be the same painting but you would understand it, now.

Curufin:

You're talkin' rot, cousin. Things are things. How you look at 'em doesn't change them.

Orodreth:

No? Then perhaps it changes one. Looking at them and thinking about them and not being able to go back to seeing them the old way only. But what do I know? I was never the Sage in our family -- you are of course free to agree with that humorously as you no doubt will--

[standing up and pacing as he remembers, while speaking]

What's a good example . . . ? --There are some flowering trees native to Doriath similar to summer-snow, but with dark-rose blooms . . . Once I remarked that I wished we had them growing around here, and the conversation turned to geographical distribution of species and migration patterns and the usual sorts of reasonable discourse you'd expect. Luthien was walking backwards practicing pirouettes on the gallery railing where we were sitting, by the way.

Celegorm:

Didn't anyone tell her to sit down and take part like a grown-up?

Orodreth:

No. Why?

Celegorm: [nonplussed]

Well, when people are talking, having a quiet, civilized get-together, you don't usually have someone dancing through it at the same time! Time and place for everything, and so forth. Nobody thought it was -- well, odd?

Orodreth:

Not in the least. And after a moon or so there, you wouldn't either.

[Celegorm rolls his eyes, shaking his head]

Then a while later when we were talking about returning home, she came up to me and handed me a little jar, all done up nicely. "Your trees," she said to me, and I thought it was a joke at first. "You packed them very well," I said, and she answered, "Just don't let them get wet until you're home. There's a grove at least in there." I started laughing, and said, "Oh, they're seeds, not trees," and very seriously she told me, "No, they're trees, they're just very small right now. I can't give you their parents, they'd be unhappy at being sent away, even if you could carry them."

[Orodreth stops pacing and leans on a pillar]

--At that point I got a bit patronizing and she said very definitely, "No, they are trees -- if they weren't already trees, they couldn't become them without being changed. Food-and-water is not a change." And then my sister said, "She's right. Think about it." And I did, and you know what -- she was. They've grown quite well around here, there's quite a grove of them around the Falls now, I'm sure you've noticed . . .

[shrugging]

But that's how she is: you think she's totally wrapped up in her art, and oblivous to everything going on around her, and in fact she's noticing everything and then some, and then she thinks about it, while she's singing or dancing or up in a tree somewhere, and then she simply goes and does -- whatever she thinks needs to be done about to it.

[pause]

Celegorm: [catching the subtext at last]

You don't approve of this mad attachment of hers, surely--

Orodreth:

It is not particularly relevant, one way or another. I have no authority over her.

Celegorm:

Oh, don't be coy -- tell me I haven't the authority either! Be bold!

Orodreth: [unaffected by sarcasm]

I know very well why you hold her here, and I have forfeited my right to interfere -- have pledged it, in fact, unbreakably.

Celegorm: [looks guilty]

What do you mean?

Orodreth:

You fear she will indeed prove able to rescue her true-love and with him my brother and his followers -- and so you dare not let her go, any more than I dare let her go, and let open war break forth in the breaking of our unwritten accord -- which, by the by, is a figment of your imagination: I am under Royal Mandate to keep the peace here, which is the salve by which I staunch my bleeding conscience.

Celegorm:

Cousin, cousin, cousin! Can't we at least make peace and be friends again, on a personal basis, for old times' sake?

Orodreth: [gravely]

I'm sorry you're so lonely. But it's you who've isolated yourself, not the other way round.

Celegorm:

No? I'm not the one who's too proud to accept the way things are, pretending to be independent and honorable and all the while no better than the rest of us!

Orodreth:

Nor am I. But I am not your friend, either of policy or of private choosing.

Celegorm:

Didn't I save you a nasty skewering from that mutant boar up in the North Quarter?

Orodreth: [nods]

You did indeed.

Celegorm:

--Didn't I stand up for you after Tol Sirion, when everyone was whispering and questioning and giving you Looks?

Orodreth:

You did. And I was grateful.

Celegorm: [nastily]

Short-lived, though.

Orodreth:

Do you really not understand? Can you really not see -- that there is -- can be -- no going back to what was now? That place . . . doesn't exist now, for us -- there is no way back. The time for turning back was then, and you chose to press on, to . . . burn your ships behind you.

Celegorm: [sneering]

So much for "forgive and forget," eh?

Orodreth:

That's not how it works: what -- what happened at Losgar is become of a piece with this, and since you are the sort of person who can so casually and thoughtlessly betray your friends, I find that there is no one there with whom I can have any kind of a friendship -- and that there never was. I was simply deluded.

Celegorm: [upset]

--That's not it, you don't understand--

Orodreth: [interrupting]

--Perhaps. Perhaps I would have to be -- someone else, entirely, to understand -- your kind of treason. You, at least, are loyal to each other.

[pause]

If it's any consolation, I don't think you consciously regard your fellow Elves as tools, as mere means to further your ends, and not truly your Kindred at all -- I judge it's more that no one beside your siblings has any substance to you, exists save in relation to yourselves, and so it really is less monstrous than . . . others' behavior. I don't put you on the same level as . . . Morgoth, for example.

Celegorm: [sarcasm]

--How generous of you! Well, I'm off to defend your borders from wolf-spies and hell-boars -- you can go on flagellating yourself, since you seem to prefer it.

Orodreth:

No, as it happens I'm going to sit here and sort through paperwork, which is far worse punishment.

[Celegorm laughs disbelievingly]

You try it sometime -- going through leaf after leaf, scroll after scroll, when the handwriting's as familiar to you as your own, or in a page of dull clerical copy there's a note dashed across that makes you laugh out loud because you can just hear the tone of voice -- and then you remember . . . Surely you can understand -- What about going through your father's things?

Celegorm: [stricken]

That -- you -- that wasn't--

[raising voice]

We didn't betray him! We tried--

Orodreth: [gently]

I know. --Goodbye, Cel.

[Celegorm stares at him, then storms out, slamming the door behind him. Orodreth bends to collect the documents swept off by the air, and just stops, standing by the desk, closing his eyes with an anguished expression. Then he goes back again behind it, sits down and starts going through the Kingdom's records again. After a moment, however, he looks up in sudden realization, rises and hurries into the outer chambers.]

Chapter Text

SCENE XII.ii [no dialogue]

[A hallway in the heart of the City, running along a carefully-sculpted channel of one of the underground watercourses of the Narog. Huan trots through in a businesslike manner sniffing a trail. People stop talking as he goes by and look around him guiltily for Luthien.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

--Nor state nor ceremony shall e'er suffice
to stand for power, that no more present,
returns not twice--

[The Regent's private office -- Finduilas is pouring wax carefully for her father to stamp with the royal seal, which is a challenge because a circle large enough to take a state seal wants to keep pouring off the page. She blows on it, watching it closely from an angle and waves him off when he goes to impress it.]

Finduilas:

--Not yet, not yet -- it's just like molten glass at this stage, hard on the surface, pure liquid underneath. You'll ruin it and we'll have to peel it off and start over again.

[He smiles at her officiousness, and she smiles back]

--Now.

[Orodreth emblazons the document.]

Orodreth:

No matter how many assistants I have, you'll still be the best.

[Finduilas tosses her head in mock arrogance]

Finduilas:

Of course I shall.

[reproachfully]

--But did you have to shout at him so?

Orodreth: [grimacing]

Yes, I did. He was supposed to be doing his job. I'm sorry if he got a sudden inspiration and wanted to sketch it down right away, but I didn't accept his application to mind the door and deal with the small matters and keep trespassers out of my office except when he feels like doing something else -- I took him at his word that he would, in fact, mind things for me and if I can't rely on him to do that, then he needs to find me someone who will be responsible enough to put his or her own enjoyments to the side for the duration of service and go back to his studio. --Grinding Ice, I'm doing it now.

[sighs]

Anyway, he hasn't bolted yet, so the shouting seems to have done some good. --Either that, or he's waiting to assassinate me.

Finduilas: [appalled]

Father!

Orodreth:

But I don't think so. I do think it was necessary to get through to him, unfortunately.

Finduilas:

I don't know -- it just seems so -- uncivilized.

Orodreth: [wry]

Unfortunately, civilization requires a good deal of work to keep it so. And sometimes the work is rather rough on one. A good deal of suffering and sweat goes into creating any worthwhile performance, on a musical instrument, or out of a forge, or -- here.

[shaking his head]

I had no idea so much of it. It . . . all . . . seemed to take care of itself. Now -- I feel like someone building a city out of sand -- no blocks, only mortar -- and dry. Grain by grain by grain . . . I don't know how he did it. I'm beginning to think he wasn't joking when he said sleep was a waste of time.

Finduilas: [uncomfortably]

I do wish you wouldn't keep dismissing yourself, Father . . . He wouldn't have chosen if you if you weren't capable of doing it well.

Orodreth:

No, it's only that -- the alternative -- was even more unacceptable.

Finduilas:

But . . . I know you thought that there were things that should have been done better, or that didn't get done and should have, that you would have if, well--

[he doesn't say anything, and she looks away]

That is -- I mean -- you -- I always thought that people ignored you, that you felt relegated to the back ranks, overshadowed . . . by . . . him . . .  

Orodreth: [sighing]

Overshadowed? . . . Yes. As one feels overshadowed by a mountain, or by the forest itself, and -- never having known or experienced anything else -- cannot even conceive of what absence of same would entail. And now . . .

[shakes his head, runs his hands along the just-signed proclamation]

And the diplomatic complications . . . I swear I'd no idea there were so many different ethnicities in Narog alone, each with their own completely different idea of what's fitting and proper! Even in a single village . . . And they don't -- that is, mistrust is too strong a word -- but they don't trust me to understand what they're getting at or referring to, not without complicated explanations -- quite correctly, I'm discovering -- and that just leaves so much open to simple misinterpretation, and I hardly dare decide anything for fear of offending against someone's legitimate claims.

Finduilas: [frowning]

Is it true that the natives don't really understand what we did for them? That they think we're to blame for all the troubles in Beleriand? That's ridiculous, isn't it? I mean, obviously we're not.

Orodreth:

Who said that? Her Highness of Doriath?

[Finduilas nods]

I'm not sure that I would agree with the Doriathrin interpretation of history in all particulars, but the stance is not entirely without validity and the concerns worth bearing under consideration.

Finduilas: [wryly]

Is that a "yes" or a "no"?

Orodreth: [brief real smile]

Of course.

[considering look]

Are you going to invite her to your Gathering tonight?

Finduilas: [blushing]

I -- I hadn't -- I didn't think she'd wish it.

Orodreth: [pragmatic]

It's going to look very singular and undiplomatic if you don't. You've invited Lord Celebrimbor, haven't you?

Finduilas:

Yes, but he probably won't come.

[pause]

It would be so -- awkward -- if she did . . .

Orodreth:

As would not inviting your cousin and seniormost member of the nobility present.

Finduilas: [grimacing]

But--

Orodreth:

I know. Believe me, I know, dear. There are no good decisions, sometimes.

[silence -- Finduilas moves things about in distracted "tidying" of the desk]

Finduilas:

Are you coming?

Orodreth:

Most unlikely. I feel guilty in advance for taking the time away from this

[gesturing inclusively of the office mess]

to eat dinner with you. Whether Her Highness attends or not.

Finduilas: [doubtful, a bit sceptical]

There isn't really that much work, is there?

Orodreth:

You haven't any idea, child. --I haven't any idea. But I'm starting to.

Finduilas:

Father! You're not going to slide out of it, are you? You promised!

Orodreth: [snapping out of it]

What? Oh no. Even if you were willing to overlook such abuse of your patience, it would be most ungracious to the chefs and disrespectful of their work. This isn't going anywhere, and a few hours won't make much difference, I'm afraid.

[stands up]

Would you mind putting out the warmer, dear?

[Finduilas extinguishes the flame under the wax and takes his arm; as they walk into the inner rooms of the suite:]

You'll have to tell me all about your latest composition over dinner; I'm afraid I didn't completely understand what you were trying to accomplish with the variations in the fourth movement when you described the idea to me last Summer...

Chapter Text

Act III: SCENE XIII.ii [no dialogue]

[Huan arrives at the entrance to the Regent's apartments. He goes into the antechamber and lies down rather surreptitiously among the raised beds of waterplants, not having been noticed by the Aide, who is working in the files with the rather set and diligent expression of someone who has been thoroughly dressed-down in very recent memory.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

    --What would the melancholy heart, of peace,
of quiet, or songs whose sadness is their beauty,
will may yet forsake, for sake of duty--

[Luthien's apartments -- Finduilas enters, looking very exasperated, with Huan beside her holding her hand carefully in his mouth the way retrievers often like to do.]

Finduilas:

Huan, what's wrong with you? Do you know how -- why do you want to follow me?

[he lets go, giving a penitent twitch of his tail; to Luthien]

I was coming to talk to you and he insisted on sticking to me like a burr -- he couldn't have been closer if he'd been sewn onto my skirts! And holding my hand -- ugh! I can't imagine why.

Luthien:

Er...

Finduilas:

One moment, if you please, cousin -- I've got to wash my hands.

[Luthien looks mildly guilty but says nothing while Finduilas goes into the private part of the apartments. Huan wags his tail, grinning]

Luthien: [whisper]

Thanks -- I didn't think she'd be so hard to find.

[He wags harder and flops down on the floor next to her. Finduilas returns, still shaking her hands reflexively]

Finduilas: [genteelly peevish]

I don't know what's gotten into him: he's never been clingy like this before. I know some dogs who are given to hand-holding, but it's rather different with a Hound that size.

Luthien: [innocently]

Oh. You, um, were coming to find me?

Finduilas:

Yes --

[she gives Luthien a funny look, finally realizing she's not sitting on a bench or chair but perched on the wall, and sits down in a chair herself, smoothing her skirts nervously]

I'm so sorry, but with everything I'd forgotten to mention it to you earlier -- we're having a little get-together tonight, at Gwin's -- well, actually his father's hosting it, but I'm mostly in charge, and -- it occurred to me very belatedly that I hadn't remembered to invite you.

[her tone of voice throughout is distinctly dismissive of it, oh-you-wouldn't-like-it designed to discourage interest, and she doesn't look enthusiastic either.]

Luthien: [neutral voice]

A get-together.

Finduilas:

--Just a small Gathering, some friends of ours and House Guilin. Perhaps some music, discussion of theories, nothing very elaborate -- nothing inappropriate, of course--

Luthien: [musing]

I've not had much heart for music, since my parents broke us up.

Finduilas: [relieved]

Well, I was pretty sure you wouldn't want to come, but I didn't want to make you think we were leaving you out--

[starting to rise]

Luthien:

--Who's going to be there? Your father? Anyone else I might know from Doriath?

Finduilas: [sitting down again, wringing the fabric of her dress nervously]

Well . . . I'm not sure that Father will be able to make it, but . . . there might be some people you'd recognize. Mostly friends of Gwin's, from the army, or mine, from here . . .

Luthien: [decisive]

I'll come. It might do me good to get out and talk to people, take my mind off things.

[Finduilas looks stricken, though covers well]

Finduilas:

Oh! Oh . . . er, of course . . .

Luthien:

What's the matter? Don't you want me to come? Isn't that why you asked me?

Finduilas:

Well -- please don't take this the wrong way, but -- I can lend you a dress, without too much trouble, since you're tall for being Sindar, but we'll have to to start now to accomplish anything with your hair.

Luthien:

What's wrong with my hair?

Finduilas: [apologetic]

Well . . . it looks like you cut it yourself in the dark. Or without a mirror.

[pause]

Luthien: [flatly]

That's exactly what I did. As you know.

Finduilas:

Yes -- but -- it looks it.

[longer pause]

Luthien: [ice]

Well, then, we'll match, won't we.

Finduilas: [sighs]

Please don't be so sensitive about everything. Nobody takes you seriously when you're so touchy and, well, messy. It's as if you're trying to attract attention and be unpleasant, and that just rubs everyone the wrong way.

[Luthien glares at her, and Finduilas looks away in discomfort]

Luthien: [aside]

No one takes me seriously like this, hm?

[aloud]

Very well. This is your City, I'll do as you would, then.

Finduilas: [dismayed]

Oh . . . You're sure about this?

Luthien:

Once I make up my mind about something, I stick with it.

Finduilas:

Er -- yes.

[sighs]

All right, then, we'd best go and find something for you now.

[she stands up, and Luthien jumps down from the ledge]

I've got one outfit that I think would suit you particularly well, and it wouldn't point up your haircut the way most of mine will. In fact--

[she walks towards the door, sounding a bit more enthusiastic]

I really think that will work well, because it's a style my aunt designed to wear her hair braided up with, and if we can just do something with the ends, then--

[Luthien, not listening, stops and bends down to scratch Huan's nose]

Luthien: [aside to Huan]

I don't expect you want to come to this. But thank you for finding her for me, and providing me moral support. I expect I'll see you later--

Finduilas: [curiously]

Luthien?

Luthien:

--Coming!

[aside, shaking head]

--The things one does...

Chapter Text

Gower:

       --"Faithful as a hound," the adage old, 
yet how shall faith be held with faithlessness? 
Of little use to have a form both strong and bold 
when mind and heart are held in such distress—

[On the terrace in front of the Gates Huan is lying down like a statue of a lion, while the sentries give him uneasy looks, wondering what he's doing there and if he senses something they can't. A party of hunters rides up from out the woods, Celegorm in the lead, and dismount, some of them leading the horses, others carrying the game. Celegorm notices his Hound when the rest of the pack goes up to greet him. (Needless to say, it's somewhat loud.)]

Celegorm: [unpleasantly surprised]

What are you doing here? You're supposed to be entertaining the Princess Luthien. If you're not going to do that -- you should have been attending me. We could have used you, you know.

[shakes his head]

Now, you go back to Her Highness' rooms and stay this time, boy.

[Sadly Huan gets up and walks in with the rest of the party, while the other hounds make worried noises when he doesn't respond to them.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

As well might gild the gold day-lily 
or plate with silver the brighter stars of night, 
as render fair yet fairer still by handwork silly 
changing changeless pattern to accustomed sight-

[The Regent's apartments, Finduilas' rooms -- Luthien is sitting on the bed looking rather ironic and put-upon. She is wearing a sumptuous and graceful gown of deep reds while Finduilas sits behind her fussing with her hopeless hair. She still holds on to her own dress and wrap, rolled up tightly in her hands, however. A jewelry casket is open on a small stand nearby.]

Finduilas:

No, of course you can't wear blue, it's Autumn.

Luthien:

But you're wearing blue.

Finduilas:

Yes, but I'm blonde.

Luthien:

--Is there someplace in Arda that that makes sense? Because I never heard anything like that from Mom.

[Finduilas laughs]

Why does everyone think I'm trying to be funny?

[aside]

I'm beginning to think I know why Galadriel never stays here very long -- nor Finrod!

Finduilas:

Do you want the gold earrings with garnets, or the red-enameled earrings that I made to go with it? They're both quite nice.

Luthien: [trying not to be rude]

If you made the enamels to match then I guess they'd go best with it, right?

Finduilas:

Well, I think so -- but then you might want to wear real gems, because of your rank. Either set has matching hair ornaments, so it doesn't matter.

Luthien:

Well that's how I feel about it all.

[she pokes listlessly through the jewelry in the case.]

Oh -- no, I think I'll wear these.

Finduilas: [looks]

Oh, no, those won't do.

Luthien:

Why not? They have matching hair ornaments too, I see--

Finduilas:

But those are for Summer. You can't wear roses right now.

Luthien:

But they're made of white enamel and gold. How can it matter when you wear them, since they don't fade?

Finduilas: [shaking her head in dismay]

You just can't. It would look so -- odd.

Luthien:

Well, they're what I'm wearing. Sorry.

Finduilas:

Oh Luthien, please--!

Luthien:

Nope, nope, it's that or no jewelry at all.

Finduilas: [humoring]

Oh, very well, as you please.

[pause]

--Does everyone in Doriath talk that way?

Luthien: [defensive]

What way?

Finduilas:

Oh, you know, --your accent.

Luthien:

I don't have an accent. You lot are the ones with the funny accents, changing all the sounds around.

Finduilas:

No, it's you who have changed the language: we spoke it the original way. --And those expressions. "Nope," "Yep" and the like?

Luthien:

Oh, that's North Country Sindarin. I picked those up from Beren. I got into the habit of using them to annoy my parents, it was an ideological thing, before I tried to run away and got shut up in the tree. --Now I don't even remember I'm doing it.

[half-smiles]

I've tried to get him to teach me his old language, the one they spoke before Finrod taught them Sindarin, but he says there's no point--

Finduilas:

Well, there isn't, really, is there? I mean, it isn't as though there's anyone left to speak it with.

Luthien:

How can you talk so casually about the death of an entire civilization?

Finduilas: [uncomfortable]

Well -- it isn't the same as if Nargothrond were destroyed, really.

Luthien:

Oh, don't start that about their culture being all derivative and all -- I don't want to hear it this time, either.

[Finduilas gives her a worried frown]

Finduilas:

You're not going to be like that all night, are you? Will you at least make an effort to be sociable and civil?

Luthien: [wry]

Don't worry. I will be sure to uphold the family honor.

[Finduilas gets up and goes out of the room to put away the jewel box. Luthien, frowning, looks at the rolls of cloth in her hands; after deliberating she briefly sets them down on the bedspread, but after a moment's hesitation picks them up again and stuffs them up the long sleeves of her gown, not trusting to still be there when she gets back.]

Finduilas: [businesslike]

Now, let's see if I can't make your hair a little more presentable. Perhaps if I use the roses to hold down the worst of these tufts . . .

[Luthien's expression becomes completely glazed as Finduilas gets more enthusiastic.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

Fleeing ceremony and the affairs of state, 
the princely artist ne'er can 'scape 
the burdens of his blood, duty, nor fate—

[Luthien's chamber. Celebrimbor is setting a final piece of coving in place around the fountain just installed across from the bed, where it can be seen as well as heard. Some trouble has been taken to make it fit into the surrounding decoration, which he pauses to admire. When Huan comes in behind him he doesn't look around to see who it is.]

Celebrimbor:

All right, you can turn the water on again, I've got everything connected up--

[starts when Huan breathes in his ear]

Oh! It's you. I thought you were one of the guards. --Don't, don't put your nose in that, I had to touch in some of the frieze around it and it's still wet in parts.

[the Hound gives him a reproachful Look and sits]

Sorry. I'm just so used to people being careless with my things. I guess the fact that you're back means my uncle's back as well, eh?

[Huan thumps the floor with his tail once and whines]

I suppose that answers my question -- am I going to this wretched affair tonight or not?

[sighs, gets up]

Well. I'll check this first, then head on over to Gwin's House. What joy.

[looks at Huan]

Aren't you coming?

Huan:

[whining, lies down]

Celebrimbor: [lifts his hands]

If her Highness doesn't mind you underfoot, it's no business of mine what you do.

[looks around at the room again]

Superb . . . Somehow between "technical and organzational genius" and Orodreth's "terrifying warrior goddess" -- "intuitively brilliant artist" seems to have gotten overlooked. Not that I imagine she'd give me so much as a "good day" after this . . .

[snorts]

It's not as if I had anything to do with it, or as if I could have done anything -- Can you begin to understand what it's like, being the only person in our family with even the barest capacity for empathy? It's hellish. Everyone assumes that I approve of Grandfather and the rest of the lunatics without even bothering to ask, and even my friends who know better are treating me as though first of all I must have known in advance, and secondly as though I must benefit from it. And you know what that means? Half of them won't speak to me, and the rest are too polite, and I can't figure out which of them want me to put in good words for them--

[short laugh]

--as if that would help them! -- and which ones are afraid of me now. Oh, the honour of belonging to House Feanor -- it's almost more than I can stand.

[He turns, realizing that someone has entered the chamber and is witnessing his rant]

Guard: [warily]

My lord?

[he looks around the room, confirming that no one besides Huan is present]

Celebrimbor: [savagely]

What?

Guard:

Er -- you -- you did want the water turned back on, did you not?

Celebrimbor: [haughty]

As a matter of fact I was on the verge of coming to do it myself. --Should I?

Guard:

No, sir, I'll . . . take care of it.

[he leaves, but can't help checking one last time. Celebrimbor shakes his head and laughs bitterly before beginning to put away his tools.]

Celebrimbor:

You don't know how lucky you are, being a Hound. No conflicts of loyalty, no agonizing decisions for you, just to be happy doing a job you love!

[Huan sighs, putting his head down on his paws]

 

Chapter Text

Gower:

--As though no auguries most solemn should presage, 
lightness and pretense hold sway in Nargothrond, 
where all have else forgot their most solemn bond, 
else pretend, penning self-reproach in pleasant cage—

[Guilin's House apartments. A long solar with a very high ceiling, set with gold mosaic -- very bright effects. Luthien is standing next to Finduilas, the ambient light and the dark outfit doing nothing for her pallor. Superficially she looks like a model of royal dignity and sophistication, but her eyes are suspiciously wide and her smile a little too set -- if she wasn't too proud she'd be hiding behind her cousin right now or looking for a corner to lurk in. Despite promises, Gwin is scowling off by the wines and not mixing at all, or else his expression is keeping everyone at bay. The people who have brought instruments are tuning up and/or having an argument about it.]

Finduilas: [aside to Luthien]

--Please don't look like this is such an ordeal -- you wanted to come, after all--

[to a newly-arrived guest]

Oh, I'm so glad you're here -- we'll be able to make up the full ensemble, tonight, I think. --I don't believe you've had the honor of being introduced to my cousin, Princess Luthien of Doriath?

Bard: [startled, belated recognition]

Oh! Stars, I hadn't realized how tall you were when I saw you at the feast, the other night.

Luthien: [baffled]

Er, yes -- one often is, if one's parents are . . .

[she waits for some explanation; the Bard is embarrassed realizing the social blunder]

Bard:

Quite . . . so . . .

[Awkward pause]

I'd best go find out what tuning they've agreed upon. --If you'll excuse me?

[Luthien turns to Finduilas, frowning.]

Luthien:

That's the seventh person to make a comment like that. Starting with our host, who at least managed not to laugh about it. What is so -- incredibly fascinating, not to say amusing, about my height?

Finduilas:

Oh -- Well -- most of the locals aren't anywhere near as tall as we are. It's, er, just surprising.

Luthien:

But why is it so -- humorous?

Finduilas: [whispering]

You wouldn't -- I'll explain later.

Luthien:

Explain what?

Finduilas: [trying to shush her]

Please, I'll tell you later.

Luthien: [edged]

Tell me why it's funny -- or I'm leaving right now.

Finduilas: [pleading]

You won't understand--

[Luthien turns and walks towards the nearest door, which turns out to be a closet.]

Luthien: [not backing down]

Where's the exit?

Finduilas:

Luthien -- it --

[gives up]

Beren -- isn't.

Luthien:

. . .

Finduilas:

I told you so.

Luthien:

I don't believe it. I'd ask why but I'm afraid the answer would completely destroy any remaining traces of sanity. --Why? My mother's taller than my dad.

Finduilas:

Yes -- but -- so much?

Luthien:

Well. No. --So what?

Finduilas:

It . . . just . . . looks awfully strange.

Luthien:

How would you know? You haven't seen us together.

Finduilas:

Cousin, please, I -- I have to go see to my guests--

[Flees. Luthien glowers, starts to look fierce and dangerously alert instead of wan and overwhelmed.]

Luthien: [aside ranting to self]

Listening isn't working, since no one's saying anything meaningful to me. But how to start a conversation without throttling it in the same breath? If I just say, "Don't you all realize that the Enemy has put a forgetting spell on you so that you can't think about fighting him?" then won't they just forget what I said? I swear this feels more like one of Beren's weird stories from Dor-Lomin than anything real at all -- if you throw a stone into a certain pool you turn to stone or kill a bird and no one recognizes you after -- Like the world, only a little mad. Perhaps I've got to become mad myself, to speak to them? That's rather a frightening idea--

[The lady of House Feanor's following who was so patronizing to Beren sees Luthien alone and approaches, interrupting her deliberations]

Lady:

So! You're the famous Luthien of Doriath. Your mother really is a goddess, as they say?

Luthien: [brightly]

Yes, and I'm taller than you. And your consort.

Lady: [checking, at a loss for the next thing to say, her lines having been stolen]

Ah, yes, I -- I -- I admit to having been rather -- er, surprised, at that.

[frowning]

--Is that the fashion in Menegroth these days?

Luthien: [manic cheerfulness]

Yes, it's quite stylish, being tall, though I don't know what we'll do if it goes out. --No, I borrowed it from my cousin.

Lady: [struggling to regain composure]

No -- I meant -- that is to say -- your hair, Princess Luthien.

Luthien:

You haven't heard? I cut it off to make a cape out of it. And a rope.

Lady:

Truthfully? That -- wasn't exaggeration?

Luthien:

Hardly.

Lady:

It truly was that long?

Luthien: [shrugs]

When I finished with it, it was.

Lady: [shaking her head]

I still can't believe you did that. Everyone thinks it's completely bizarre.

Luthien: [finds this blunt curiosity rather refreshing, smiles not entirely hostilely]

Well, one does what one must. Sometimes I find it rather unbelievable myself.

Lady:

When are you going to grow your hair long again?

Luthien:

No idea.

Lady:

But don't you miss it?

Luthien:

Very much. But I'm working on getting it back.

[her interrogator looks confused]

You wouldn't happen to know who's got it at present? Supposedly I'm being all generous in allowing your Sages to study it, but I'm afraid it's gotten shoved off and forgotten, and if that's the case I'd really like to have it back.

Lady:

Your -- hair?

Luthien:

The rest of it, yes.

Lady:

Oh, your cloak! --No, I'm so sorry but I haven't the faintest idea. I assumed it was still in your possession.

[The way it often happens at parties, now that someone is talking to her, a little knot of conversation begins to form around Luthien. Finduilas drags Gwindor over as dubious moral support]

A Musician:

So -- is your mother really one of the Powers?

Luthien:

A minor Power, yes; she's Maiar, not Valar.

A Courier: [from Gwindor's old outfit]

But still a goddess, nonetheless. --I find that very difficult to imagine.

Luthien:

She looks just like anyone else -- well, not just like, there's nobody quite like my mother, but -- she isn't really different from any other Elf, except for what she can do.

A Sculptor: [dryly]

And the fact that people become legendarily tongue-tied upon first seeing her -- even those born in Aman -- and can't explain what it is about her afterwards.

Luthien: [shaking her head]

Oh, I don't think it was her, I just think it was the awkwardness of the situation and the fact that we'd never met them. --And the effort of editing out recent events and all, which rather puts a strain on conversation.

Lord: [yes, this is the same chap who was so snide to Beren, joining his wife now]

Why ever did Melian come to Middle-earth, your Highness? I've always wondered about that.

Luthien:

The same reason as you, pretty much -- to explore, see the world, get out on her own.

Lord:

Of course, that all is long in the past, now, that she's settled down and devoted herself to looking after one small area.

Luthien:

Doriath isn't small. --But that does seem to happen, doesn't it?

[pause -- this begins to register on her audience]

Or are you really wondering why she married my father? I'm getting the impression that that's what you're really trying to ask.

Lord:

Er -- as a matter of fact, yes.

Luthien:

Because she fell in love with him, obviously.

Lady:

But why would one of the divine Powers marry so far beneath her? And not only a mere Elf, but a Dark-elf to boot?

Luthien: [heated]

My father is not a Dark-elf. My father was one of the three Chosen ones, just like your kings. He went to Valinor, with Ingwe and Finwe, he just stayed here with my mother instead of going back. He didn't need to go to Aman again.

[Perhaps in response to her own informal manner, perhaps not, the crowd of guests becomes less and less formal and more direct in their interrogations and opinions -- she is both very much "at bay" and holding her own, for the moment]

Bard:

But then why did he choose to reject High-elven culture?

An Archer: [from Gwindor's old company]

Especially after we saved you all from the Dark Lord and taught you how to fight.

Luthien:

No, you didn't. You all showed up at the last minute, after we'd been fighting for Great Years, and acted like you invented warfare. We watched you relearn everything we knew for centuries.

Lord:

But if it wasn't for us rescuing you, fortunately before it was too late, you'd all have been thralls speaking the Black Speech in Angband long ago. We might not have "invented warfare" but we certainly improved upon it. Our weapons and armor protected you from invasion, Princess, whether you wish to believe it or not.

Luthien: [getting hotter]

No, actually, it was Denethor and his people who did that, long before you arrived. And then my mother set up the Labyrinth around and made a haven where the Enemy's powers can't come, though he keeps trying anyway. And again, that was completely without any Noldor help. The Singers didn't have your arms or horses, but they kept their pact with my father anyway -- why do you think we gave them complete freedom of our realm? They earned it with their blood!

Lord:

Oh, I think I'd have heard about that if it were so, your Highness.

[pause]

Luthien: [shrugs]

Well, it's like the old saying goes -- "Talks much, listens little." Hard to hear when you're making noise, or when you think there's nothing of value to be heard, or when everyone around you simply agrees with you.

Sculptor: [aside to Gwindor]

I think she just insulted all of us.

Gwindor: [dry]

You don't say.

Finduilas:

This is becoming a disaster.

Gwindor:

You'll note I've refrained from saying -- I said as much.

Finduilas: [sharply]

Until now.

[Enter Celebrimbor unobtrusively. He drifts up in the background, nods to Gwindor]

Lord:

But don't you think, your Highness, that you ought to show some gratitude for all the benefits that we brought you from the West?

Luthien:

What benefits? All the benefits of Aman that we've got came from my mother, before you were even born. All you did was go off and make your own closed societies up north and out east and ignore the rest of us, until Morgoth trounced you and you had to find people to take you in.

Bard:

But if you're going to talk about closed societies, shouldn't you turn your mirror upon yourself, first, Highness? After all, it's your House that sealed off a quarter of central Beleriand and banned not only us but our very language from popular usage.

Luthien:

That was symbolic--

Bard:

It seemed entirely real to myself, at least.

Celebrimbor: [breaking in]

I always assumed it was a particularly clever way of protecting local cultural differences and dialects, myself. Who could argue with a gesture of grief? Far more effective than any encouragements or logical arguments to that effect.

Luthien:

No, it was completely sincere, sir!

Celebrimbor: [placating (but rather lecturing  he can't help it)]

I didn't mean that it wasn't, my lady, I only meant that there could well be more than one reason for a ruler to do something. I know that our cousin for instance was quite troubled by the rapid abandonment of native art forms and linguistic variations for imported ones, and was quite helpless to do anything about it, since any attempts to encourage the, er, retention of older forms were regarded with suspicion. Attempts to withhold those benefits of Aman, you know. We talked about it on several occasions.

Luthien: [a little doubtful]

I still don't think you're right, I don't think Dad would do things for ulterior motives like that.

Finduilas:

But you yourself talked about how subtle and underhanded his way of getting around his promise to you was, Luthien. And then locking you up afterwards.

Bard:

That wasn't just an exaggerated rumour, then? Your family really did keep you as a prisoner?

Luthien:

Well, it was house arrest, not a dungeon -- but thirty-odd fathoms of airspace is an extremely good barrier to leaving.

Sculptor:

Why did you escape that way? It sounds like utter insanity.

Luthien: [raising her eyebrows]

What better way would you have recommended?

Sculptor:

But -- your hair? That's just so -- unspeakably peculiar.

Luthien: [shrugs]

I didn't have anything else. It wasn't like I could have carved steps down the trunks without anyone noticing, or, in all likelihood, killing myself. So I just thought: what am I best at? --Music; healing; fibre arts; making things grow. --What have I got to work with? Not much. But if you can make a bowstring out of hair, why not a longer cord? It's sort of like a cape already, it's dark, I want to be invisible in the dark -- I just need more. So what do I need? Tools. What could be more natural than for me being bored to ask for some harmless crafts projects to keep busy with?

[raises her hands]

I guess I could have asked for a potted plant, some kind of creeper like flowering bindweed, and grown that down to the ground -- but it would have been hard to make camouflage out of it. So I just -- made enough of it to go round and made it strong enough to work.

Bard: [expert opinion]

I'm afraid I simply don't see how that's possible. You shouldn't be able to change the fundamental nature of anything.

Luthien:

I could try to explain what I did, but if you're convinced it won't work it probably won't make any sense to you. Essentially -- I just channelled every comparable thing out there into it, and combined their qualities with my own power to, hm, encourage it to imitate them. It wasn't a change so much as an -- oh, enhancement.

Bard:

Ah, I do understand the "sympathetic principle," your Highness; I'm simply unconvinced that so great an -- enhancement -- could be accomplished.

Luthien: [amazed]

The fact that I did it isn't enough?

Bard:

I would never deny that, but I feel certain that some other interpretation of the process must be looked for. Quite possibly some conjunction of forces aligned between Arda and the nearer stars, occurring simultaneously, might have been responsible for the results, do you not think more likely?

Luthien:

--No.

Lady:

Well, I for one cannot imagine even attempting such a ploy.

Luthien: [nods]

I suppose I could have asked for a rucksack and camouflage and a compact tent and so forth, but that would have been rather obvious, wouldn't it? --Not that it wouldn't have been more comfortable, but I can't imagine no one would have commented on it. Besides, I'd have had to ask for rope to get down with, and none of that would have solved the problem of what to do about the sentries.

Archer:

But weren't you frightened? A bowstring is one thing, but a lifeline!

Luthien:

More like terrified out of my mind. But I'd done all the calculations, and it should have been strong enough for the tension.

Archer:

But what if you'd been wrong?

Luthien: [shrugs]

Then we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?

[the meaning of this occasions some rather dismayed looks, when it sinks in]

Archer: [admiring]

I say, you're fabulously brave, Princess Luthien -- no wonder the Enemy's never been able to conquer Doriath, if you're typical of its people!

Luthien:

Hm -- they wouldn't say I was typical, because they think I'm a complete lunatic. And I didn't feel very brave.

Archer:

Well, we could have done with more of your sort of "terrified" in the Leaguer, without a doubt.

Luthien:

Oh, were you at Serech too? Did you know Beren's family?

[extreme embarrassment all around, especially among the veterans]

Archer:

No -- that is -- not at the Fen, but -- I -- I did know the Beorings, of course, from the siege, and -- over the years, you know, here -- and at our other forts.

Luthien:

You were stationed at the Fortress?

[awkward looks]

Gwindor:

We were there -- sometimes. Rotation.

Luthien:

Were you there at the end?

Finduilas: [hissed]

--Luthien!

Luthien: [ignoring her]

I understand that the Fortress was abandoned intact. Wouldn't that mean that the defenses would be the same as when you left them -- so they'd be more vulnerable to you, since you know their strengths and weaknesses?

Courier:

That -- would only be the case if the Enemy hasn't made changes. It's far from a safe assumption that he hasn't, your Highness.

Luthien:

Couldn't you tell?

Archer:

Well, by that time, it would be too late.

Luthien:

I don't mean when you're actually fighting there. I mean spying on their headquarters over the years.

Courier:

I'm afraid there haven't been any definitive reports since we were forced to retreat--

Luthien:

--You haven't kept it under observation?

Courier: [even more patronizing]

The entire region is under the Enemy's control--

Luthien: [annoyed]

--Yes, I know--

Courier: [less superior, more defensive]

I meant, your Highness, that it's too dangerous to try to infiltrate. It would just be wasting lives. We've concentrated on a strong front line of defense to prevent further encroachment.

[she frowns]

Luthien:

I don't understand why they left the bridge and the gates intact, if nothing else. I know that the ones we use are wood, but still, can't you pull down stonework with enough horses? Or dig under it, or something?

Archer:

You weren't there, your Highness. There was -- wasn't time for that.

Celebrimbor: [curious]

What about the Master Word? Or was there not one used there? And hence it left standing? That would explain why no counterattack was ever mounted.

[uncomfortable silence]

Gwindor: [embarrassed & rushed]

Anyhow that would have been the first thing to have been changed.

Luthien:

But still, even if they have changed things about the defenses, they can't have changed all, right? There must be posterns, or, or, ledges in the rock that you know about, or what about for the water to go through? Aren't there conduits going into the castle from underground? You wouldn't want to have to go out for water while under attack. Wouldn't it be easier to make a culvert under the surface than try to drill down farther for a well?

[more silence]

I mean, I know I don't really know what I'm talking about, but I'm trying to look at it rationally. It almost seems as if you've got this idea of Sauron as invincible and of the castle as impenetrable, and so you're not even able to think of ways around it.

Finduilas: [undertone, grabbing her arm and very severely]

Luthien. This is hardly the proper time nor place to bring that up.

Luthien:

Well, if I'd ever been able to talk to your father today, I would have asked him instead.

Finduilas: [outraged]

Holy Stars! Have you no sense of propriety whatsoever? Don't you dare persecute him about the Fortress, he doesn't need any more stress and that's the most tactless thing you could say or do--

Gwindor: [tersely]

--Faelivrin. Stop making a scene. You're behaving worse than anyone right now.

Finduilas:

Do not tell me what to do--!

Luthien:

Instead of fighting with each other, shouldn't we be fighting with the Enemy? Is there anyone here who disagrees with that?

[turns, holding out her hands]

Surely all of us, together, cannot be daunted so easily? Don't tell me that the best and brightest of Nargothrond can't with all the resources here manage to overcome the confusion of your leaderless state and recover our people -- and the advantage in the War! -- by concerted effort?

Musician: [blurting it out & instantly regretting it]

But they wouldn't be allowed back in any case.

Luthien: [whirls]

What do you mean?

[everyone tries to avoid looking at her -- or each other, which complicates things]

Guilin: [finally]

No one taken by the forces of Morgoth is permitted to return to any of our Cities, Highness.

Luthien:

Why ever not?

Courier:

Well -- of course -- the Enemy's power -- to permanently turn people into agents of his side --

[rallying]

Surely even you in Doriath know about that --

Luthien:

We've heard about it, yes -- but what barbaric custom is this, and when did it start?

Guilin:

Not custom, Highness, but the Law -- yet one more consequence of the War, made in response to unhappy discoveries too often repeated.

Luthien:

But he's your ruler!

Guilin:

Not even Kings may be above their own decrees -- among our Kindred, at least.

Luthien: [horrified]

You mean Finrod wouldn't let prisoners-of-war come back?

Celebrimbor: [grave]

He had to; he had no choice.

[she gives him a severe Look]

--No legitimate choice, being ruler. Personal liking or distaste come not into it, my lady, -- only the good of all.

[pause]

Luthien:

That's terrible.

Celebrimbor:

War is terrible. But the rest of us do not have the advantage of an impenetrable barrier surrounding our domains.

[Luthien puts her hands to her temples, shaking her head]

Luthien:

--But what about your uncle?

Celebrimbor:

--My uncle?

Luthien:

Yes, Maglor, the one who was captured and had his hand cut off.

Celebrimbor:

That wasn't Maglor, that was Maedhros--

Lord:

And he wasn't maimed by the Enemy -- it was during the res--

Luthien: [agitated]

--That -- that isn't important, none of it, it -- that -- but he was caught and kept in Angband for months, right? That was the story we heard. You said none of you allowed prisoners to come back to your holdings.

Celebrimbor:

He -- he wasn't brainwashed, only punished.

Luthien:

How do you know?

Celebrimbor:

He -- couldn't have been. You would realize that if you met him.

Luthien:

You don't know that, though, for certain, if the only way you've found out before is when they turn out to be working for the Enemy, and that's why you've had to make a preemptive decision. You're just hoping you're right.

Lord:

But he's -- he was the High King, and the head of our House.

[Luthien raises an eyebrow, says nothing]

Finduilas:

You don't understand--

Luthien: [fierce]

What don't I understand? Explain it to me. Explain why you're willing to hide behind this rule of yours to justify not trying to save your own King, your own family and friends, and pretend that they don't exist any more! My cause is personal, nothing to do with my country's good one way or the other, but yours is both. Do you really believe that it's the better course, that it's even permissible -- not just for you, but for Finrod, to leave Nogrod leaderless, I can't believe that anyone would seriously think that, law or no law.

[waits]

Bard:

Nothing is that simple, your Highness--

Luthien:

You all seem to think it is. So tell me.

Finduilas: [answering almost in spite of herself]

It isn't that -- easy, you've no idea, you're not Noldor, you can't understand it and you don't want to--

Luthien:

Because your father wants the throne for himself? I've heard that rumour.

Finduilas:

No! That's not--

[breaks off]

Luthien:

I doubted it rather, myself. What then? You're afraid of going to war again, and you've deluded yourselves into thinking that you can hide from it altogether here? We can't even do that in Doriath.

Lord: [stiffly]

No one who's spent her entire life hiding behind a maze should put the name of coward to another.

Gwindor: [half-aside, ironic]

Not entire.

Luthien:

I want to know -- Who's in charge here?

Bard: [wildly]

You can't ask that, Your Highness--

Luthien:

Why not?

Celebrimbor: [into resulting silence]

Because then they'd have to answer.

Guilin: [severe]

My lord, that is unseemly -- such mockery is unfitting the times--

[Celebrimbor bows, doesn't say anything]

Luthien: [fierce]

What, sir, would better fit these times? You hold the rank of Counsellor -- what counsel of rescue have you given, what cunning plans to save your dear lord and mine are underway, what forces of arms are readied, what spies sent forth to get the lie of the Enemy's lands before setting forth?

Guilin:

Highness, it is only to be expected that your ideallism and inexperience would make simple all matters of state--

Luthien: [with a cutting gesture of her hand]

None. I know. I've guessed it.

[she wheels, looking around at them all.]

Finduilas: [pleading]

. . . Cousin . . .

Luthien: [voice shaking but not weak]

--There is a darkness that fills this City for all the brightness of your illuminations and no torch, no lamp, no flame you can light will serve to brighten it while your Sun is gone from here -- you stay underground, where Elves were never made to stay, and the cloud of our Enemy's will darkens your minds without wind and light to disperse it, and you paint the sacred stars on your ceilings but you can't hear them, you're deaf and blind because Finrod was your vision, your senses, and without him you're lost -- can't you see it, can't you break free for an instant and think, act, do what has to be done?!

[she pauses for breath, panting, and waits for response. No one will meet her eyes.]

--Doomed. All of us.

[looks around, with an expression of extreme concentration, remembers and fixes on one of the doors to the outside halls. Curtseying to Lord Guilin, but without any polite words of excuse, Luthien turns and sweeps out of the apartments. The strained silence persists.]

Gwindor: [awkwardly, aside to Finduilas]

Should I go after her?

Finduilas: [tightly]

--And then what? You won't get any thanks from her more than I have. Don't worry -- she'll just press someone into guiding her around again.

[tossing her head with an exasperated noise]

I knew it was a mistake from the beginning. It's all very well for my father to talk, when all he does is hide from her.

Gwindor:

What's worse -- empty gestures, or nothing at all?

Celebrimbor: [ironic]

Or deception and interference -- surely worse than either, wouldn't you say?

[Gwindor's expression locks down]

Well, if I can't say it, who can?

Guilin: [low voice]

My lord, it would probably be for the best were you to depart now.

Celebrimbor: [not angry]

At once, sir, but I can do better than that: I'll remove hence with any of our people that are present and leave you in such peace as remains -- though, regrettably, nothing but a most limited removal. Gwin, I expect I'll see you at the pels?

[Gwindor nods stiffly]

Until then. My lords -- my lady --

[bows to the three of them. To the guests:]

Gentles of my House, let us retire to our own devices, and not burden our hosts' graciousness further this evening. --Though phrased as a request, you'll note that was not a suggestion. I'd rather not be obliged to imitate my seniors' style, but if I must, I certainly shall. --Shall we?

[gesturing to the assembled visitors, gathering up the ones from the following of Feanor. Over his shoulder:]

By the by, you do realize that Her Highness is entirely correct --? We are, in fact, all Doomed.

[The remaining company react silently to this parting shot in a frozen tableau.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

--Conspiracy's full measure, half-unveiled,
hath yet to be revealed; yet now assailed,
shall out, to light -- yet to what avail?

[Luthien is going quickly down a long spiral case, not stairs, but a very wide shallow ramp with an ornate railing that opens onto each floor.]

Luthien:

I know we came up this way, and it was three -- no four -- no it was three floors up, so that means this next one will be the landing, and then I'll just find another side door and hang on to Orodreth like a burr until he gives in.

[goes into the hallway - but it's a circular gallery, going around the width of the spiral]

This isn't right -- but I know I counted it right -- this is lke the Labyrinth at home, it doesn't make sense, I don't believe it -- Oh -- Maps!

[The walls are painted with huge fully-rendered terrain shots in realistic color, divided by ornamental borders and with the lettering artistically integrated into the topography.]

Seven rivers -- that's got to be Ossiriand -- yep, there's the name, so that's Amon Ereb, and that's Aros, and there's Esgalduin -- Oh, that has to be Hirilorn! Star and water, that's a lot of detail -- so where did I come?

[she starts walking slowly around the perimeter, looking at the maps]

Ah, right, there's Amon Rudh. So south from that . . . And that has to be the Gates -- Here we are -- unfortunately! so somewhere in here's where I was caught. I knew it was a long way, but it looks much longer here. So how far is it to the Fortress?

[steps back to look up]

Oh.

[flatly]

I hope this is not to scale.

[looks around]

Perhaps there's a more accurate one . . . ?

[moves a little farther around the curve]

That doesn't look so bad . . . Oh. That's got to be the ocean. I guess it is to scale after all.

[runs her hands over her face -- when she looks up realizes that there are other people in the gallery as well.]

I'm sorry -- I didn't mean to disturb you, I didn't know there was anyone here. I was looking for the Regent's quarters, but I think I got off on the wrong floor.

[The others don't say anything. They look surprised and worried, at first, before recognizing her. The conspiratorial group consists of the Sage who tried to accost Luthien earlier in the Hall of Hours, and her companions there: a Scribe, the Royal Guard who refused to go, and likewise a Ranger.]

I beg your pardon. Is something the matter?

Guard: [bowing formally]

Your Highness.

Sage: [not at all formal]

--Is something the matter, she asks! How nice to be so carefree as to be able to enjoy one's self at festive gatherings!

Luthien:

What are you talking about?

Sage: [caustic]

Of course, what else should one expect, from someone who thinks so highly of herself as to demand a Silmaril for her dowry!

Luthien:

What?! I never asked for the cursed thing -- I had nothing to do with that!

Sage: [gesturing disdainfully at Luthien's dress]

Of course not. You never sent anyone on a fatal quest, never started up the Curse again, never blithely accepted the ill-gotten gifts from those hands your thoughtlessness played into, forgetting the people you've destroyed by it -- oh no--!

Luthien:

What are you talking about? I came here to get help for Beren, and I'm still trying to get the help I was promised, and some kind of interference from the Enemy seems to be stopping the people in charge from actually doing anything.

Scribe: [astounded]

You really don'tknow?

Luthien: [exasperated, runs her hand through her hair, scattering pins and jewels]

How do I know? What is it that I'm supposed to know?

Sage:

She doesn't. She's no idea.

[flings up her hands]

Luthien: [tight smile]

"She" is also losing her temper.

Sage:

You really pretend that you've no idea of the devastation you've caused, that you're really that naive as to believe everything you're told? That you've no notion whatsoever of the catastrophe you and your mortal boy have brought to our realm?

Luthien:

Did I ever say I believe "everything" I'm told? You're the first people willing to do anything besides offer me platitudes and meaningless comforts -- but if all you're going to do is make cutting-yet-incomprehensible remarks and melodramatic gestures, I really haven't the time to waste.

[turns to go]

Sage:

Princess Luthien!

[she looks back over her shoulder]

You said you knew it when the Beoring was captured.

[Luthien nods, her expression closed. Tautly:]

--What's happened to them?

Luthien:

I don't know. I can't scry, I'm not a Seer, I only know that Sauron has Beren because my mother said so, and how she knew that I don't know, and all I knew was that I felt like I've been told being shot feels like, that I was suddenly more frightened than before the First Battle, and it wouldn't go away.

[looks at them for a long moment]

--You know them. They're your family, your friends, your loved ones and what are you doing here instead of moving all Ea to help me get a task force out and underway--

[whirling and stalking down on them as her voice rises]

What, for Nienna's sake, do you know that you're not telling me? How can I work with nothing but lies and silence to spin?

[They stare back at her, guiltily. The Sage looks away, as does the Guard]

Scribe: [whispering]

Your Highness--

Luthien: [through clenched teeth]

Tell. Me.

Sage: [savagely]

Civil war, that's what. Your fiance started the trouble with your insane demand.

[the Guard starts to say something and stops]

Luthien:

Not mine, my father's, and this does not look like a place that's seen fighting, so what are you talking about?

Sage:

The sons of Feanor threatened it. And the King's honor wouldn't let him back out of this damned quest of yours. And so, thanks to you, those wretches have taken everything that King Felagund made and we've lost the best of our champions to your selfishness.

Luthien: [icy]

There's more, isn't there? Why didn't you put a stop to it? This is your City, your Kingdom, and you just let them take it away from you? They're two Elves, even if they are great warriors -- what can two do against thousands?

Ranger:

They invoked the Oath.

Luthien:

Oh yes, the famous Oath. The one that makes any means justifiable. So what? Let them. Then lock them up.

Guard: [desperately]

You don't un--

[stops at her Look]

They have a large number of supporters here, and -- there's already been one Kinslaying, your Highness.

Luthien:

Then if you're not of that number -- what are you still doing here? If you're on Finrod's side, why aren't you with him? Where are the rest of you -- there must be others -- and why didn't you go too?

Scribe:

To Angband . . . ?

[trails off]

Luthien: [snorting]

And yet -- you'll blame me, blame Beren, blame your King, blame your friends -- all before you blame those whose fault it is -- my bloody-minded cousins -- and yourselves.

[pause]

Sage: [quietly]

You don't seem at all surprised.

Luthien:

Surprised? At being betrayed and waylaid by my relatives? What in Arda's surprising about that? --Or that the sons of Feanor are just as bad as ever the rumours painted them way back when? Not that either.

[narrowing her eyes]

--So I take it that means it isn't, in fact, a public service on my part and an act of gratitude that I allow you tech people to keep my cloak.

Sage: [checking in surprise]

We don't have it.

Luthien:

Who's got it, if you're not working on it?

Scribe:

Lord Curufin. That's what my cousin, who's married to one of their Healers, said. No one can handle it, you know. They've given up trying to figure out how it works: whenever anyone touches it it makes them all sleepy and stupid.

Luthien:

Stupider, you mean. How can they think to rule a country they neither know nor care anything about? A throne's more than a fancy chair, to put here or there or forget about when you've something else to amuse yourself with. All they've done is destroy Finrod's power; they've done nothing to consolidate their own.

Sage:

On the contrary -- your Highness -- I would say that they have succeeded quite well at that.

Luthien:

No, they've not. It's only that no one cares enough to do anything about them, because you're all insane.

Scribe:

No, you don't understand the circumstances--

Luthien: [tossing her head]

Yes, so everyone keeps saying. I suppose I could have said, "because you're all cowards," but that would have been redundant.

Guard: [angry]

Your Highness, that word is unacceptable--

Luthien:

But true--

Sage: [impatiently]

Quiet. The fact remains, Princess Luthien, that you are here, and the lords of Aglon-and-Himlad are here, and they are in power and you are not, and rumor has it they mean to use you as a pawn against your father, and what are you going to do about it?

Luthien:

Go find Beren.

Sage:

How? By yourself?

Luthien:

If I must. Which increasingly seems to be the case.

Sage:

You'll be killed. Or captured.

Luthien:

Possibly.

Sage:

Not possibly -- certainly.

Luthien:

Then your Foresight's better than mine. I'm only mostly sure it's hopeless. But I'm still going to try.

[she glares at them one by one]

Or you could come with me. We would have a better chance that way, right? It would be less hopeless. You--

[to the Sage]

--could get me my cape, and I could hide our activites from observation, the Enemy's -- and the enemies', and --

[to the Scribe]

you can get hold of the plans of the Fortress and any information in the archives about Sauron, about his weaknesses and whatever else might be relevant, while you two can get us gear and provisions and horses, and make yourselves useful if we end up having to fight. Though I hope we don't. I'm thinking I could disguise myself as a slave -- everyone keeps telling me I look like one as it is -- and sneak inside, but we really, really need good maps for that--

Ranger: [shaking his head in dismay]

Your Highness -- you can't -- seriously mean to go against the Abhorred One and his wolves by yourself.

Luthien:

If you come with me then it won't be by myself, will it?

Guard:

But if -- if even His Majesty couldn't do it -- what chance have any of us?

Luthien:

Then at least we will have failed trying to accomplish something. Can you live with yourself, not having done that? --I can't.

[pause]

Sage: [slowly]

If we meet you at your apartments it will be obvious that something is afoot and we will be prevented.

Luthien:

Where's a better place for it? Here? I can wait here.

Guard:

No, someone could come through at any time. That's why we come here, because it can look like a chance encounter on the causeway.

Luthien:

Somewhere near an outside door? Then we would be right there to go at once.

Scribe: [shaking head]

That would be too obvious.

Luthien:

Well, it can't be anywhere too far, because I'll get lost and have to ask directions. --Which would be rather unhelpful.

Ranger:

What about the Hall of Morning? It would be very hard to get lost going there, and no one will be there for almost two bells.

Sage:

Ah. That's a good idea. An excellent idea.

Luthien:

? ? ?

Sage:

It's right at the very top of the ramp. The gallery ceiling is a system of prisms and reflectors so that sunlight from the hills over us comes down through the crystals and illuminates the chambers. There's nothing to see at night, though, so it's deserted.

Luthien:

Very well. But be quick about it. We need as much time as possible, so that we can make as much time as we can before we're discovered. I don't know how well I'l be able to conceal us in broad daylight.

Scribe:

Are you certain you'll be able to extend the working to all of us?

Luthien:

Yes. --Well, reasonably certain.

Sage:

That does not inspire much confidence, your Highness.

Luthien: [shrugs]

I'm sorry for being so honest. Subterfuge doesn't come naturally to me, I have to work hard at it. Would you rather I tricked you into helping me? I'll try that, if you'd prefer.

Sage: [shaking her head]

I confess you're far from what I'd expected.

Luthien:

My parents would undoubtedly agree with you there.

[giving them all a stern Look]

Do not fail us. I will be waiting for you.

[the conspirators part ways, leaving the Hall of Maps, some down the ramp, some up -- Luthien continues upwards to the top story]

Chapter Text

Act III: SCENE XX.i [no dialogue]

[Luthien's apartments. Huan gets up from beside the bed with the impatient heave of a bored dog and starts to go down the hallway, but stops in the solar and whines in distress, furrowing his brows, and circles around the room. He moves towards the outer door again, but can't bring himself to disobey and flops down in front of the fireplace, ears drooping, to wait for her.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

    --Hope doth flame brightly, yet 
absent further fuel, like straw outburneth swift, to let 
dark despair return, as the sun forever shall be set—

[The Hall of Morning. It's very dim -- only a bit of discreet artificial illumination, with some scattered white light coming through the prisms overhead from the not-quite- full moon. Luthien is pacing, arms tightly folded around her, but stops as the camera nears and sits down heavily on a bench with a tense expression.]

Luthien: [decidedly, gloomy]

--Not coming.

[she shivers]

That leaves me one option. Of course that only makes it more hopeless than before . . . But then, that isn't really so, is it? It always was hopeless -- I was just wrong about it. As usual.

[shivers again, rubbing her arms]

Well, if I can't get my cape back, I can take whatever I need in exchange. It's worth at least a horse and some heavy clothes, I should think.

[shaking her head]

By rights I could take anything I wanted, for the purpose of rescue, but I've no idea what besides my cape would help. --Well, Finduilas' dress won't, that's for certain.

[Starts to pull hers out of the sleeves, but stops when she hears something outside. Stands up at once, looking alert]

Curufin:

No, I really don't think we should send to any of the others until it's all --

[breaks off]

--Who's there?

Luthien:

I am.

[The sons of Feanor come the rest of the way around the curve of the ramp and stop when they see her, very surprised]

Curufin: [surreptitiously taking his hand off of his knife]

Your Highness? What are you doing here all alone in the dark?

Celegorm:

Are you lost?

Luthien: [hiding her disappointment]

Thinking, my lords. I like to do that, sometimes, up high. --One might ask the same of you--?

Celegorm: [ignoring her question]

I'm glad to see you've taken my advice and gotten some decent clothes for yourself. Much better.

Luthien:

There was an affair tonight that Finduilas talked me into going to. Hence all this.

Celegorm:

Well, good for you! Good to get out and enjoy yourself.

[looks around for anyone else]

--But surely they didn't throw you out, what?

Luthien:

No -- there were too many people there and it got rather overwhelming.

Curufin:

Was my son there, did you notice?

Luthien:

He was still there when I left, but I've no idea if he's there now, my lord.

Curufin:

Hmph.

Luthien:

My lord, I've been looking to ask you for -- for a long time, now: do you know when I will be able to get my cape back?

[Throughout the following exchanges she watches them both closely for any sign of guile]

Curufin: [shrugging apologetically]

I'm afraid it's rather out of my hands at the moment, though I assure you I'll certainly check on the progress of the researchers for you. --But you don't really need it, anyway, correct?

Luthien:

Whether I need it or not is irrelevant: it's mine.

Curufin: [carefully, as to a child]

I don't believe that anyone has challenged that, your Highness.

Luthien:

But no one seems to know who's got it, or where it is, and it's extremely valuable to me, at least.

Curufin:

Nargothrond is a very large place, with a great number of people in it.

Luthien:

So I have noticed. How is that relevant?

Curufin:

I meant, my lady, that these things take time.

Luthien:

Ah.

[glances around, worried and torn]

Well, my lords, I suppose you would prefer to have the peace and quiet to yourselves, for your own conversation, so I'll bid you good evening and return to my own apartments now.

Celegorm:

Oh no, you can't go gettin' lost again -- we'll take you that way and make sure you're home safely.

Luthien: [defensive]

I'm not lost, I just don't know where everything is. --No one's ever taken me through it all and explained how it connects up, or drawn out maps for me. I remember some of the plans that Finrod showed us, but those weren't complete and changes have been made since then.

Curufin:

A lamentable oversight, I'm sure -- one of our people would be able to remember it all from the first, and so we forget that it might not be that easy for an outsider, and fail in our duty.

Luthien: [aside]

What a backhanded insult!

[aloud]

But I don't want to be an inconvenience to you . . .

Curufin:

Not at all, my lady.

[bows]

Luthien: [doubtfully]

Well, if it isn't any trouble--

Celegorm:

Good! That's settled.

[takes her arm and leads her down the circular causeway]

Impressive place, what? But you need to see it properly in the morning. Perhaps you'd like to come up and see it tomorrow?

[Curufin looks around suspiciously one more time to make sure no one else is about]

Curufin: [catching up to them]

Of course it's nothing to compare with Formenos, but for Middle-earth Nargothrond isn't bad at all. --Not that it couldn't stand improvement.

Luthien:

That's true of most things, though, isn't it?

[aside]

And this is one that could have gone far worse. There's still a chance.

[aloud]

So would you be so kind as to show me how the layout of the City goes? And perhaps I'll even be able to remember it, with your capable instruction? Then I'll be able to feel a bit more at home here.

Celegorm:

Well, this, right here's the southernmost vertical shaft that goes all the way through all the levels--

Curufin:

No, there's one more farther south than this, you're forgetting about.

Celegorm:

But that's only an air-shaft, Cur, not a proper access . . .

[they go out of sight, the sons of Feanor correcting each other. No one arrives to rendezvous with Luthien as the scene fades to darkness]

Chapter Text

 

Gower:

Small waves and winds may mark a passing gust, soon oe'r;
--or signify the coming of a gale-wind's flood and roar--

[The Regent's office. Orodreth is standing with hands clasped behind his back, listening to Gwindor, and looking at a painting over the fireplace showing a seascape with sunset castle (which is probably Barad Nimras, not imaginary view. )]

Orodreth:

So she knows.

Gwindor:

I'm afraid so, sir.

Orodreth:

Well. In a way, it's a relief, I must confess. --Do you know what she means to do?

Gwindor:

I -- couldn't say.

Orodreth:

I'm not asking you to betray any confidences.

Gwindor:

Truly, sir, I don't. I -- my guess is that she would take independent action, again. But I don't think it would be feasible, because of their orders, and their partisans among the Guard--

[hopeful]

--unless you were to intervene, sir.

Orodreth:

You know I can't do that.

Gwindor: [lightly]

You know, this time they didn't even have to raise a hand to profit by others' work. Well, if guile and coercion are what it takes to rule, along with ruthlessness, then they're as fit to be sovereigns as the Enemy himself.

[Orodreth gives him a sidelong glance, and he reddens]

Sorry, sir -- I meant no disrespect.

Orodreth:

You did. But that's all right.

[sighs]

Whatever one may truly say about a somewhat casual and proprietary attitude evinced towards their own followers, it's true that during the chaos of the battle their primary concern was to effect the safe retreat of the greatest number of their people, with little regard for the salvage of property and possession.

[musing]

--Of course if your attitude towards property is that you can always acquire more of it from someone else, so long as you have a sword, then that isn't perhaps so creditable after all...

[turns to face Gwindor]

Stay attentive. Let me know what you hear, both what's reported and -- what isn't.

Gwindor:

Yes, my lord. --There's far more of the latter than the former, I'm afraid.

Orodreth:

Do your best. It isn't your fault that you're resented -- I had to put someone in charge, Gwin, and I'm sorry it was you.

Gwindor:

It isn't that, sir -- not only that. It's also that there are things I don't know to ask, or that I'm expected to understand, that Intelligence doesn't even think to tell me because I should already know. --Quite apart from the fact that no one trusts anyone else these days.

Orodreth: [grim smile]

How can they, when we cannot even trust ourselves?

[Gwindor bows and leaves, wearing a frown pretty much permanent now]

Chapter Text

Gower:

Masking disappointment with cheerful mien,
Tinuviel pursues gleam of hope half-seen.

[The Great Solar. Luthien -- back to her usual outfit -- comes in with Huan, to the not-surprising lull in conversation. Although she has the red gown folded up in a parcel in her hands, she keeps glancing around even after she's spotted Finduilas, playing with a couple of other luthenists. No luck, however -- though there is a suspicious flurry by one of the farther doors, as if someone has just dashed out upon spotting her.]

Luthien: [brightly]

Here's your dress, cousin. Thank you for the loan. Oh, and I clipped all the hair ornaments I could find into the neck of the shift. I'm afraid some of them must have come out.

Finduilas: [wary]

Just -- put it there, please. On that hassock.

[pause]

You could have had someone bring it to our House, you know.

Luthien:

Oh. You're right, I could have. Should I do that instead?

Finduilas: [rolling her eyes]

It doesn't matter now. Just -- just leave it there, I'll take care of it.

[pause]

I can't believe you didn't wear the shoes.

Luthien:

They didn't fit.

Finduilas:

And you didn't say anything?

Luthien: [shrugs]

It didn't matter, with a floor length skirt. --Besides, then I'd have been even taller.

[another pause, awkward for Finduilas at least, expectant for Luthien]

Finduilas: [finally]

Where are you going?

Luthien:

Just right here, by that clock thing.

Finduilas:

It isn't working -- he's got it apart again.

Luthien: [bland]

Oh, is that why he's got all those bits of crystal and wire on the floor around it? --Come on, milord, let's go thank Lord Celebrimbor for the fountain.

[She tugs Huan's collar and they cross over to the Chronometer; Finduilas, chagrinned, tries to ignore her, but keeps on paying attention even while she's playing. Luthien & Huan come up and sit beside Celebrimbor, flanking him -- he looks up and gives her a questioning look but doesn't open conversation]

Luthien: [low conversational tone]

Thank you for setting that up for me. It's helped. If I said that I thought I was being followed today, what would you say to that?

Celebrimbor:

That you were being paranoid--

[her expression darkens]

--but not necessarily incorrect.

[Luthien nods slowly]

Luthien:

I don't suppose you can tell me who. Or why.

Celebrimbor: [scanning the crowd, shakes his head]

--Too many possibilities.

[she looks disappointed but not surprised]

Luthien:

I need to ask you something -- about last night. This one you can answer.

[Celebrimbor nods warily in encouragement]

What did you mean by a "master-word"? Is it like a key? Something to close or open the gates?

Celebrimbor:

The Master Word . . . it's not a "word" of course, but a Word in the larger sense, a saying of power and binding words -- or rather, in this case, of unbinding. A key, all right, but not merely to the gates of a place. I've never seen one used -- never actually heard of one being employed, save in miniature for experimentation, but -- in theory -- it works by reversal, taking the energies of place that are trapped within each stone, indeed any object raised up and set in place, and using that very power to force the stones and structural elements apart . . .

[rapt in speculative imagination]

It should -- as I was taught -- unbind every stone one from the other, in the order of their setting, last to first, so that the structure is unfolded, outwards, opening slowly like an enormous flower, like a rose or a water lily, or more like a snowfall, perhaps, if a snowfall were like a fountain of stone . . . I'd love to see it, it would be spectacular beyond description. --But a great waste and a shame, of course.

[this last does not sound quite as sincere as what preceded it]

Luthien Is there a Master Word for Nargothrond?

Celebrimbor: [understanding perfectly what she's getting at]

Not that way. Nargothrond is built upon a natural system of caverns, not built up lfrom the ground. Maker's Words would have been used -- indeed, are, as work still goes on -- to aid in the process, but it is principally cosmetic, or at least not integral, to the city's foundation.

Luthien:

But not all of it is carved in one piece: I know that there are hallways that are not at all natural, and which aren't merely facings. Even the gate pillars are partly added to the living rock.

Celebrimbor: [shaking head, not unsympathetically]

It wouldn't work. The Gates are their own Working entirely. All that invoking a Maker's Word here would accomplish would be massive destruction and damage, but no outside access, I'm almost entirely certain.

Luthien:

Maker's Words -- but what about the Master Word?

Celebrimbor:

Even if there was one, and even if you had it, you couldn't use it. It would require an almost unimaginable amount of power to enforce it. It isn't a matter of merely invoking it, but of Unworking, -- you don't have to understand how it works, according to the theory, but you have to will it, without any hesitation or distraction, and it does help to know what you're doing as well. I would be very reluctant to attempt such a thing, on such a scale.

Luthien:

But the Master Word would open the Gates as well? It opens everything within its compass, you said. And if it took infinite power to wield it, there would be no point to it, would there, so while it shouldn't be easy, for obvious reasons, it shouldn't be impossible either . . . ?

Celebrimbor:

Yes. But it's no good. Assuming that there is one, because this was never intended to be a garrison at all, only two people would know it, so far as I know, and I'm neither of them. Not that either of us two would ever countenance such a deed, of course . . .

Luthien:

Who? Finrod of course, and . . . Orodreth? Being Regent?

Celebrimbor:

So indeed would I assume.

[Finduilas, catching the relevant word in the conversation, sets her lute down and comes over]

Luthien: [intense]

I need to get out of here.

Finduilas:

--What about my father?

Luthien: [innocent]

I was just remarking that he's the Regent.

Finduilas:

Everybody knows. People are going to think you really are crazy, Luthien.

Luthien: [raises her hands]

It isn't as though I can do anything about that.

[gets up]

Finduilas:

What are you doing now?

Luthien: [mildly]

Going for a walk along the ways Lord Curufin and his brother mapped out for me so that I don't get lost again. Hopefully. But I've got Huan, so I can just follow him back if I do.

[To Celebrimbor, who is frowning over some of the Chronometer's figures]

--Don't worry about getting it exactly right and finishing it. It's more like the world if you don't.

[she drifts off again, followed by the Hound. Celebrimbor frowns]

Celebrimbor:

How did she know that was what I was thinking? I never mentioned the design to her at all.

Finduilas: [shaking her head]

Well. Mortals say madness and prophecy go together. Perhaps it's true.

[they look at each other, both daring the other to say something about prior events. Both decline, however]

Chapter Text

Gower:

--Striving to ordain in plots and scheming dark,
both strong and subtle eke shall miss their mark--

[The royal apartments -- Celegorm is trying out several different bows and equipment cases. Curufin is reading.]

Celegorm: [dissatisfied]

Eh, I think I like my own better. This one's too long, this one's not springy enough, and the grip's all wrong for me on the other one. Which is a real pity, because it's got a simply beautiful case -- but it wouldn't do to break up the set. --Maybe I'll keep the quiver though; I really do like the closures on it, and it hangs well.

Curufin:

You talking to me or yourself, Cel?

Celegorm:

Oh, both. --Too bad it's so wet out, I'd like to go for a ride but no chance of raising a decent chase, what?

Curufin: [absently]

Probably. Why don't you go and work on cheering up Her Highness some more? You seemed to get along well with her last night. She actually smiled a few times that I saw.

Celegorm:

Yes. --But I'm worried about her, wandering like that. Sometimes she seems all there, and sometimes she really doesn't. I mean, what's to stop her from taking off in another crazy fit? Apparently she made some kind of scene at Finduilas' party, embarrassed herself and went off in a tizzy, though I didn't hear exactly what it was all in aid of.

Curufin:

Well, I doubt that there's much in the way of elegant manners in Thingol's backwoods palace. It wouldn't be hard to make a social gaffe, even if she was paying attention.

Celegorm: [frowning more]

And then -- and she would have been all right, if no one had stopped her, because Huan was with her -- but she was drifting around the water-gates, and had no clear idea of what she was doing down there when the guards asked her. I shudder to think what might've become of her, if she'd slipped out and Huan hadn't been along to bring her back!

Curufin: [sighing]

Yes, I heard. It's taken care of -- I spoke to the staff and arranged that she's to be accompanied at all times about the City. Honor guard, you know. She is a Princess, after all, and should be treated with all due respect. No need to worry about our little bird taking flight into the forest again.

Celegorm:

You don't suppose--

[A knocking at the outer door. Irritably:]

--What now?

Attendant:

Sirs, someone from the Regent's office is here with -- a request . . . ?

[Orodreth's Aide comes in and tries to hand Celegorm several sheets of parchment; the elder son of Feanor, weighing quivers, gestures to give it to the younger, which the Aide does, with every sign of distaste]

Aide:

Milords. My master requests that you peruse these and return the answers to him as promptly as you possibly can without sacrificng accuracy. Both accuracy and speed are of the utmost importance. Good day.

[With the shallowest bow possible he leaves; Curufin looks at the pages and snorts]

Curufin:

--Is this some kind of joke? He demands "The amount of resources consumed by your Household for the past three winters, with projected use for this coming season, as itemized on the accompanying lists, titled and ruled for your convenience" --Does the fool have nothing better to do than harrass us with paperwork?

[He crumples them up and flings them into the fireplace.]

What were you saying, there?

Celegorm: [shakes his head]

Nothing. Just -- silly notion. Never mind. Hey, do you think if I kept this quiver you could make a matching bowcase to go with it?

 

 

XXIII.ii

[Luthien's chamber. She is washing her face in the fountain, and is still crying a little. Huan is watching her with his head on one side ]

Luthien:

I suppose that was stupid of me. I should have guessed there'd be sentries on duty even at the river, even if it is inside the City -- it's still a gate. I'm going to have to think this through more carefully.

[suddenly struck]

--I shouldn't have involved you, either. I didn't even think of that -- but you have to obey your master, don't you? This is just as bad as it was at home. Only he wouldn't kill you for helping me, would he? You're immortal, aren't you? That's what he said when he was telling me all about you. Except for the Prophecy.

Huan: [whining]

[thumps tail twice]

Luthien:

But you didn't bark at the guards or anything when I was trying to find the controls for the wicket. Thank you.

[shaking her head]

I wonder how long it will be, before I really do go crazy here? Not long, I'm betting.

[sighs]

All right, starting from scratch -- what have I got to work with now?

Chapter Text

Gower:

None hath guessed how, desperate, Tinuviel should try
E'en without her work of power, from Nargothrond to fly --

[The royal apartments -- Curufin is working with a largish device on the central table, something made of polished metal that is hinged in many different ways and seemes to be composed equally of flat plates and curved bars -- it looks a little like vines growing over a pile of sheer-plane rock, in its current folded state. Celegorm enters; his brother only nods absently at him.]

Celegorm: [abrupt]

We have to do something else. She nearly walked out of here. Seems I was wrong.

Curufin: [suddenly attentive]

What about the guards?

Celegorm:

She called them in to look at her fireplace, said it was smokin' and could they see if the system was jammed up -- and while they were working it over she walked out right behind them.

Curufin: [ominously]

I'll have their names for that -- how could they be so unobservant, they're guards, dammit!

Celegorm: [shrugs, half-admiringly]

They swore that she was standing there right next to them, making admiring noises all the while. Turns out it was jammed -- only she'd done it herself -- bent it all up so it took a third of a bell to fix it. By that point she was already down in the stables, where she'd manage to convince everyone that she was just another kid looking after the horses -- only reason it didn't work is that the horses didn't recognize her and got all jumpy.

Curufin: [looking at the closed, locked casket on a small table by itself]

And no one saw her in the halls?

Celegorm:

Oh, they saw her all right -- they just had this idea that she was "someone who was supposed to be there doing something" no matter where she was. So -- question is -- what are we going to do about it? Just a bunch of little illusions, and a few folded baffles -- kids' tricks -- but all together it adds up to -- no bird in our hands. Nearly.

Curufin: [tapping his lips]

If she can work that kind of game upon that many people, sequentially and at once, then we need something that cannot be fooled. I wouldn't rely on any kind of a mechanical lock at all -- too easy to fox, and too easy to make it look fixed -- and I wouldn't rely on any lock alone, but in conjunction with a redoubled guard, I would think that a name-boundary set for her only should do the trick. You want to do it, or shall I?

Celegorm:

No, that's all right, I thought that's what you'd say but I wanted your input first. I'll go take care of it right now. --What is that?

Curufin:

I don't know . . . yet. Where is she? It might be awkward -- if you had to explain.

Celegorm: [smiles broadly]

I sicced her on Orodreth -- you know how he can't stop talking when he gets nervous. I figure they're good for another bell at least.

Curufin: [looking up in alarm]

You're not worried about what he might say to her?

Celegorm: [snorts]

Him? He's not going to say anything that will make his job any harder. And the more nervous he is the less he actually says in all those words. I'm not worried -- you think he wants to explain his role in the affair to her?

Curufin: [relaxing]

True. --Aha -- that's how that goes --

[unfolds the device into a huge openwork array]

--But what is it?

Celegorm:

Daft!

[shaking his head, he hurries off to set up the security system on Luthien's apartments]

Chapter Text

Gower:

 --'Gainst Time's all-consuming power, pleads 
Beauty in vain; likewise fair Justice, where the seeds 
of rivalry in rank Discontent hath flowered, and needs 
must go begging -- finding Law and Rule but broken reeds.

[The Regent's office. Orodreth is seated behind his desk, looking rather at bay himself, but not saying anything. Luthien is standing in front of him, arms akimbo, frowning; Huan is standing with her, looking a bit at a loss; he circles halfway around and lies down in front of the fireplace, muzzle on paws]

Luthien:

You've been avoiding me, cousin.

[He raises his eyebrows but doesn't bother denying it.]

--All that wierd formality and distant behavior, when I arrived, as if you'd never gone on hikes with us or spent the night dancing at Menegroth, and I thought you were just worried, and not knowing how to act in your new role, and trying to be proper about it -- But then I recognized it. I might have sooner, if you'd not hid from me so well, but eventually I remembered where I'd seen it before.

[narrowed Look]

In everyone who was ordered to look after my wants and needs whilst I was under house-arrest. It's guilt. Not quite as bad as Daeron's, but -- very near to it.

[sharply]

Why?

[he doesn't answer -- she leans over the desk, fiercely:]

--Level with me, Orodreth.

[He gives a sudden nervous laugh, and she glares at him]

Orodreth: [apologetic]

I'm sorry. It's just so -- so very unexpected, to hear mortal expressions like that, coming out of your mouth. Please forgive my levity.

Luthien: [severe]

There is nothing remotely amusing about our situation.

Orodreth: [completely somber]

No.

[she looks at him expectantly, but he keeps looking at her without saying anything]

Luthien: [sighing, runs her hand through her hair]

--Shall I spin this tale for you, then, and warp it too, I dare say, and leave the gaps and doublings for you to fix instead? It might be faster, at this rate. --Not that time matters to you, of course.

Orodreth: [upset]

--Luthien--

Luthien: [ignoring]

The only question is, where do I start? How long ago shall I begin? Don't worry, I'm not going to start at the Song -- but I do wonder how far back your part in this strain goes, and was it a trio, or merely a resting measure? If it was the former, they seem to have written your part out rather definitely as well--

[He understands what she's getting at and looks shocked, shaking his head in denial]

So you weren't part of it in advance. Not knowingly, at least. --That's something.

[Finally she takes the chair placed for her, not as a supplicant but as if she were conducting the interview by rights. With her head on one side, slowly (not hesitantly though):]

I think -- this discord begins in the Sudden Flame, then -- but only as the resumption of a theme long played. I remember a dinner-table story -- as should you, since you told it -- about swords being drawn on family members way before Morgoth resumed his old tune. --How long in any case, would it have been, would you like to bet, before one or another began to rehearse the burden of "We are the eldest, it should all be ours"--?

[pause]

And once again many voices joined in the chorus -- but how many, or how few, were raised against them this time?

[Orodreth looks away -- but has to meet her eyes again. Huan, on the floor, keeps looking anxiously from one to the other of them, not taking his head off of his paws.]

Chapter Text

Act III: SCENE XXV.ii [no dialogue]

[The halls outside the royal apartments: the Sage is reading in an alcove far down the corridor, but at just enough of an angle to allow visibility of the doors from where she's sitting. Nervously she takes a small casket out of her sleeve, as if checking to make sure it's still there, and then tucks it into the stack of books on her lap. After a moment she takes it out and puts it back into her sleeve again.]

[Curufin leaves the chambers with a small entourage; the Sage gets up and slowly approaches the door after they're out of sight. We see her engaging in a conversation with the guards at the door, explaining something about the manuscripts, and they gesture her to bring them inside -- but she hesitates, and after a brief pause hands them over instead and takes off.]

[Out of sight around the hallway she stops suddenly and slams back against the wall, eyes closed, biting her lip and clenching her hands -- she takes the box out, looks back over her shoulder, torn -- and puts it away again.]

Chapter Text

[The Regent's office. Luthien is pacing again, her arms folded, and halts leaning against the mantlepiece as the scene opens. Orodreth is looking at her anxiously]

Luthien:

Well. That was worse than I expected. --Which I should have expected. What's the best way to get into the castle unobserved? Are there any secret tunnels through those caves along the cliffs? Or is that too obvious? Probably.

Orodreth:

I'm afraid I don't understand what you're getting at.

Luthien:

If I can't get proper help, if you won't go openly against the Fortress, then I've got to try to infiltrate by stealth and trick my way in to get the keys to the dungeons. Since that was your base of operations, I'm assuming you know all the ins and outs of it, and I need to know everything I can so as to minimize the likelihood of actually getting caught while I'm pretending to be a prisoner there.

Orodreth: [aghast]

You're -- Luthien, you're insane.

Luthien:

No, just desperate. There's a difference.

Orodreth: [horrified laughter]

You -- no, you're not being rational. You cannot just trick your way in and walk through the Enemy's defenses as though you were -- were--

Luthien: [raising an eyebrow]

Bluffing my way through here? Through Doriath?

Orodreth: [rallying]

Walking through a place you already know, to some degree, where everything is somewhat familiar, at least, as opposed to a completely-unknown territory full of vigilant hostile soldiery and protected by very-real Enemy magic, without any sort of defenses to assist you? It isn't possible.

Luthien:

You could help me get my working back.

Orodreth:

Frankly, the mere fact that you're talking about trying to challenge Sauron on your own is enough to guarantee that I would never countenance returning your cloak to you, if I could be sure that that would be enough to dissuade you from this folly.

Luthien: [flinging up her hands]

Obviously it would make it much easier. But if I don't have it -- well, if I hadn't had to make it to escape, then I wouldn't have it now either, and I wouldn't know about it so I wouldn't miss it, and I'd still have to do the same thing. So it doesn't really make any difference, unless I let it, I'd say.

[The Regent looks bemused at this rapid assessment. Huan whines quietly.]

Orodreth:

Luthien. Believe me. I wish I could have your--

Luthien: [interrupts]

--Don't say "naive"--

[brief pause]

Orodreth:

--optimism. But there is nothing -- nothing -- about this plan of yours that warrants it. If it can even be called a plan. You're assuming that you will be able to even think clearly and react accordingly when you get there, and you're not taking into account at all the debilitating effects of the Necromancer's aura. It -- it generates a kind of solid, physical, terror that replaces the air itself around him.

Luthien:

Well, obviously it's going to be frightening going into hostile territory. That only stands to reason.

Orodreth:

This is entirely another matter. It -- it is as far beyond ordinary, rational/tt> apprehension of danger as that is beyond the mild concern one might feel that bad weather might spoil a planned festival. It -- Can you imagine a sound as loud as the Valaroma, which instead of making your heart leap, fills you with the same sort of awe and agitation but with horror, not gladness? Or a wind that fills you with utter nausea, as if it came from a battlefield, but there's neither sound nor smell, only the feeling of a black cloud full of spikes surrounding you, on all sides, wherever you turn? --That's what Sauron's power is like, and nothing like it at all -- for that's nothing but paltry, empty words -- as little to do with the real thing as saying the word "ice" should have--

[silence]

Luthien: [earnest]

I live with that every single day. Every night, every hour, every heartbeat, that's the way it is, exactly what you're describing. I simply have to get up and keep going. Otherwise I'd be curled in a corner somewhere, shaking. But I can't let myself -- I have to keep hoping. --And trying.

Orodreth: [aside]

The courage of ignorance . . . I, too, possessed that, once--

Luthien:

Besides, it isn't as though I'm completely oblivious, the way you make out. I did pay attention when Beren was telling me about his War. Sauron isn't completely invincible, Beren got him once, and tricked his minions until he had to give up.

Orodreth: [bemused]

That -- isn't -- what I'd understood of it--

Luthien: [impatient gesture]

He had to bring in massive numbers of troops and start burning down all of Dorthonion. That isn't invincible, omniscient power, that's just brute force; he couldn't win fairly. So -- he has weaknesses. The trick is using them. And finding them, of course.

[silence. Orodreth sighs.]

--Can you order my escorts to -- be conveniently distracted? Or are they all partisans of the Feanorions?

Orodreth: [shaking his head]

Some are, some not. Regardless of which I cannot give such an order, implicitly or otherwise. Whatsoever direct action I should take, should inevitably be reported upon. The consequences -- I cannot accept them. I have to protect what I can.

Luthien: [snorts]

They really have you outnumbered, don't they? Just the two of them, against all of Nargothrond, saying "War!" and it might as well be the whole horde of Angband, the way you don't dare stand up to them.

Orodreth: [grim]

--Not just two. And you weren't at Alqualonde. You weren't at the Breaking of the Leaguer. You do not know what you are talking about, Luthien. War is not something from a song or a story.

[silence]

Luthien:

What do you recommend? That I close my heart and soul and mind to truth and pretend I never knew otherwise? Let Beren die, let his name disappear from the world and live in the frivolity of the moment the way my parents want me to -- in spite of my loss -- the way you seem to be able to do?

Orodreth: [agonized]

Luthien--

Luthien:

Because I can't. I will not stop, not having come so far, not if it kills me, or worse. With help or without.

Orodreth:

What are you going to undertake to do now?

Luthien: [shakes head]

No. Better for both of us if you don't ask that.

Orodreth: [formal again]

I am most terribly sorry I can't help you, my lady--

Luthien: [brittle smile]

So am I.

[she gathers up her mantle around her, defiantly, and sweeps past the desk towards the door -- then stops, and looks back at him with a baffled, pitying expression]

--What was it?

[as he looks blank]

How did he fail you? --Was it because of Angrod and Aegnor? Did you blame him for sending them up there, or was it something else in the War?

Orodreth: [pale]

I -- I don't understand what you're trying to convey--

[she shakes her head with a wry expession]

Luthien:

Yes, you do. Or you'd not try to deny it.

[long pause. Orodreth lowers his eyes]

Orodreth: [whispering]

You're an only child, cousin. You haven't the experience to -- to understand -- what it was like -- being the last in the family -- and then 'Tariel, bracketed between those two, only ever known as someone else's brother -- with nothing deliberate in it at all, only that none could help following them, doing what they suggested, wanting to be noticed by them, and not noticing one at all -- and not being able to help the same, either--

Luthien: [sad]

No? --Are you sure you weren't one of the ones who listened to Melkor before he was Morgoth, too?

Orodreth:

--Ah--

[his defiance falls apart and he puts his head down on his hands, stricken. Luthien looks at him for a few seconds in frustration; then sits on the edge of the desk, rubbing his shoulders, her expression sympathetic]

Luthien:

I'm sorry, Orodreth, I really am. --But I can't do anything for your pain, and I can't grant you pardon, because you won't heed my advice, and there's no other way out of this. No one is going to come rescue us this time. No army out of Ossiriand, no Sun out of the West -- we're it.

[she stands and goes out, leaving him there, while Huan hastily scrambles up and trots out after her]

Chapter Text

Gower:

    --Hot-wielded in needful time, words
may cross purposes no less than swords--

[Luthien's suite -- she is sitting on the floor looking up at Huan and talking to him, and does not apparently notice when Finduilas walks in behind her, having tapped a few times on the open panel but not gotten an answer]

Luthien:

So then I told him that I could accept that that was how he felt, but I couldn't really see where he was coming from at all, and that since he couldn't explain it any better himself he could hardly expect me to understand it either. And then I asked him -- again -- why he didn't just come up and say something to us, or to me, privately, even, and what was up with the lurking off in the distance and watching us from hillsides like some kind of spy, and he got all twitchy again. --At that point I just gave up because it was clear that I wasn't going to get an answer because he didn't have one, and that my guess was as good as his.

[sighs]

Which so far as I can tell comes down to a combination of pride and embarrassment -- though actually that's the same thing, really -- too proud to admit that he hadn't been able to see me as a grown-up and a person in my own right, not just "Elu and Melian's little girl," until someone else from outside had first, and then too embarrassed to admit that he'd spied on us--

[biting]

and so logically he just kept doing it, and moping about hoping someone would notice and solve his problem for him. --Which happened --

Finduilas: [worried]

Luthien, what are you doing?

Luthien: [looking up but not getting up]

Explaining about Daeron to Huan.

Finduilas: [remaining standing]

--Why?

Luthien:

Because he wanted to know.

Finduilas:

But -- he's a Hound!

Luthien: [narrow look]

If you really think he's just a dog, and no more, then you're blinder than I thought.

Finduilas:

Well, obviously he's different -- but he's still an animal, Luthien.

Luthien: [staring hard]

That's funny, I don't see anything wrong with your eyes.

Finduilas: [ignoring this]

If you need to talk to someone, there are people here who can help you. I'm here.

Luthien:

But I don't want to talk to you. If I have to talk to anyone in this horrible place, I'd rather talk to Huan.

Finduilas: [exasperated]

Luthien, this is not a horrible place. You make it sound like Angband or Dungortheb!

Luthien:

Even if I didn't need to save Beren I couldn't stay here. It's making me physically ill.

Finduilas: [patient but strained]

No, you're making yourself sick with your unreasonable behavior.

Luthien:

I need to get out of here. I'm suffocating! I've never been underground this long in my life!

Finduilas: [a bit patronizing]

Oh, you wouldn't really rather be outside in the cold and the wet. It's practically Winter.

Luthien:

Before I was brought here I'd been living in trees for the past month. They're much better when you can get out of them, by the way.  And my cape works perfectly well at keeping the rain off me.  --I really don't understand why you expect me to be grateful for being kept in a beautiful prison rather than a gloomy one. At least in a dungeon there's no pretense of hospitality, and no one expects anything of the prisoner but escape!

Finduilas: [sighs]

You're not a prisoner--

Luthien: [interrupting]

No? Then I can go? All right then, let's--

Finduilas:

Don't be tiresome -- you know that's impossible. You can't just leave--

Luthien: [interrupting]

That would, I'd say, be the exact definition of a prisoner.

Finduilas: [reaching down to touch her shoulder]

It's for your own good -- we're simply concerned for your safety, cousin.

[Luthien impatiently shakes her off]

Luthien: [very slowly and forcefully.]

I've heard that one before.

Finduilas:

Well, it's true, you--

Luthien: [interrupting]

Cousin, if your fiance was taken prisoner by the Enemy and you knew it, would you just stay here making bowls and earrings in your studio? Or would you take your torches and your chemicals and your iron rods and do whatever you could with what you had?

[Finduilas laughs nervously]

Well?

Finduilas:

Don't be silly, Luthien.

Luthien:

Silly? You mean you wouldn't?

Finduilas:

Not that it could ever happen, but -- what could I do? I couldn't just go traipsing across the wilds singlehandedly to attack the Enemy, that's absurd--

[longish pause]

Luthien:

You know something? I'm going to make myself very unpopular with you by saying this, but -- I don't think you really love him. Because if you did, you wouldn't be able to imagine that possiblity without getting upset. And there wouldn't be any question in your mind about the necessity of doing whatever it takes to save him.

[Finduilas gives a short laugh, shaking her head in dismay]

Luthien: [relenting]

Look, I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, just to get you to think--

Finduilas:

Oh, I'm not upset. Everyone goes through stages of romantic idealism and juvenile fixation in their lives. Eventually one grows out of it, though.

[Luthien gives her a Look]

Luthien:

Finduilas -- I'm older than your parents.

Finduilas: [kindly]

Yes, but you don't act like it.

Luthien:

. . . !

Huan:

[whines]

Finduilas:

--Besides, it could never happen, anyway.

Luthien:

Oh, that's a principle to run your life on! "It can't happen so I won't worry about it" --? Wasn't that what they used to tell your High King about Morgoth breaking through the siege? Your uncles complained about that to my parents lots of times, how nobody listened to them -- especially your precious "Lords of Nargothrond" here -- and unfortunately, they were right, weren't they?

[pause]

Finduilas:

I can't believe you're so callous.

Luthien:

Oh! Honestly! Just go away, I can't take this any more. If my time's going to be wasted in prison, I shouldn't have to put up with being treated like an idiot on top of it.

Finduilas: [sighing]

Can I bring you anything else? More books? Some music?

Luthien: [deadpan]

How about a pick-axe?

[The Regent's daughter gives her a sympathetic look and leaves.]

Luthien: [shouting]

Shut the door behind you, please!

[aside]

If I'm a prisoner, let's not pretend otherwise, all right?

Huan: [getting up and pacing]

[several short whines]

Luthien: [shaking her head, amazed]

I just don't get it. What's wrong with her? --But -- well, I suppose -- I mean, given that everyone in her family did that, just up and walked out on each other, not knowing if or when they'd ever be coming back -- perhaps it doesn't seem irrational to her. I wish I hadn't been too polite to ask Galadriel about it, after. I mean, it might not be any of my business, strictly speaking -- but then we are family after all, so on another level it is. I'm beginning to think that all the Noldor are crazy. --Or maybe it's just everyone who left Aman.

Huan:

[short loud bark]

Luthien:

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings either. But I'm not used to things that make absolutely no sense at all.

[jumps to her feet and runs to the door]

I have to get out of here!

[she flings wide the hallway entrance and shouts at the Guards:]

What in Morgoth's name is wrong with you people?

[She tries to slip past them but they stop her, gently but firmly, and lead her back into the parlor. She yells after them as they close the outer door again, panting:]

Damn you to Angband! Let me go!

[As soon as the door is shut she stops looking distraught and helpless -- though still crazed. Feral grin:]

--That'll put them off their guard for now.

[She gathers up her mantle and starts knotting fruit and biscuits from the bowls on the table into the corners before going over to the door. To Huan, whispering:]

--You won't tell anyone, will you?

Huan: [worried look]

[thumps tail, twice]

Luthien: [touching the door, sings very slowly]

I love my love and well he knows-- 
I love the ground whereon he goes 
and if my love I no more should see 
my life would quickly fade away-- [opens the door quietly and walks out without any fuss]

Chapter Text

Gower:

--Her fears full-formed, 
the captive guest of welcome well-outworn 
herself would free, her hopes stillborn—

[The Armories. Celegorm is coming back from the practice area, grinning broadly, helm under his arm, while various warriors give him wary and/or dirty looks. All are a bit disheveled. Curufin shoves through in the opposite direction, grabs his brother, and drags him behind a rack of spears.]

Curufin: [urgent whisper]

You're not going to believe this--

Celegorm: [hand jumping to swordhilt]

--They came back?!

Curufin:

No. She got out again.

Celegorm:

I swear I worked it properly!

Curufin:

I know you did. --Don't worry.  The main security system stopped her, at the Gates -- not the guards, though. They didn't notice her until the alarms started up -- seems she isn't any good at guessing passwords -- and then they brought her back inside to her rooms.

Celegorm:

So how did she do it?

Curufin: [grimly]

Apparently -- by whatever rules govern the rules of Arda -- an aftername given by a human is just as good as any other. --I wouldn't have thought of that either.

Celegorm:

So . . . she just . . . walked right through it?

Curufin:

Didn't even realize it was there, apparently. Didn't stop her at all.

Celegorm: [frowning]

I don't like that. Mortals shouldn't be able to have anything to do with power.

Curufin:

I agree. One more oversight on the part of the gods for the list. But -- one good thing's come of it, now everyone realizes that she's -- eccentric -- trying to run out barefoot and coatless with no provisions into the woods at this time of year. So I didn't even have to look responsible for suggesting that she be -- politely -- restrained; someone else already suggested it to the Master of Defensive Illusions and he took care of it. I removed all trace of your working before he got there, by the way.

Celegorm: [apprehensive]

Do you think she'll be angry about it?

Curufin: [shrugs]

Probably. But not at you. What I wonder is if she'll say anything, or pretend she hasn't noticed it. Given her family's pride I'm guessing the latter. --Hey, want to go a few rounds? I could do with the exercise.

Celegorm:

  Sure -- I'm not tired at all. This was childs' play.

[They come out into the floor and Curufin starts taking down practice gear.]

Celegorm: [to bystanders]

Anyone else up for some more bruises? No takers? Oh well--

Curufin:

Oh, you don't want to fight children, you want real competition!

[They head off towards the pells; the native Nargothronders scowl after them]

First Warrior:

Someone needs to flatten that lout.

Second Warrior:

Which one?

First Warrior:

--Both of them.

Third Warrior:

You up for it?

[Bitter looks all round]

 

Chapter Text

Gower:

Not for the first time nor the last, recalling words hard-spoken, 
Tinuviel rueth yet again the fact of them unwitting broken, 
ne'er to trust repose in kindred souls, whose loyalty's but token—

    [In the solar of her private wing, Luthien looks at the artificial Northern 'window' and leans on the stone frame as if it really overlooked a landscape.]

Luthien: [hardly more than a whisper]

[sings]

The trees they do grow high 
And the leaves they do grow green 
Many is the time my true love I've seen 
Many an hour I've watched him all alone 
   -- He's young but he's daily growing
[She sighs, dispiritedly tracing the carved ornament with her forefinger. Behind her Celebrimbor enters the solar and watches her in silence; sensing his entrance, she gives no sign of awareness.]

Oh, what's the use? I can't sing underground, where's no air, no light, no wind or stars to give me voice. And even if I could -- I set so much of my power into my Work, heart and soul and song and love -- it's as much myself as these my hands are now.  I could not go far from it, or far without it, or do much after if I did, I'm afraid.

[After a moment she begins to sing again:]

Father, dear father, you've done me great wrong --
You've married me to a great lord's son --
I am twice twelve and he is but fourteen!  
  -- He's young but he's daily growing

Daughter, dear daughter, I've done you no wrong
I've married you to a noble lord's son --
When he's grown, he'll make a lord to wait upon
   -- He's young but he's daily growing

One day as I was lookin' o'er my father's castle wall 
I spied all the boys a-playing at the ball 
My own true love was the flower of 'em all 
   --He's young but he's daily growing

At the age of fifteen he was a married man 
At the age of sixteen the father of a son 
At the age of seventeen his grave it was green 
   And death had put an end to his growing --

[speaking without looking around to Celebrimbor]

That isn't how it was, of course.  Quite the opposite, in fact. But there's something in their story that calls to my heart. I don't even know if they were real people: it might have happened long ago in the Forgotten East, but mortals often tell stories that are about no one real, and yet they seem to be about everyone. I've learned so many, many stories about mortal Men that are nothing like what our sages believe.

[caustic]

--When will the host of Nargothrond be ready to set forth?

Celebrimbor:

I cannot say.

Luthien:

Then why did you bother to answer my message, if you haven't any news?

Celebrimbor:

I only wanted to tell you -- that you should not let your hopes soar too high -- lest the fall be too much for you.

Luthien:

You could come with me. You could help us. You're good at technical stuff, everyone says: you could figure out how to get past the security systems. I've never done anything like that.

Celebrimbor:

But you escaped from Doriath, in a rather . . . complicated and . . . technically involved way, I understand?

Luthien:

That was just talking people into doing what I wanted, people who don't stop to think about what you're asking, or why, or know they shouldn't be obstructing you in the first place. The rest was easy.

Celebrimbor: [pained smile]

-- As you're doing to me at this moment, my lady.  Congratulations:

it nearly worked.

Luthien:

But I'm asking you -- as a friend -- or one who could be a friend --

Celebrimbor:

I'm afraid, Your Highness, if you're looking for friendship -- you will not find it here in Nargothrond.  Not now.

Luthien: [slowly, chillingly]

Then it is true -- that there is something dark in Nargothrond, something biting at its roots, draining out the Light from its soul. I've felt it, but told myself it was just my own fears, and the oppressiveness of the hills over us.

Celebrimbor:

My lady --

Luthien:

Don't "my lady" me!

Celebrimbor:

I can't -- my father, my uncle, they would --

Luthien:

Join us.

Celebrimbor:

But duty to my kin--

Luthien: [savagely]

--What's "kin"? What's the word worth, if it doesn't mean friend first? What does it add, to friendship? I have no kin.

Celebrimbor:

You don't understand -- it's the Curse, the Doom, it cannot be denied --

Luthien:

I deny it. I will not give my beloved and my friend to an undeserved fate, because you ex-Valinoreans are fools, and the Sons of Feanor mad, wicked, and beyond all help. --Choose, Lord Celebrimbor, choose -- before it's too late.

[He goes out again, silently; she bows her head against the stone mural]

Chapter Text

Gower:

--Her simple efforts foiled to fly, 
the Princess-prisoner turns to guile; 
Simplicity she feigns, maintains, sly 
allowing all to judge her fool this while . . .

[In the antechamber. Luthien is seated at the table, with Celegorm across from her. Huan is drowsing beside his master's chair, his head on his outstretched forelegs. Luthien wears an expression of somewhat strained politeness, but she would be polite to Morgoth himself if it might get her out of here. Not knowing her moods, perhaps, Celegorm does not seem to notice the strained atmosphere at first.]

Celegorm:

So we thought to find wolves on that day as well, but instead we found something amazing. --Guess what it was.

Luthien:

A boar?

[Celegorm shakes his head]

A bear?

[Celegorm again shakes head in negative]

A wild ox?

[Again the negative response. He is smiling guilelessly.]

I give up.

Celegorm:

A deer.

Luthien:

But aren't there many deer hereabouts? Why is that amazing?

Celegorm:

It was a white one. Don't see too many of those -- wolves get 'em all first, because they show up like a star in the dark woods.

Luthien:

And did you catch the white hart?

Celegorm:

Doe. It was a 'white doe, white as snow, shining bright as she did go--'

[as if to say: See? I can give you poetry too...]

Led our hounds and horses a merry dance, she did.

Luthien: [not liking where this seems to be going.]

Poor thing!

[deciding to play along for the sake of information/confirmation]

Did you catch her?

Celegorm:

Mm . . . not yet.  She still is wild for to hold, though I think she could be tamed.

Luthien:

What will you do when you catch her?

Celegorm:

Why eat her, of course! --Only joking, dear lady, I would never harm such a rare and lovely beast, but keep her safe in a walled garden filled with every manner of flower and tree she could long for, where no wild animals could ever come near to injure her.

Luthien:

But she is a wild creature too, is she not?

Celegorm:

Only because she hasn't met a worthy master. Her nature is far too gentle for the wolf-haunted wilderness and the harsh winters of the world beyond.

Luthien: [frowning decidedly]

I don't think that wild animals should be trapped and held. My mother's nightingales are never caged.

Celegorm: [looking at her with sad eyes]

You don't seem to be amused by my company. I am crushed, positively crushed.

Luthien: [apologetic]

My lord, the hour grows late, and I grow weary -- of waiting.

[before he can make too much of her last words, she adds in a piqued tone, and much lighter:]

--Besides, you laughed at me about that -- that bug, the other night.

Celegorm: [smiling indulgently at her]

Oh, but you've got to admit it was funny.

Luthien:

It was in my clothes, and it was not funny at all.

Celegorm:

Well, at least I killed it for you.

Luthien:

I didn't want it killed, I just wanted it off me.

Celegorm:

I don't see how you can be so scared of a little beetle -- well, all right, not so little -- but still, there have to have been beetles in Doriath. Whatever did you do, traveling through the forest?  Trees are full of 'em, don't you know?

Luthien:

I'm not scared of them, I just don't like their claws and feet and the pointy armor on them and the oily way they move.  They make me think of how I imagine Glaurung, or those monsters that roamed around in the Outer Darkness before the Sun. And I'm always afraid their legs will pull off when I try to get them loose.  Anyway, I expect them outside -- not indoors, in a place supposed to be impenetrable by invasion!

[brief pause]

Beren never makes fun of me about beetles.  He just moves them someplace else, usually before I notice them.  --At least that's what he thinks, and I let him go on thinking that I haven't noticed. He's very kind.

Celegorm: [his smile unchanging, and his voice still pleasant]

You know, I don't really want to hear about Barahirion any more.

Luthien: [in the same manner]

You know, I'd rather gathered that.

Celegorm:

So where does that leave us?

Luthien:

With nothing more to talk about, my lord.

Celegorm:

Oh, I'm sure we can find something. Your eyes -- your lips -- your hair --

[He reaches out and takes her hand as he speaks. He does not hurt her, but his grip is fast.]

Luthien: [tersely]

My hand, my lord --

Celegorm:

--is lovely. [lifts and kisses her fingers]

Luthien: [pulling back to no avail]

Let go.

Celegorm: [earnestly]

Let me first convince you that you deserve no less than the best, and will be satisfied with no inferior thing, by disclosing to you the currents of my heart--

Luthien:

-- Lord Celegorm, let go of me!

Celegorm: [smiling widely]

Say 'please.'

Luthien: [through her teeth]

Let. Go!

Celegorm: [pulls her closer, so that she must rise from her seat and lean towards him]

You don't really want that, you know you don't --

[Luthien braces her left hand on the table edge, puts her foot on the arm of his chair and kicks hard, sending him over backwards with a crash. When he involuntarily lets go of her in reaction she flings herself spinning across the table with the momentum and braces herself to fling that over at him too. She may not be a match for a warrior who spends his free time hunting big game, but her arboreal upbringing and art haven't left her a lightweight either.]

Celegorm: [panting, grinning, a mad light in his eyes]

--Not a shy nightingale at all, but a falcon she is! Foot me, will you? You'll pay for that strike, milady, with a softer touch. Ah, but you'll fly to my hand soon enough --

[He moves toward her, and she moves sideways along the table, keeping maximum distance between them]

Luthien:

Stay back!

Celegorm:

Else what?

[A huge grey wave crashes between him and the table, knocking him backwards. Huan half-turns, blocking all access to Luthien, his fangs bared.

Huan: [loud snarling growl]

! ! !

Celegorm:

Huan!?!

Huan:

[series of short, imperative barks]

Celegorm:

Down, I say! Down!!!

Huan:

[drawn-out growl, ending in a sharp, reproachful bark]

[He continues to block his master's efforts to flank him. It is a standoff, as Celegorm is unwilling to go hand-to-teeth with a dog the size of a horse.]

Luthien: [her voice a bit ragged, but cold and tearless]

Lord Celegorm, you will leave now, and not return until you have learned better than to assail a guest in her own chambers.

[Celegorm stands still, his face growing ashen, his breathing growing unsteady with something like fear now.]

Celegorm: [shaken at his own bad behavior and loss of control]

Y-your Highness, please underst--

Luthien:

--Go.

[There is no relenting or uncertainty in her expression. The Noldor lord accepts his dismissal, turning his anger on his dog instead of himself.]

Celegorm: [savagely]

Huan. --Heel.

[Huan drops down to an alert crouch between Luthien and Celegorm. He is clearly not going anywhere just now -- but just as clearly able to go anywhere fast if he needs to]

Celegorm:

You treacherous Hound!

Huan:

[angry bark]

Celegorm:

You'll follow anyone who gives you sweetmeats, you wolf-at-heart!

Luthien:

Please. Leave. Now.

[Celegorm cannot think of anything else to say.  As he stalks out, Huan rises and trots over to push the door all the way shut with his nose. Safely shielded behind it, Luthien at last dares to give in to stress and sinks down to the tiles, shaking. Huan returns and sits beside her, and she hugs him, leaning against the Hound's massive shoulder, crying into his coat.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

Conscience belated in full weight returning as of boulders, 
     Lord Celegorm seeks to shift this burden from his shoulders—

[The royal apartments. Curufin is rummaging through chests and caskets, having covered the table with boxes and their contents. Opening yet another he takes out a handful of gold chains and links, and jingles them before tossing them casually into a pile with other ingots and piecemetal. Celegorm enters looking distraught, shuts the door hard behind him]

Curufin:

What's wrong?

Celegorm: [looking around warily]

Is this place secured?

Curufin Of course -- always. What's the matter?

Celegorm:

I went to visit the Princess again.

Curufin:

Things didn't go well?

Celegorm:

I've ruined it. I -- I don't know what came over me -- I've ruined everything.

Curufin:

You didn't tell her!?!

Celegorm:

I didn't need to, she'd already guessed. I -- I frightened her, Cur. I rushed her -- rushed at her, not like I was a person but like some damned unreasoning brute of a two-year-old colt just turned loose with the herd--

Curufin: [dryly]

And did you get your jaw kicked in for it?

Celegorm:

Close enough. Now she won't even let me apologize to her.

[wildly]

I don't understand! I'm Eldar -- not some animal, or Man hardly better than animal -- how could I be overcome, how could my reason be overthrown by passion in such a -- a counter-productive way? Because things were going so well -- she really seemed pleased to see me, to talk to me, --right up until I terrified her!

Curufin: [musing]

Well, there's always 'Brim -- I think he's intoxicated with her, too. . . perhaps we should steer that way, eh? I don't think he's ever done anything incautious in his life--

Celegorm:

No! -- No, I think we should stick with our original plan.

Curufin: [dawning realization]

You've fallen for her. Hah!

[Celegorm scowls at him]

Curufin: [frowning]

She can't really prefer Survival Boy to you, can she? Obviously old Shadows is right and she's under a spell. But who could put a spell on one of the Kindred? Even if she is a Dark Elf. Could he have been an Enemy agent after all...?

Celegorm: [uncomfortable with this self-deception now]

She's hardly that -- and he's as shallow and obvious as they come. That's not Morgoth's style at all in turning double-agents. He's not twisted, just insane.

Curufin:

Are you really in love with her? Not just the illusion going out of control and the act taking on its own reality? I mean, I know all the advantages and reasons -- I thought of them myself -- but she's hardly the equal of one of us, regardless of the almost-blasphemous lineage she claims.

Celegorm:

Act? The act was -- that it was ever an act. How can I begin to describe what it is about her -- that queenly way of going and the flashing look in her eyes when she gets angry  -- she -- she glows almost, like silver hot in the mold, and she stands there in that ratty old dress of hers with her hair chopped off like a slave's, and -- laugh not, but I tell you it's as though one of Them stood there, as though Varda walked in disguise, standing an arm's length away. --And yet she seems so approachable, with that cute little half-skip in her walk and that quaint old-fashioned accent of hers . . . Don't tell me you're unaffected by it, little brother! Everyone watches her -- no one can help it!

Curufin: [shrugs]

She's aesthetic enough -- or would be if she took care of herself -- and the kingdom she will inherit should any, ah, tragic accident befall Elwe is more than charm enough for anyone. But the fact that you feel this way obviously means that you're meant for each other. "Soul mates" and all that.

Celegorm: [sarcastic]

Only she doesn't know it, somehow--

Curufin:

She hasn't thought about it carefully. I'm sure that once I've talked things over with her and forced her to look at facts, to think carefully about the realities -- the impossibilities -- of her obsession, then she will realize how flattered, and and how honored, she is, and ought to be, that you've stooped to notice her. You know that I can make anyone see reason, you mustn't worry that I can't deal with this, too. Now -- sit down and tell me what happened, exactly, so I know what I have to work with . . .

Chapter Text

Gower:

Friendless, imprisoned, fearful and distraught, 
Tinuviel awaits in golden cage she knows not what, 
--yet not all forsaken, though her own folk heed her naught: 
one still heeds her, attends her, still supports her cause, 
both lesser and greater than his lord, wrestling with the laws 
that set Duty against Duty, for Elf, for Mortal, for those with paws--

[Luthien is pacing back and forth still, running her hands along the carvings on the walls, while Huan lies down in the hallway connecting the solar with the private chambers, watching her alertly with mournful eyes.]

Guard:

My lady, the Lord of Aglon-and-Himlad is here to speak to you.

Luthien: [very curt]

Which one?

Guard:

Er -- Lord Curufin.

Luthien:

Show him in.

[Curufin enters, indicating dismissively that the attendant should close the doors behind him. He looks closely at Luthien, appraising her state-of-mind. Note: Curufin never raises his voice throughout the following exchange.]

Luthien: [before Curufin has a chance to speak]

--You may tell your brother, my lord, that I will accept his apology only with the tangible mark of his penitence -- that is to say, when he returns my cloak to me. And the best horse in your stables, in reparation.

Curufin: [innocent]

I beg your pardon? Your Highness, I fear I haven't the least notion of what you're speaking about.

Luthien:

You mean you're not here to bring his apologies, since I forbade him my presence in his own person? Or perhaps you haven't heard--?

Curufin:

I am here on my brother's behalf, yes, -- but I'm afraid you're mistaken as to the nature of my visit. I am here to approach you with formal notice of my brother's suit as claimant to your hand in marriage.

[Luthien stares at him in total shock]

I steadfastly urge you to accept him, without hesitation, as a proposal which will do you honor and increase your estate in Middle-earth, bestowing upon you and your family not only rank and prosperity and widened realm, but a connection with the highest House of the noblest race of the Eldar, -- a fair exchange, for your fair self, your Highness.

[long pause]

Luthien: [slowly and emphatically]

I am betrothed to Beren. I will never love another. --Why is this so hard to understand? Is my accent too strange? I understand your Sindarin perfectly well -- and Beren understands me, even though his dialect is far different from ours. --Or is everyone in Nargothrond just deaf?

Curufin: [just as slowly and emphatically]

Beren is dead. --Deal with it.

Luthien: [alight]

No! I would know it, if he were.

Curufin:

Are you so sure of that?

Luthien:

--Would you know if the Sun were struck out of the sky? Even here, even in this buried place where I cannot feel her, I would know. The same way I'd know it, if he was no more beneath the Stars -- Arda being dark and lifeless would tell me!

Curufin: [shaking his head]

Such the romantic, Lady Luthien -- though it is charming indeed. But you are old enough to put aside such childish fancies and face facts, and the facts are thus:

Barahirion is no fit mate for such as you, nor will you in any case ever set eyes on him again. Better, then, to take what is available to you, and freely offered, and to your great advantage, and put your mortal folly from your mind -- end this war of yours with your parents, and make in your own person peace between our estranged Houses, and enjoy the rewards of your rationality.

Luthien:

If you have no wish to hazard yourself in rescue of my true love nor your kin, my lord, and don't care to strike at our common foe in deepest insult possible -- then let me go on my way as I've been asking, and I'll do it myself. You have no right to keep me here, and you know it.

Curufin:

What, without your hair-cloak even?

Luthien:

If I must, though I would rather not.

Curufin: [patronizing, extreme "grown-up to little girl" singsong]

And what will you do when you get there?

Luthien:

Whatever I have to. For myself, I fear nothing.

Curufin: [wry smile]

Did you know my cousin Aredhel?

Luthien: [thrown by the change of subject]

No -- she's Turgon and Fingon's sister, right? Didn't they go off somewhere on their own, she and Turgon and the Kindred at Nevrast, and drop out of sight completely? That's what we'd heard.

Curufin:

Almost completely. Some whiles back she came to visit us at Aglon, and stayed a few seasons, but unfortunately we were visiting our brother Caranthir in his province and missed her. We discovered when we came back and found her gone, that she had decided to go exploring and looking for unclaimed territory of her own -- somewhere still perhaps within the whole of Beleriand that your father lays claim to, but beyond the area he actually administers -- and from which his Rangers had prohibited her party's crossing. Now she was an Elf-maid warrior- trained and used to long riding and hard travel, not to say a Noldor lady of high degree, so you would think her far better equipped to journey safely through the wild lands than a Gray-elven girl sheltered in the artificial confines of Doriath, -- would you not?

Luthien:

I would guess so -- I've heard a fair bit about the Crossing of the Ice from our cousins over the course of their stays with us, and it's nothing I can even begin to imagine -- though I suppose when one has no other alternative, one can manage almost anything. Or else die trying, of course.

Curufin: [briefly checked]

Quite so. --As a matter of fact, she made it through that part of the country north of you where Ungoliant once stayed -- I believe you are at least generally familiar with its hazards? -- totally alone, since her warrior escort was lost in the web of illusions over the land and she could not find them, and in their honor refused to give up the mission they had died upon, before reaching our domain. So you need not guess at it.  And she still disappeared without a trace, for years of the Sun, until one day we discovered that she'd been taken in marriage by Eol of Nan-Elmoth --

Luthien:

Eol? My father's cousin the crazy hermit?

Curufin:

The same. And when I say "taken" I mean just that. My agents spotted her flying cross-country at top speed with a single squire, who we later learned to be her son, because her husband showed up not long after absolutely furious and demanding that we help him track her down. I sent him packing, needless to say -- but nobody knows what happened to them. --Unless you've heard?

[pot::kettle suspicion mode]

Perhaps you know all of this already and you're just letting me talk -- perhaps you knew it all along, and even more of the story, and perhaps the ending? --My lady.

Luthien:

No. That's isn't me.

[loudly unspoken -- That's you--]

Eol never had anything to do with us if he could possibly avoid it, which was basically all the time. We finally got a rumour through the Wandering Folk that he'd up and left without a trace, and we never heard word to the contrary. I hadn't even heard that he had started a family. He never had anything to do with the Kindred except for a few hired hands to help him with his forge -- the only people I ever heard he chose to associate with were the Dwarves, because of their shared hobbies.

Curufin: [stung into momentary distraction]

Metals-technology is not a hobby -- not like the performing arts. It's extremely useful, not to mention being a sign of civilization and culture.

Luthien: [shrugs]

As you please.

[frowns]

--Why was she traveling, anyway?

Curufin: [haughtily]

We of Aman are not obliged to answer to anyone for our comings and goings.

Luthien:

I just wondered because it seems like the kind of thing one would need a good reason to do, if they'd gone to such trouble to disappear, and perhaps she had some important messages for the High King or something like that, but I'd think they would have said so to our Border Guard in that case, and my father isn't -- except this once -- completely unreasonable.

[gesturing emphatically]

In fact -- being Noldor aristocracy with all that you've impressed me that that entails -- how could she have been kept a prisoner against her will for all those years? Wouldn't that be as unlikely as cousin Galadriel being held hostage? Especially by Eol-the-hermit, who really is a "Dark-elf," and awfully close to the Dark side as well, given that he cursed the lease payment for Nan Elmoth. At least that's what my mother thinks.

[with a challenging look, dropping all masks of courtesy]

--Actually, I'm surprised you didn't get along with him just fine.

[Curufin gives her a sharp glance but does not rise to the bait.]

He acted as though it was a mortal insult for us to request some payment in return for having complete and exclusive title to a very extensive section of Beleriand, and what he came up with was practically an insult in itself -- even before we looked at it closely. One sword, for deed in perpetuity, I ask you, and then to say that we should be flattered because it was one-of-a-kind. Which it wasn't, it turned out, because he'd made another from the same bit of thunderbolt- iron for himself. So given the similiarity of your attitudes towards Doriath, I'd expect you to make common cause rather than fight.

Curufin: [smiling]

Whatever your opinion, or your family's opinion, of us -- certain facts remain, Princess of Doriath. Your father's laws do not extend here, nor can he protect you past his domain. Beren is not here to defend you -- from what you have said, he cannot even defend himself. In a short while -- short by any measure that our people use -- he will, for all intents and purposes, no longer exist. You have gone wandering alone in the wilds like a stray lamb, and like a stray lamb you are prey for whatever wolfish beast should chance upon you. It would be the part of wisdom to reckon with facts, your Highness, and to accept the realities of your present situation.

[grimly serious]

Remember the story of my cousin -- the true story, and consider your chances, set against hers. You Dark-elves haven't our resistance to the dark, after all.

Luthien:

I never thought of us like that. I always felt that my mother brought Aman with her wherever she was.

Curufin:

What a delightful notion. But do you really think you're the equal of any of us? Now that you're outside her protection?

Luthien: [defiantly]

I am not without all resources myself, my lord!

Curufin: [tilting his head back to look sarcastically at her]

Indeed. Then might I ask why you haven't left already? --I think we both know very well that such scant power as you had you have no longer, and cannot Work again. The reality is -- that you are one and we are many, and you have no recourse but to accept that fact. Or, perhaps, not to accept it -- but learn the truth of it all the same.

[silence]

It could be worse: Nargothrond is a rich realm, and shall be richer yet under proper governance, and you will lack for nothing here -- and my brother is overwhelmed by your radiant beauty, and honors you as highly as any Noldor maid, and will let no harm come to you . . . and he is even among the Foremost acounted handsome, and his prowess in the field unmatched, and his temper most gracious so none do cross him. You could do far worse, my lady.

Luthien: [speaking very fast and nervously, her eyes fixed on Curufin]

There is a story of Marach out of the Forgotten Days, my lord, in which a mortal lady was born under a Doom to be the most beautiful of all her age, and so she was promised to a mighty sovereign from before the hour of her birth, and held in a lonely place where none might see her before she was of an age to be given to him, as was the custom in those days of the East, but a hunter whose Doom it was to find her came singing upon the house where she was held in secret and she heard his song and fled with him, and his brothers defended them, and there was great war as was foretold in the lady's Doom --

[weighting the next words particularly]

-- but at last they were betrayed to their deaths by a lesser lord whom they had trusted, and the lady was taken by the lesser lord to be his slave, and then to win favor with the great king the lesser lord made gift of her to his master, but when they rode to meet the mighty sovereign's emissaries, the lesser lord mocked her, and cast all her weakness in her face, and as he laughed she laughed at him in turn, and faded as mortals fade -- that is to say, she cast herself down from the high place of the mountain where they rode into the stones, and her body was broken, and she died, and so escaped her Doom to find her love again.

[as though discussing textual variations in a symposium]

We do not know if it be true, or if the mighty sovereign and the lesser lord be truly Morgoth Bauglir and Sauron his servant, and the lady a sacrifice to the Dark Ones as dim rumor has it, but it is a very old story, my lord, and one that is often told, though it is sad to tell.

Curufin: [sounding mildly confused]

I beg your pardon, Your Highness, but why do you relate this lamentable chronicle of mortal woes? Were we not speaking of the state of Beleriand's polity and future prosperity?

Luthien:

I am not sure of what you were speaking, my lord.

Curufin: [smiling]

Of the folly of such a fair one as you venturing the wilds, and risking your life, your health, your happiness and peace amid rough places and rougher folk.

[He steps closer, not touching her, but backing her up towards the wall, and blocking her with his hands set against the wall on either side when she tries to dodge past him. Angry but cold, she folds her arms and stares back at him, unimpressed.]

Barahirion might worship you as a goddess too high for anything save veneration and abject obedience -- but not all mortals are so . . .  docile, so . . . easily enspelled. Easterling chieftains like the ones in your story will not consider either your race or your noble blood as grounds for fear in their dealings with you; nor will Orcs, wolves, --Balrogs, or soul-destroying Undead phantoms regard you as anything other than -- tasty.

[He leans close to speak softly in her ear, weighting each word dramatically]

You really . . . should . . . consider . . .  your options . . . very, very carefully. Your Highness.

Luthien: [pale but calm]

If you're trying to intimidate me, my lord, rest assured -- I am intimidated. If you're not trying to intimidate me -- or rather, whether you are or are not -- you should stop right now.

Curufin: [tipping her chin up to make her look at him in a less-haughty way]

Because you don't like it?

Luthien:

Because Huan doesn't like it.

[Behind Curufin's ear there is a loud growl.]

You should really learn some manners, Lord Curufin. It's sad that four and a half centuries' experience here hasn't taught you the courtesy of a Mortal. One tends to think that what mere living hasn't managed to convey, yet might be learned in a very sharp lesson -- rather quickly, I dare say.

[Curufin looks slowly over his shoulder, confirming the hostile situation]

Curufin: [trying the masterful approach]

Down, boy! Down--

Luthien:

Huan, would you be so kind as to show milord to the door? And through it as well?

[Huan shoves between them and edges over enough to stagger Curufin backwards; Luthien gives him a grateful pat on the withers before he moves in and starts herding Curufin with irresistable force out into the hallway]

I'm sorry, my rustic Doriath accent must have confused him -- did I say "show" or "shove," milord?

Curufin: [patronizing]

Your Highness, I hope that you will carefully consider, in cool rationality and mature calculation, what we have discussed -- rather than placing your faith in dumb brutes of uncertain loyalty.

Luthien: [defiantly]

Only my relatives' loyalty has ever been in doubt, Lord Curufin . . . of Nargothrond.

Huan: [blocking the opening, looks at Luthien and barks]

Yes, Huan, please close the door as well.

[She waits until Curufin can't see her before sagging back against the wall -- but only for an instant, before she pulls herself together and resumes frantically, if uselessly, pacing the rooms, checking the ventilators and chimneys again to prove to herself that she hasn't overlooked any avenue of escape. Huan follows her, hovering, with a worried expression.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

--Hence, and spurnéd hither, Lord Curufin soon hath proved 
that Elves, no less than Men, hold well the power to self-delude . . .

[The royal apartments -- Celebrimbor is here, as well as Celegorm, who keeps giving his nephew wary, hostile looks. The younger Elf is calmly perusing a notebook, while his uncle paces; there is the air of a recently concluded argument and momentary truce about the room. Curufin enters, looking a bit as though he has a bad taste in his mouth.]

Celegorm: [nervously]

So?

Curufin:

It's a start -- progress was made. I'm sure she'll see reason, once she's been left to think it over in peace and quiet for a bit.

[pause]

You didn't say anything about -- Huan.

[silence -- he looks sharply at his brother]

Did you know he's defected?

[Celegorm makes a gloomy noise]

He menaced me, you know.

[His brother does not answer]

--You too, eh?

Celebrimbor: [turning a page of the book he's reading]

Perhaps the fact that two who could be said to represent the Powers most closely on this shore are dead set against you might just perchance to indicate something.

Curufin: [rounding on him]

What?

Celebrimbor [wilfully misunderstanding]

Oh, I'm not completely certain, but something along the lines of -- this is a very bad, bad idea --

Curufin:

This is for your benefit, boy, don't forget -- your fortunes are as much at stake as the rest of our House, and you stand to gain no less by consolidation of our resources and the realms of the Eldar in Middle-earth.

Celebrimbor: [vague smile]

My benefit? I had all the benefits I required before your -- rebellion.

Celegorm: [hotly]

-- Look, you ungrateful whelp, you can just betake yourself to the kennels if you're too good for --

Curufin: [icy]

Oh, I know very well that you can be bought like that damned Hound with gifts and flattery: that fool cousin of ours gave you unlimited workspace and raved over every least thing you made as though he'd made it himself, and you lapped it all up -- never thinking about how it looked to his credit, having a Feanorian artist at his beck and call --

Celebrimbor: [disgusted]

You really do see everything through your own unique, bent prism, don't you, Father?

[he makes a marginal note in his book, shaking his head slightly]

Curufin:

You're part of this family, and you're just as bound by the Oath as your uncles and I are. Do not forget it.

Celebrimbor: [ironic smile]

Am I? I suppose I am, at that.

[gets up to leave]

Curufin: [suspicious look]

Where are you going?

Celebrimbor:

I've got a class to teach in half an hour -- I need to get ready for it.

Curufin: [meaningfully]

I do trust that that is all you are planning on doing?

Celebrimbor: [bitter]

Don't worry -- I can no more stand to think of her Highness wandering barefoot and helpless in the wilds than you can.

[as he goes to leave the suite Celegorm gets in his way and blocks him, giving him a glower and making him go around, in a little dominance display, calling after him scornfully:]

Celegorm:

--Whelp!

Curufin: {pouring drinks for them both]

Don't let him get to you. I don't know -- this younger generation. They don't have our nerve. I'd almost prefer it if he'd defy me, you know. At least that would be something. He's just too much like his mother, all pious disapproval and no willingness to do anything. --Here.

[hands his brother the glass; they share a look of mutual support and frustration]

Celegorm:

Someday -- they'll be lining up to apologize to us. All of 'em.

Curufin:

Here's to then!

[They toss back the liquor in toast.]

Celegorm:

So . . . what do we do now?

Curufin: [smiling]

You -- do whatever you like. I've an idea of mine to follow up on.

Chapter Text

Gower:

Subtlety well-practised surer may, like water under stone, 
unset secure foundations than shall be easily o'erthrown 
by merest force, with but misdoubt—

[A conservatory, so to speak, with sculpture gardens in beds of indoor plants and lots of water. Finduilas and her fiance are there, having made up, sitting next to a pond feeding fish. Curufin enters on the farther side and begins walking along the paths, apparently oblivious or unconcerned by their presence. Gwindor notices him and begins to get angry.]

Gwindor: [quietly]

Come on, Faelivrin, let's go.

Finduilas: [normal voice]

We only just got here, Gwin, what are you talking about?

[he glances significantly over at Curufin]

Gwindor:

It's getting crowded.

Finduilas: [quiet too]

You can't change things by refusing to accept them. Or by letting yourself be controlled through your reactions.

Gwindor:

I can determine my own circumstances.

Finduilas:

Well, so can I.

Gwindor:

I'm going to the pels. --Won't you come along? and inspire me?

[she shrugs, looking frustrated]

Finduilas:

I don't like the Armory. It's loud and it smells of oil and there's nothing for me to do there.

[he raises an eyebrow]

Well, except watch you.

Gwindor:

I always come to all your musical affairs.

Finduilas: [tiredly]

But it bores me, Gwin.

[pause -- smaller voice:]

And I don't like seeing you get hit.

[Gwindor's expression changes from annoyed to indulgent. He gives her a quick kiss and picks up his cloak, managing to combine slinging it over his shoulder with the bow of courtesy to the Son of Feanor, thus spoiling the effect of the gesture entirely. Curufin however only returns it without seeming to notice the slight. After the other lord has left the cavern he strolls over to where Finduilas is tossing crumbs to the goldfish rather more emphatically than necesary.]

Finduilas: [sharply]

Don't say anything.

Curufin:

About what?

[Finduilas gives him a Look, but his expression is as innocent as his voice. She still watches him suspiciously. Putting one foot on the bench he leans over, frowning at the surface of the pool for a moment, before speaking, guaranteeing her attention.]

I wanted to talk to you about our cousin of Doriath.

[her face becomes even more wary]

--Have you noticed signs of increasing instability in her behaviour?

[quickly]

I -- I know you're loyal, and I know you care about her, and I'm not asking you to betray any confidences. I'm only remarking on what I've noticed, and others . . . and wondering if your concern for her shall not outweigh your distaste for me. Because -- regardless -- we are both committed to the good of our families and our people, and both matters are united in the person and problem of her Highness, and your greater closeness to her may well give you the information, and the ability, that is needed to assist her.

[Finduilas looks troubled]

You do grant that she's in need of help, don't you?

[shedoesn't exactly nod agreement, but her silence answers]

Have you -- found a -- certain wildness, a lack of touch with reality, in her speech lately? I -- I have to ask, because I've just come from talking with the Princess myself, and . . . she doesn't seem to be speaking the same language as the rest of us at all. --And I'm not making asinine jokes about her accent.

[Finduilas sighs heavily, shakes her head]

Finduilas: [ironic emphasis]

Where to begin?

[As the camera pulls back, Curufin takes a seat on the bench without any sign of offense from the Regent's daughter, who is declaiming with animated gestures.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

Contending with her fair cousin's soft disdain,
Tinuviel strives to prove, as doth complain,
that Elf no less than Man in that domain
may smile and smile, and yet a villain remain --

[Luthien's apartments. Finduilas is sitting in one of the chairs of the solar, looking sympathetic-yet-sceptical as Luthien strides up and down in front of her, gesticulating as she speaks]

Luthien:

And then he says, not outright, but just as clearly as if he had, that they'll never let me go--!

Finduilas: [frowning]

Do you think you could sit down perhaps?

Luthien: [stops &  stares]

? ? ?

Finduilas:

Or at least stop walking back and forth? It's very distracting.

Luthien:

Finduilas! Celegorm would not let me go, told me I'd not only like it but wanted it, and his brother instead of apologizing for him, told me to be grateful for the attention. --Are you sure they're not possessed? Maybe they got caught after the Battle and nobody's realized they've been brainwashed. But -- no -- I'm sure Finrod would have seen it right off. I guess they're just evil without any assistance from Morgoth.

Finduilas:

Oh, I'm sure you must have misunderstood. They're highborn as well as High-Elven -- they wouldn't do such things.

Luthien: [incredulous]

You're not listening to me again. You're just ignoring everything inconvenient and unpleasant -- as usual. Don't you hear what I'm saying? Or am I not real to you, either? Because I'm not one of you exalted Noldor? Do you see us native Middle-earth people as somewhere above trees, and perhaps above animals, but not necessarily, depending on whether they're your animals or not? Because that's what I'm getting from you.

Finduilas:

How can you say such things! You really, really have no--

[breaks off at a loss for the right word]

Luthien:

--Shame? Respect? Manners? No. I have wisdom. Which is not a comforting or easy or light burden at all. Now, let's get this straight: your cousins have menaced me with the threat of being forced to become Celegorm's bride, willing or not -- with that my sole choice. If that happens, there will be bloodshed -- and lots of it. You cannot imagine how much will follow. If my father was upset enough to threaten any of us with death who would help me escape from Doriath to join Beren, he will not stop at disapproving words when he finds that the sons of Feanor are now his sons-in-law. You've never seen him go to war. I have. He hasn't needed to for a very long time but he hasn't forgotten how. Trust me.

[brief pause]

Finduilas: [sharply]

Well, that would rather put an end to his superiority about kinslaying, wouldn't it? He would hardly be able to look down on the Feanor clan after that.

Luthien:

I rather suspect he would consider it poetic justice. Regardless -- the only thing Beren ever did to my father was have the misfortune of attracting my attention and affections. He never killed any of his family or friends, never annexed any of our property with the threat of further invasion and the hint that we should consider ourselves lucky to keep what we had, never disdained to address him directly -- and my father was still angry enough to have him killed for his presumption in wishing to marry me, if I hadn't intervened.

[frowns thoughtfully]

--Though no doubt a good deal of that was the fact that he wasn't willing to get angry at me and had to take it out on the next-best target. Now -- add to everything else the fact that Lords Curufin and Celegorm have taken over Nargothrond and dispossed your uncle, who's the only one of your lot who treats us with appropriate respect and despite everything has remained a close friend of my father's, which I fully admit is not always easy, and the rest of you don't seem to give a damn that he's almost certainly a prisoner of the Enemy and may be dead -- and ask yourself, why my father should balk at sending Captain Mablung in with everything he's got, to smash this place open like an anthill?

[pause]

Finduilas: [defensive-hostile]

...He couldn't, anyway.

Luthien: [bluntly]

Do you really want to stake everything on that? I've not seen anyone here to match our best. I'd not set any of your guards against Beleg Cuthalion -- nor would I pit them against Mablung, either, Noldor or not. I'm not very impressed at all, except for Huan -- Oh, but I forgot! all of your best Elves did go with your King. And Beren. I would be very afraid, if I were you.

Finduilas:

You don't understand.

Luthien:

I note you're not contradicting me -- not about any of it.

Finduilas: [rises]

I can't talk to you when you're being like this. Please try to understand -- we're only concerned for you, for your well-being. We're not trying to make you miserable, we're trying to help you.

Luthien: [earnestly]

Finduilas, have you ever had an original thought in your life?

[Finduilas sighs and shakes her head, going towards the door]

Luthien:

Finduilas!

[the other Elf-princess stops and waits]

If it were Gwin -- would you sit here and pretend you didn't know?

[With a look of sisterly exasperation, Finduilas leaves. Luthien resumes pacing. After a few turns she stops, snaps her fingers, and goes to get the basket of embroidery supplies. With the small scissors she cuts out a hank of hair from one side and quickly begins knotting the short strands around the door handle, humming quietly as she does so:]

Had I the gold in yonder mountain    where gold and silver is there for countin' I could not count for thought of thee --    mine eyes so full, I could not see

I love my father, I love my mother, I love my sister I love my brother, I love my friends and relatives too --    I'll forsake them all, and go with you

--Huan? Would you come here, please?

[She cuts some of the longer hairs from his coat and ties them into her Working.]

Come all ye fair and tender maidens    take a warning how you court young men:

    They're like a star on a summer's evening    first they'll appear and then they're gone

If I'd of known before I courted    that love it was such a killing thing I'd of locked my heart in a silver casket    and pinned it shut with a silver pin --

[At the last she sticks an embroidery needle into the knots, almost like the pin of a latch. She tries the door, and as she expects can open it but cannot pass through from her side.]

Crazy, is it? I'll give them crazy --

[loudly down the hallway:]

What ho guards! Make haste!

[They come warily up, remembering the last time she pulled something on them.]

Guard:

Yes, your Highness?

Luthien: [thinks for a moment]

I don't like the firewood that's been given me. Take it away and bring me better. This is . . . much too noisy --

Guards: [dubious looks at each other]

Er, yes, of course, my lady --

[One of them approaches to come in, the other remaining to obstruct the doorway. The first guard finds that he cannot come within two paces of the threshold, as though a high wind (or a force field) were driving him back.]

Luthien:

Good.

[She closes the door, indicates that Huan should try it, and watches wistfully as he paws open the panel and goes through, and then comes back into the suite. Luthien nods in satisfaction at this test of her Work, and slams the door very loudly. Oblivious to -- or rather unconcerned with -- the growing disturbance in the hallways outside, she goes to the northern wall of her solar and springs up to stand on the bench in front of the stone "window" on that side, resting her right hand on the surface of the carved horizon:]

What hills, what hills are those, my love?
   those hills so dark and low?
-- Those are the hills of hell, my love,  
  where you and I must go --

Chapter Text

Gower:

Small, soft, and weak the feathered singer seems, yet let not one forget 
far-ranging flights 'cross the wide world, above the winds, nor yet 
the strength to stand the weather out, in storms, nor withal be overset--

[The outside of Luthien's apartments, leading into the solar, where the Sons of Feanor are just coming up the hallway with two of the door guards in tow.]

Curufin:

--What do you mean, it won't open?

First Guard:

No, milord, it will open -- it's just that no one can go through it.

Second Guard:

--Except for Huan.

[Celegorm glares at him]

Sorry, sir, but it's true.

[They demonstrate by opening the door to the solar.]

Celegorm:

So what's the problem?

[Without waiting for an answer he strides forward -- and encounters the same resistance effect that they hit before.]

? ? ?

Curufin: [frowning]

Hmph.

[Luthien enters and sits down for a moment in the chair, then gets up and lays more splitwood on the fire before going back to work, apparently laying out the colors of embroidery silk that have been provided her for comparison across the table.]

What nonsense is this, Your Highness?

[she does not answer, just keeps working]

Curufin: [sharply]

My lady Luthien!

[again no response]

Luthien!

Second Guard:

Er -- that doesn't work, milord.

[Curufin gives him a daunting glare]

Curufin:

And what does?

[Embarrassed, the Guard beats loudly on the door panel, making a very undignified racket -- it gets worse, too, since she doesn't respond at once]

Guard: [trying to act as though he's not yelling at royalty]

Hey! Hey, you!

[Obviously anyone going by in the halls outside will not be able to ignore this. Luthien gets up and walks to the door, slowly, as though there were nothing unusual about any of it.]

Luthien: [glancing around]

Were you looking for someone, my lords?

Curufin: [sarcastic]

Ah, yes -- for the Princess of Doriath, Thingol's daughter, one Luthien.

Luthien: [serenely]

There is no one here who answers to that name, my lord.

Celegorm:

You're standing right there, you crazy girl!

Luthien: [calm]

That is true. I am standing here.

Curufin: [sighing]

Your Highness.

[Luthien looks around the solar]

Damn! What game are you playing, my lady?

Luthien:

Oh, I am not playing. Not at all, my lords.

Curufin: [suspicious]

Who are you, then?

Luthien:

I am -- she that Beren loves.

Curufin:

You can't expect anyone to call you that!

Luthien:

Then call me by my right name.

[pause -- the brothers look at each other]

Curufin: [sourly]

Luthien -- Tinuviel.

Luthien:

Yes?

[pause]

Celegorm:

What -- what's this nonsense with the doors?

Luthien:

Surely you can explain that as well as I can -- or if not, your brother certainly should be able to.

[Celegorm is overcome with confusion]

Curufin:

Oh, now, let us be honest -- I have it on the noblest authority that you've no objection to being caught and held --

Luthien: [shaking her head, sighing]

Finduilas. I suppose she didn't tell you -- or perhaps you're not any better at listening than your elder brother -- that unlike either of you, Beren asked me, and never held me against my will or spoke me disrespectfully or made demand or gave command but was always patient and grateful of my presence--

[she breaks off; behind Curufin's back Celegorm winces and looks away]

Curufin: [ironic]

Sounds more like a tame dog than any proper lord, eh, brother?

Luthien: [recovering]

You're very brave to mock him when he's far from you.

Curufin:

You can't do this forever, you know.

Luthien:

I certainly should not need to.

Curufin:

You'll give it up in a bit, you'll get bored and regret this, believe me.

Luthien: [shrugs]

Well, we'll find out, won't we?

Celegorm: [desperately]

Luthien!

[She turns away and walks back to the table and sits down. As she goes back to what she was doing the camera reveals that she is copying the map from the round gallery, with different colors of thread for different geographical features, pinning them into the tabletop as she goes. Huan comes out of the private rooms, and seeing the Sons of Feanor, raises his hackles, growling in a low voice.]

Celegorm: [shouting]

Huan!!!

[Luthien uses one pin as a compass and plots out a radius, folds the thread and compares it to other distances, shaking her head with a bitter expression. Curufin grabs his brother by the arm and hauls him away.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

The thing demanded, it may hap, may haply prove to be
Not all that deemed it, of good fortune -- yet too late too see . . .

[Orodreth's private chambers -- he is occupied with something that looks a bit like six abacuses fitted together three-dimensionally and several sets of writing tablets, and not looking at all happy about it: this is not the kind of task that is sufficiently enjoyable in itself to be worth anything as a distraction from care. An attendant enters the room, very apologetically]

Orodreth: [abruptly]

Did you find them?

Attendent:

Er -- no, sir, not yet, unfortunately.

Orodreth:

Doesn't anyone know where the original records were kept? It has to have been written down somewhere -- it can't all have been only in Edrahil's memory, can it? So where are the scrips and tallies?

[he is angry enough to break the unwritten rule against speaking of the Exiles, and not to notice his aide's discomfort, or to care.]

Attendant:

Highness, we're still looking -- but the Lords Celegorm and Curufin are here to see you. About -- about that business ...

Orodreth:

What do they expect me to do about it? Grinding Ice, am I to be given no peace nor place of my own to do this work? How are we to keep them furnished with lights if I don't know how many we have, do they think?

Attendant:

I'm sorry -- but they do insist . . . they won't take "no" for an answer.

Orodreth:

Have they ever? Let them come.

[He leans back in his chair, sighing, and flicks scornfully at one of the markers on the abacus, shaking his head. His assistant returns with the brothers and goes to the side of his master's chair, defensive]

Orodreth: [bleakly bland]

I understand that the Princess Luthien has locked herself in her suite of apartments from the inside, as you've locked her into them from without, and that the Hound Huan is the only individual she will permit free entry to, and that he permits no one entry with him. Is there in fact a state of siege obtaining in my sister's quarters, or am I misinformed?

Curufin: [huffy and a bit defensive]

Well, it's not a siege, exactly -- the suite has all the amenities, including water, and she still allows room service to bring her meals, and we're not starving her or anything, of course!

Celegorm: [muttering to himself]

No, she just eats almost nothing and won't talk --

Orodreth: [grim smile]

Ah. So it's a Leaguer.

[long, long silence]

I'm sure you'll continue to keep me as well appraised of the situation. Do feel free to go on wasting my time, though, since you always do. Or did you want something from me besides approval and moral support this time?

Celegorm:

Orodreth--

Orodreth:

Cousin, stop right there. If you want my job, then as I've told you, show you know what it entails and start doing some work. I don't think you have a jot of a clue as to what is involved in it, and how much needs to be done. The former Steward seems to have found it easier to keep track of everything the old-fashioned way, evidently due to the fact that the people he assigned the task kept deciding to reorganize everything by some new-devised system of their own, which they then abandoned through boredom halfway through.

[flings his stylus down on the table]

You wonder why I'm not the same cheerful soul I used to be? Really? Why I'm not grateful for this honor, this sudden ascencion to power? Because I am aware of what power entails. You want one small, negligible example of what I'm contending with? Apart from the personality clashes, and the fact that my daughter's future father-in-law is one of the people I'm going to have to rail at over this mess? There are only half the year's lighting requirements in stock -- as far as we can tell. So I ought to go and set people quickly to making up the difference, which means taking them off other tasks and diverting a great deal of resources. But I can't believe that, because my predecessor was nothing if not thorough and I cannot accept that either Lord Edrahil or my brother would have allowed things to get to such a state, and that means that they're somewhere, only due to the Sindarin-style record keeping no one here is certain where!

[full rant mode]

I know you think that I'm dull, the way you think that everyone who merely supports your lifestyle of leisure and doesn't participate in it is dull -- but you know, you know what's going to be really dull around here is if we don't have enough lighting this winter -- and that is just the beginning! I've got schedules missing for every storehouse in the City. Do you see these tables? Do you see these figures? This is what I'm having to reconstruct, while you play at being Orome or fiddle around making knick-knacks with my brother's tools -- or kidnap native royalty for your perverse amusment.

[gripping the edge of the desk to keep from throwing something]

I am trying to keep this City alive -- and I am so far out of my depth I can't see shore. I though it could be little different from managing a garrison -- evidently, however, I was much mistaken. What are you here for, anyhow? You've told me to leave your House's personal affairs alone -- surely you're not coming to me now to ask me to interfere, are you?

[pause]

Just what, in any case, could you possibly expect me to do?

Curufin:

You could tell her you'll have the surrounding walls taken down--

Orodreth: [standing up]

Starless Night of the Gloomweaver! You are not meddling with the structural supports of the City, and if I so much as hear a whisper of covert demolitions and walls being touched -- there will be a Kinslaying on this side of the family, I promise you. You really have no notion at all, do you, of what you're dealing with? This isn't Tirion, dammit, the rules of architecture you studied at home don't mean a thing when you're working with natural formations of integral stone, the stresses and counterweights and bracings--! You don't know which walls are supporting and which aren't, and you haven't spent Great Years studying them -- or studied with those who have instead. Touch the walls, and you touch Nargothrond, and then -- our understanding is at an end.

Curufin: [warningly]

And what exactly do you think would happen then?

Orodreth: [smiling through his teeth]

Very expensive damages all round.

Curufin: [back to light tone]

You're beginning to sound like your great-uncle, you know.

Orodreth:

I'm beginning to understand my great-uncle much better these days. Now please leave me to my lofty role as Regent, unless you'd like to be working in the dark come Sun-return. Solve your own self-created problems for once.

[Orodreth goes back to comparing tallies and tablets, scratching off duplicate entries, and ignoring the brothers. Disgruntled, the Sons of Feanor leave, saying as they pass through into the outer hallway, loudly:]

Celegorm:

Pathetic.

Curufin:

--Pathetic to think we're related to him.

Celegorm. That too.

Chapter Text

Gower:

When will is set, on course far-fixed, howsoever rash it be,
no Power that reigns may check, of Earth, of under, or amid the Sea--  

[The brothers, not happy, enter, still discussing from outside in the halls]

Celegorm:

Do you think that things really are that bad as he says?

Curufin: [headshake]

No, he's just being melodramatic again. It can hardly be more work to run than a couple of provinces, after all. And that certainly never took such full-time investment as he's claiming.

[nastily]

--Unless, perhaps, it does -- for him.

Celegorm:

So what are we going to do? This is -- ridiculous. And it's not the way I wanted it at all... This stupid business with her refusing to answer to her real name now -- we didn't even tell Orodreth about that.

[grimaces]

"Leaguer" --!

Curufin:

We could break through it if we wanted to, of course.

[Celegorm slumps down in his favorite chair]

Celegorm: [glum]

No. It's a lost cause. Even if she would listen to me, she's so locked herself into this melodramatic pose of hers that she has to defend and believe what she says, her pride won't let her do otherwise.

[jumps up abruptly and folds his arms, scowing at the fire]

Damn! but you can tell she's Thingol's daughter, no question.

Curufin: [thoughfully]

No, I don't think that's it. . . I think she's more reasonable than Elwe, when it comes down to it. All right -- say she has some mystical bond of telepathy, from her mother's side perhaps, and she really can sense Barahirion halfway across Middle-earth. Well, then -- she'll know when he's dead. All we have to do is -- wait.

Celegorm:

What good would that do? She's being so bloody stubborn I'd not be surprised if she means to wait to the end of Arda --

Curufin: [grinning]

Uh-uh.

[Celegorm frowns at him]

--Mortal.

Celegorm: [delighted realization]

Oh! Right! I'd forgot all about that -- he won't be there, he can't, and she'll just have to Face Facts then, won't she? Hah! --How long do you think it will take? I don't fancy, what, another fifty years of this namecalling and moping and making outrageous Scenes--

Curufin:

--Fifty? You're joking. As a prisoner of the Enemy? You've seen what slavery does to the Kindred -- I'd be shocked if it was even a year. And then -- it'll be up to you to console her.

Celegorm: [residual sanity intervening]

Do you think I've really a chance? Or will I just be blamed for it?

Curufin: [shaking head]

No, once she's free of whatever bizarre mental influence such an unnatural betrothal has created, I'm sure she'll be grateful --- though she'll never admit it: she does have Elu's pride, I grant you. She won't want anyone to remember her embarassing foray into madness, most like.

Celegorm:

And . . . Huan?

[gloomily angry]

--I still can't believe that he turned on me. He saved my life at the Sudden Flame, remember that? It's really strange that a mortal would prove more loyal than a Hound of Valinor . . .

Curufin:

How can he object, when she has no objections?

[pats his brother reassuringly on the shoulder]

And needless to say, with you to distract her she'll have no reason to think about it all. Tell you what -- I'm so confident I'll go ahead and start on the maquettes for the rings, hmm? Something to symbolize both Houses, the most elegant things you can imagine, and of course she'll be overwhelmed, never having seen the like here.

Celegorm:

--Sublime, meaningful, exquisitely-crafted and staggeringly beautiful?

Curufin:

--You got it. Now why don't you go off for a ride while the weather's still clear and clear the cobwebs from your soul, and by the time you get back I'll have the rough drafts ready for you to look at. Sounds good?

Celeborn: [smiles]

Sounds like an excellent plan. --See you in a bit.

[He leaves. Curufin goes to the reorganized shelves and starts getting down items for sculpting, humming a simple melody as he does -- then checks, as he realizes what tune it is -- "Ten Thousand Miles", stuck in his head. He snorts, and goes on working in silence.]

Chapter Text

Act III: SCENE XXXVIII (mute)

[The great solar, in the alcove near the fountain]

[Celebrimbor, surrounded by acolytes, suddenly gets up and walks away from the circle without explanation -- all stare after him, and share perplexed looks when he does not return to the session.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

Captive and disarmed, the Dancer of Doriath yet concedeth not defeat--
lacking her Work, still she holdeth, wieldeth will and power to entreat --

[Luthien's suite. She is sitting on the floor with her feet on one of the jambs of the open door, her back against the other, talking loudly though no one can be seen except Huan, whom she is not addressing, though he is lying next to her with his head on her lap as she brushes him.]

Luthien:

--So first they started trouble all up and down Aman, and then there was the business with nobody getting to see the Silmarils because Feanor was trying to punish you for not appreciating him, and then there was the Night of Darkness and the Kinslaying and then you got abandoned on the other side by him and his sons and then you had to cross the Helcaraxe on foot which is personally the most insane thing I ever heard of but I heard that you lot insisted, and you wouldn't have made it over without my cousins going with you and looking after you and so of course! when the Sons of Feanor move in and start doing the same old thing, bullying and shoving and insisting on getting all their own way, you think they're just wonderful, and you give them everything that Finrod worked to give you and you pretend that it was that way all along. Oh yeah, that makes lots of sense!

[yelling:]

--You can hide around the corner, but I still know you're there!

[nomal voice:]

It's easier to say -- the girl from Doriath is crazy, than to say -- We're faithless traitors.

[There is a sound of muffled exclamation and movement from down the hall, as though someone started to respond and then stopped -- or maybe was stopped.]

-- Perhaps I'm not being fair. Maybe you were with the House of Feanor all along and only came here as guests yourselves, and that's why they put you here to watch me and why you think you can't pay heed to my rights. But you're just wrong, if that's the case. You can't claim that you get to ignore the obligatons that bind even the gods themselves, of justice and honesty and hospitality and not standing by in idleness as someone else does something wrong and pretending you don't know and aren't involved -- all in the name of honour. How is that "honorable"? Why don't you explain it to me, being just a poor simple Dark-elf out of the woods and all?

[shouts:]

I know you can hear me!

[There is no answer. Shakes her head. Warningly:]

All right, then.

[sings:]

There were three ra'ens sat on a tree 
  and they were black as they might be 
    Said one of them unto his mate -- 
  Where shall we our breakfast take?

    --In yonder greening field, 
    there lies a Knight slain under his shield. 
--His hawks they do so fiercely fly, 
    there's nary a fowl does come him nigh--

    His hounds they lie down at his feet -- 
    His hounds they lie down at his feet -- 
    His hounds they lie down at his feet 
  so well they do their master keep!

Huan: [interrupting her]

[loud sharp barks]

Luthien: [kissing the top of his head]

--Yes, you're a good dog too.

[singing:]

Then there came a fallow doe, 
  as great with young as she might go -- 
    She took him up upon her back 
  and carried him beside the loch

    She buried him in morning-time 
  and she was dead ere evensong-time --

Huan:

[more barking, louder]

Luthien:

I know, I know -- I know it's no good, but I have to try. I don't know if they really don't care, or if there really is a spell like Celebrimbor said, or if this is some kind of madness or poison from living too long underground. --And it doesn't really matter, whatever it is. I mean, they did all leave their families back in Aman, so maybe they can't understand what I feel for Beren --

[sings to herself:]

Oh the leaves they will wither
-- Roots will decay    
And the beauty of a young maid   
    will soon fade away --
Oh, will soon fade away --

Huan:

[small, nonstop whines]

Chapter Text

Gower:

In these days of order overset, of Misrule's rule,
the City's lawful lord is reckoned only fool.

[The Regent's Office. Gwindor is standing much less truculently (but if possible more worried) before Orodreth's desk. The Regent looks exhausted and grim -- or angry but in control of it, perhaps.]

Orodreth:

What have you discovered?

Gwindor:

Aside from the fact that Curufin's so paranoid that half the time he hardly seems to trust himself -- which, added to the usual overconfidence and assumption of cowed awe at the aura of the family name, manifests itself in some rather erratic behavior patterns?

Orodreth: [sharply]

I was referring specifically to the question of this reported -- marriage alliance -- purposed between the Lady Luthien and Lord Celebrimbor.

Gwindor: [chastened]

Yes, sir. --According to fairly reliable sources, the Lords of Aglon-and-Himlad did send messengers east, under the pretext of assigning liaison staff to the watchtowers. However, there is no way to ascertain that they were sending to Doriath, and not to their brothers, although there are suggestive indications from various overheard cryptic remarks and careless talk among their Household.

Orodreth:

And--?

Gwindor:

To put it bluntly, sir, I don't think that her Highness of Doriath is insane.

Orodreth:

No.

[pause]

Gwindor:

Sir, what are we going to do?

Orodreth:

For the present -- nothing, but observe.

Gwindor: [outraged]

Nothing?

Orodreth: [dry]

At the present instant, her Highness -- and Huan -- have the situation in hand. Unless you believe that you and your following can do a better job of defending her than the Hound of Valinor?

[pause]

For the present, you will maintain your staff's unobtrusive presence among her guards, monitoring the situation constantly and reporting to me, unless the situation changes, and not until then.

Gwindor:

And if that should happen?

Orodreth:

Then -- I will be compelled to take action.

[long silence -- Gwindor looks hopeful]

I would prefer to trust that it will not come to that, that sanity will reassert itself over the grandiose ambitions of our -- guests, and that affairs will shortly return to such normality of state as formerly obtained.

Gwindor:

Do you really believe that your cousins will behave with either reason or good will? --Sir.

[The Regent reaches over to flick a bead on the abacus-construct, with a lopsided smile]

Orodreth: [ironic]

No, my lord. Hence your orders.

[Gwindor bows and strides out; Orodreth remains staring into the distance for a moment before turning back to his paperwork with a sigh.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

Like a lasting storm, the world's travail 
about Tinuviel doth whirl, her peace assail 
and all that's hers of rightful honours owed 
whir away, as fallen leaves along the road.

[Celegorm is standing outside the door of Luthien's solar, still dressed in his outdoor gear, fresh from the hunt. Huan is couchant inside, like a sheepdog just waiting to hear "Coom by," and Luthien is standing behind him, though one has to assume that it's her because she has her blue mantle wrapped all the way around her and pulled so far forward that her face cannot be seen, rather like one of the famous Mourners statues on John of Burgundy's tomb. The effect is extremely creepy. The elder son of Feanor doesn't seem to notice: when the scene opens he's talking away quite cheerfully.]

Celegorm:

. . . And then you'll be queen of greater Beleriand, forever and ever, and we'll have the grandest times together, go anywhere in the country without worrying about wolves or worse, and I'll have the Silmarils set for you to wear and no one in Arda will compare with you, you'll be like Varda herself and we'll make Middle-earth better than Aman ever was, I promise. I'll give you the whole world, and you'll never be unhappy or afraid or hungry again. What do you say to that, hey?

[she does not answer]

Come on, Luthien, don't pretend you're deaf, it just makes you look the proper fool!

Luthien: [sings]

A North Country maid to the City had stray'd
although with her nature it did not agree
O she wept and she cried and most bitterly she sighed--
I would I were home in the North Country--

[Celegorm tenses, but no mysterious compulsion kicks in and he smiles]

--Oh the oak and the ash and the bonnie ivy tree,
They flourish at home in my own country--

Celegorm:

It won't work, I'm not one of your weak-minded Grey Kindred. Listen, Luthien, you know you're being outrageous and stubborn and everyone thinks you're a silly girl and half-crazy on top of that. Now I understand it's hard to admit you're wrong -- I wouldn't like to do it -- but please just -- be reasonable, would you, and look at the facts. First, there's the prestige. Can't get away from that.

[Throughout this exchange, Luthien continues answering his rhetoric with verses of "North Country Maid," while Celegorm carries on as if she hadn't replied.]

Luthien:

    But still I do see that a husband I might wed,
if I to the City my mind I would tame--

Celegorm:

And going with that, the cachet of House Feanor, there's the tangible benefits. What could he offer you? An empty title, the ownership of a little snippet of mountainous lands held completely by the Enemy, and no likelihood of ever gettin' it back, what with no army, no people, and no luck. Now, granted, we've suffered some setbacks, but my family still holds large strategic areas of Endor and massive resources, completely apart from Narog.

Luthien:

    But I'll only have a lad that is North Country bred,
or I will not marry but stay as I am--

Celegorm:

And then, when we unite your people and ours, we'll form an alliance that will finally be able to coordinate properly and tackle the problem of the North in a rational manner, not all this nonsense of independent commands and whatnot.

Luthien:

--Oh the oak and the ash and the bonnie ivy tree,
They flourish at home in my own country--

Celegorm:

So there's the common good aspect all covered, and then there's you to think of, you can't really be happy traipsing about in rags and working yourself into a fret, going off your feed -- you really want looking-after, and I will make sure that everything you could possibly desire is yours.

Luthien:

    A maiden I am and a maid I'll remain,
until the North Country once more I do see--

Celegorm:

And finally, not to be arrogant about it or anything, but -- who else is there who matches up, just on a personal basis? I mean, we complement each other perfectly, and not just in looks -- you've got courage, too, and the strength almost of the Noldor. There's no two ways about it. It's meant to be.

Luthien:

    For here in this place I'll never see the face
of him that is meant my love for to be--

Celegorm: [tolerantly]

Oh, you're not still sore at me for gettin' a bit forward the other day, are you, Princess?

Luthien:

--Oh the oak and the ash and the bonnie ivy tree,

Celegorm: [tolerantly]

You know I didn't mean anything by it, you know perfectly well I wouldn't ever do anything -- improper -- to you.

Luthien:

    They flourish--

[breaks off at once: when she speaks it is in a very stern and austere manner, without any hesitation or emotion, as one speaking in full royal authority -- or, possibly, even higher.]

You yourself did not know what you would have done, Celegorm son of Feanor, so do not try to unsay the past with untruths. I am only speaking to you now that I may appeal to whatever is left of your true nature. Release me and give me what I demand, and you may avoid full-out war with my House, and mitigate the greater Curse that grows with every treason you commit.

Celegorm:

But I can't -- you don't understand, just -- please, give me a chance--

Luthien:

You lied to me. You don't get a second chance.

Celegorm: [hotly]

I didn't lie to you!

Luthien:

Worse, then -- you deliberately used the truth to deceive me. How can you even call yourself one of us, then, if you misuse the gift of speech so?

Celegorm: [defensive]

But one isn't obliged to tell everything to everyone -- it's perfectly all right to keep secrets, from strangers, or to mislead the Enemy.

Luthien:

So I am an enemy. Thank you for stating that plainly.

Celegorm:

--That wasn't what I meant, dammit--

Luthien:

It's far too late for stranger, and clearly you are not my friend.

Celegorm: [winningly]

I could be, if you'd let me.

Luthien: [sings]

The hart he loves the high wood,
The hare he loves the hill,
 The knight loves well his bright sword
-- The lady loves her will.

Celegorm: [cajoling]

Come on, Luthien, don't sulk and carry on in this -- this ridiculous fashion, hiding yourself like some kind of freak--

Luthien:

You look at me and you do not see me, Celegorm Turcofin Feanorion, because you have never seen me as I am -- only as a rough stone to be polished and made fit for your tastes.

Celegorm:

I see . . . a beautiful Elf who deserves far better than a backwoods reserve, who deserves the finest things that civilization can give her, who deserves to be protected from fell things, not exposed to every risk and danger in Middle-earth -- and at the same time to be celebrated throughout the land, not hidden away like a dusty mathom in a storeroom!

Luthien: [passionate for the first time]

That's what I mean! You refuse to understand that I am Sindar, that I belong to this land, to these woods, that they are real and powerful and not some worthless wastelands fit only to serve as a place for you to go hunting in, and that we have built a civilization in them that may not be the same as yours but is no less its equal! You don't know me, you cannot know me, you've never seen me in my own dominion, in my own home -- you never risked life and limb following the forest's call to find me--

Celegorm: [interrupting her]

--Well, not much of a chance of that, what with your father's Ban on us!

Luthien: [half angry, half exasperated pity]

Before that. You could have come directly to Doriath and paid your respects to my parents like the Finarfinions. You could have done us homage, and learned from us, and not alienated half the country with your arrogance.

[reluctant but honest as always:]

And -- you would have met me. And perhaps -- perhaps things might have gone otherwise, between -- all of us.

[pause]

Celegorm:

And what would have happened, when Sha -- when your father found out about the unpleasantness back in Aman?

Luthien: [shrugs]

Who can say? It would have been different from what did happen. Wisdom can say no more than that, ever. But you chose a different path, and a different self, and now -- it's too late.

Celegorm:

But it isn't too late. That's what I'm trying to tell you.

Luthien:

It was too late before you set eyes on me. It was too late -- the instant you betrayed your Kindred a second time, and Beren with them. It was too late long before I entered the Gates of Nargothrond. I would tear down this whole City, if I could, to escape from here.

Celegorm: [indulgently]

Silly girl, that's what the Enemy would do. Whose side are you on, anyway?

Luthien:

Beren's. And anyone else who's with us.

Celegorm: [cold -- the true iron showing through for the first time]

Beren's a goner. Your future lies with me. With us, not that rabble of half-Noldor and humans and illiterates who refused the Call that's let Beleriand go to wrack and ruin.

Luthien:

You will never win me, body or soul. My heart is with Beren, not here, even as I hold his, and you can't divide us, Celegorm Turcofin!

Celegorm: [grinning]

Don't you get it? For someone who prides herself on being so clever you're being awfully dense, Luthien. He's mortal. All we've got to do is wait.

[silence]

Huan:

[Low deep growl]

Luthien: [distant and oracular]

--That is why I could not touch you. Your outward form is still fair, but there is nothing left of Eldar within. Refuse the Call? You cannot even hear it!

Celegorm: [confident]

It'll just be a little while, and then you'll be free of this spell, this madness that's got hold of you, and everything will be fine. --You'll see. --And you, dog, are going to have to work to get back into my good graces. You missed a really excellent chase today, you know.

[He turns and goes off, whistling. She remains there, standing perfectly still like a statue, while Huan looks up at her panting, until finally he gets off the floor and starts nudging her to try to get her to move.]

Chapter Text

[The Hall of Morning: the late afternoon sunlight barely makes its way down the prisms of the roof to the gallery, giving it a strange subdued and reddish light Despite the sunset hour there are several people gathered there -- our seldom-seen (but sometimes glimpsed) not-quite-conspirators, or most of them. The Sage is standing, with a nervous air, and the Scribe has just risen from the bench across from the one where the Ranger is still seated; the Guard is nowhere to be seen.]

Scribe:

Did you succeed?

Sage: [shakes her head]

I -- the security was too tight. I couldn't get in.

[pause. They look at each other, and the Sage looks away.]

Scribe:

You didn't make the attempt. After all the work I went to making the duplicate--

Ranger:

--You didn't even try?

Sage: [ugly tone]

--How many horses did you secure for us?

[he shuts up]

Scribe:

What could they have done, if they'd caught you making the switch? Complain to the Regent? I told you I should have handled it--

Sage:

What you said, may I remind you, was that you were too closely connected through your cousin's consort and you'd be immediately associated with any loss--

Scribe: [nonplussed]

Well. Anyway, that's neither here nor there.

[rallying]

What were you afraid of? The public humiliation? Surely you don't think they could actually do anything to you?

Sage:

No, it isn't as though they've has ever killed or injured another of the Kindred -- what a ridiculous notion!

Scribe: [hurt]

You needn't be so sarcastic.

[They both look around for their missing fourth associate; the Ranger shakes his head.]

Ranger:

She was right . . . we're worse cowards than either of the sons of Feanor.

[No one disagrees with him; the light continues to dim on the malcontents of Nargothrond]

Chapter Text

Gower:

Though memory a monument outlasting even hardest stone 
eternal may endure, recollection of what once was known 
is sharpest goad: a path of thorns ever freshly sown--

[Luthien is sitting on the side of her bed, still with the shawl wrapped around her like a long veil, looking at Huan, who is lying in front of her with his chin on her knees. All the doors of the suite are opened, facing towards the main door, which is closed.]

Luthien:

It's hopeless. I can't dig my way out of here with embroidery needles, I can't work stone, I can't even command hearts now without access to my Power -- I've exhausted every scrap of possibility and I can't see any way out of here but divine intervention at this point. But the best I've ever been able to get has been divine nonintervention -- and that made no difference whatsoever, to my thinking, except to spare my mother one miserable scene out of more than I can count. They're going to die, and I'll never see Beren again, and I can't live without him. I've done my best -- and that's no consolation whatsoever.

Huan:

[short distressed whines]

Luthien: [taking his face in her hands]

I'm not blaming you. It wasn't your fault, and I can't begin to tell how grateful I've been for your friendship. I just don't know what to do, and -- I can't bear the waiting --

[she breaks off, her teeth clenched, breathing hard as she tries not to cry]

Finduilas: [calling through the door]

--Luthien?  Luthien, you can't lock yourself in there and not see anyone -- it's not healthy! We're trying to help you. Luthien!

Luthien: [grimly ferocious]

That's not my name.

Finduilas: [exasperated]

Luthien! I'm not going to call you "Nightingale".

Luthien:

What do you want -- Sparkly?

Finduilas: [resigned]

Tinuviel. You've got to talk to someone.

Huan:

[single bark]

Finduilas:

And Huan doesn't count!

Luthien:

Go away, Finduilas, I don't want to talk to anyone -- I'm too upset to do anything but cry, or sleep.

[laughs quietly. To herself:]

Only this time -- it's true.

[after a few moments she sings very softly:]

My love said to me -- My mother won't mind
and my father won't slight you for your lack of kind --
   Then she stepped away from me and this she did say    
-- It will not be long, love, till our wedding day --

[as the verse ends she shakes her head, smiling bitterly and crying at the same time. She lies back on the bed and curls up on her side, sheltering her head with her arms and does not move. The lights of the City dim in accordance with the hours of darkness outside. Huan gets up and pads out of the room and out of the apartments, surprisingly quiet for such a huge creature.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

--gainst the rising tide of fate some strive 
to stem the flood with sticks, with sand: as well with straws -- 
no more than such their efforts shall give pause.

[Orodreth's Household apartments -- in the Regent's private office, his two nearest and dearest are gathered around, Finduilas on a low hassock by the fireplace and Gwindor standing behind her, gently rubbing her shoulders. Orodreth looks at them with an expression tired and sad but fond; the young people keep looking, inevitably, up to the desk behind him where a second mega-abacus has joined the first, and there is a shape suspiciously like that of a third on the floor behind it in the shadows of the ornamentally-pierced lantern hanging overhead.]

Orodreth:

Were you able to do anything for her? Convey our concern for her? Would she talk to you at all?

Finduilas: [shaking her head]

She still won't answer to any name but the one he gave her, either. You have to call her Tinuviel or she doesn't listen. She doesn't listen anyway, though . . . I don't understand why she can't compromise . . .

[the others stare at her, bemused. Defensive:]

--What?

Orodreth: [very dry]

What, exactly, would a compromise look like, under these circumstances?

[pause]

Between going and staying there isn't much of a third route, is there?

Finduilas: [exasperated]

Father. I meant, in principle--

Orodreth: [sighs]

I'm sorry, my dear. It's been a long couple of bells --

Finduilas:

You look so tired . . . Can't you get someone to help you with all of this?

Orodreth:

I'm afraid that's the problem, not the solution to it.

Finduilas:

I meant . . . us . . . ?

Orodreth:

No, thank you anyway. But I couldn't explain what I've got going on here in any way that would easily make sense to you -- I barely grasp it all myself, and it would just confuse matters worse if I tried to pass it over right now. It's like your glasswork, when it's still soft enough to work with -- if you tried to show me what you were doing with it and let me take it on, it would be ruined before I'd grasped the situation. --But I do appreciate you offering.

[Finduilas nods, sadly]

Gwindor: [profoundly apologetic]

Sir -- I -- I'm so very sorry. I -- my father -- he, well, he hasn't been the same -- since my brother . . .

Orodreth:

It -- Gwindor, I'm the last to blame anyone for what his relatives did -- or didn't -- do. There's more than enough blame to go around right now.

Finduilas: [almost whispering]

She -- she compares him to the Trees, Father. That can't be right, that can't be allowable, can it? What would they say, what would the Powers say to that--?

[Orodreth does not answer -- he has covered his face with his hand, turning his head away]

Gwindor:

Sir -- what else could you have done?

Orodreth:

That is what we said after Minas Tirith, is it not? Now -- I do not know.

Gwindor: [thinking aloud]

But -- there must be something -- someone -- someone else -- thus official deniability -- could defy them, could help -- her...

Orodreth:

Do you dare? Will you go, then, down to her door and order aside the guards and take horse and ride with her to the Bridge of Sirion and challenge the Master of Wolves there, like a knight in one of her mortal songs? What do you think will happen to you, then? --But do it, if you dare: how can I forbid you, any more than give command?

[long pause. Gwindor frowning, as though to speak several times -- his expression becomes anguished and his posture shifts subtly -- he knows he cannot do it. Abruptly he turns, knocking a small table aside impatiently with his foot as he strides towards the doors]

Finduilas: [panicky]

Gwin -- where are you going?

Gwindor: [bitter sarcasm]

To train in the defense of the City -- is that not my duty?

[Breathing hard, he goes quickly from the apartments. Finduilas half-rising to follow him, sits down again.]

Orodreth:

Should you -- do you need to go talk to him?

[she shakes her head, definitely]

Finduilas:

It wouldn't do any good right now. It's better just to ignore it and let him work it through. You know how moody and impulsive he is sometimes.

[Orodreth nods]

Is it really that bad? Surely we'd have noticed, wouldn't we, if things were really so disorganized? I never encountered any sign of anything like that . . .

[she sounds a bit incredulous, a defensive response.]

Orodreth:

And what did you do if you couldn't find something, some needful bit of information or necessary item?

Finduilas: [shrugs, not seeing where this is going]

I asked Gwin if he'd seen it.

Orodreth:

And if he hadn't?

Finduilas:

Then we asked around.

Orodreth:

And if no one knew where it was?

Finduilas:

We--

[her voice goes very quiet]

--We asked Edrahil.

Orodreth: [nods]

That is, evidently, what we all did. It's an excellent system, going directly to someone who knows precisely what it is you need and where to find it, instead of wasting time trying to sort through far more information than you need or know how relates or have time to study. Unfortunately -- it's predicated on being able to ask that person, and when that is not possible then the system simply does not exist. Which is why I am endeavoring to reconstruct it from such small and contradictory fragments of information as I have been able to lay hands on.

Finduilas:

But -- wasn't anything written down?

Orodreth: [shaking his head, gestures sweepingly around the room]

Oh, lots! That's the other half of the problem. Look at all of it, only the visible portion of the floe, and think about what could be buried inside. There's a surfeit of information there, and I can only assimilate so much of it, so quickly. And I keep discovering things that -- had I known earlier -- might have caused me to decide other than I have done. For example --

[he picks up a large notebook with a well-worn tooled leather cover and lots of small pieces of parchment attached to the pages inside]

I didn't realize, until I found this, that Finrod kept condensed notes on every single conversation relating to the governing of the state, no matter how minor an issue it might seem. This is a great help -- or would be -- if it wasn't in chronological order. So my only option has been to begin at the most recent date and work through backwards, trying to make all the connections myself, since I don't know when anything that might prove helpful happened.

[points across to the half-unpacked chests and shelving]

--There are many, many more volumes like this.

[shaking his head]

Some of them have yet other manuscripts bound into them. Fortunately, some of the entries have a sort of indexing, a note referring back to previous relevant conversations and the dates, so I've not been working at totally blind random. But I might as well.

[he opens to a bookmarked folio]

You might remember that I put Lord Telemnar in charge of the Borders, thinking that as he was originally of the High King's following, and distant kin to Fingon's mother's family, that would avoid any of the problems involved in choosing someone from either our side or theirs.

Finduilas: [nodding]

It made a good deal of sense . . .

Orodreth: [wry]

Well. Only yesterday did I encounter this set of entries concerning the former Lieutenant, whose abilities did not, apparently, reflect his age or seniority in terms of time-in-grade and signally failed to endear him with his superior. The pith of the discussion is summed up in the lines: "Recommended: Can we give him back? Suppose not. Oh well. Allow several more seasons to grow out of it; if he doesn't, shunt to Armory desk where arrogant nitpicking rulemindedness won't hurt anyone." The note appended to this is only two words: "Agree, sadly."

[flips back to a later folio]

Now, here, in another entry, I have the summary of a report concerning a lad from one of the local villages, saying "Recommended: Instead of fifth citation for above-and-beyond, why not promotion? Five past coincidence, indicates either extremely good or extremely lucky; in either case, valuable asset for commander. Interviewed: Everything said borne out, yet still uncertain of own authority and shy of contradicting superiors. Counter-recommendation: Allow a few more years getting used to idea of giving orders to elders, then give own command." If I had found that before I promoted Telemnar . . .

[pause]

. . . it still wouldn't have done any good.

Finduilas: [whispering]

Because -- because he went with them . . .

[Orodreth nods, tosses the notebook aside and leans back, sighing; she is still uncertain.]

But it doesn't seem possible that so few individuals could make such an enormous difference to a -- a whole Kingdom!

Orodreth:

It doesn't seem so -- but like water, one takes such people for granted, until they're no longer present. The same few individuals who possessed the fortitude requisite to withstand the temptations of fear and sloth alike in adherence to their duty now prove -- not entirely surprisingly -- to have been the same who took upon themselves additional duties, and to set aside their own self-will and goals and recreations to see those duties through to completion. --And we who are left muddle along half-blindly, trying to recover from the ruinous darkness we have brought upon ourselves, but unwilling to dare the necessary fire--

Finduilas:

That's almost what Luthien . . .

[trails off]

Orodreth: [attentive]

What did she say?

Finduilas:

She says there's a cloud over the City, but it's in Nargothrond instead of outside. She thinks it comes from living underground . . .

Orodreth:

I'm not surprised she can feel it. But it doesn't come from the caves themselves. It began when we betrayed him.

Finduilas:

Please -- don't, father. It -- it wasn't like Alqualonde.

Orodreth:

The fact that it was a bloodless coup doesn't make it any less of one, nor does the fact that we said nothing against it change the fact that -- we said nothing. Finding no one at your back where you counted on reinforcements can be quite equally as bad as finding enemies. No, we chose not to fight, and with that we chose the consequences, Sight unseen.

Finduilas:

But what would it have done? Except give the sons of Feanor control over us completely, and openly? That wouldn't have been good, would it?

Orodreth:

If I had stood beside him then -- even I, who fled my post and left everything our brothers died to save for ruin -- if even such a coward as I could do that, -- who can tell who might have followed? -- what might have followed? I cannot.

Finduilas: [strained]

You're not a coward, father.

Orodreth:

That day -- I was. And worse. --And so Lord Beren goes in my place, at my brother's side, and bears my duty and my fate, and I have fled to safety, once again, abandoning all. And I tell myself that it is better than the blood of Alqualonde on our floors and walls, and it may well be true, and is no comfort at all. And I tell myself that Finrod forgave me in that hour, seeing that I could do no else, and know it is the truth, and that is worst--

Finduilas:

But it was for the greatest good--

Orodreth:

The greatest good? To send our foremost off undefended, the one of all of us who alone knows everything that there is to know about the Realm, about its defenses, its workings, of all the myriad connections between this kingdom and the other Noldor domains, the strengths and weaknesses of each of us, into danger, and as we now know, captivity?

Finduilas:

I don't understand.

Orodreth:

There is nothing about Beleriand, about the War, even after the end of the Siege, that Finrod does not have critical information concerning the which, the Enemy could never acquire elsewhere and singly. It is not just our safety alone that is at risk, however selfishly our first concerns may center there.

[silence]

Finduilas:

But -- why then haven't they thought of that? Why hasn't it occurred to Lord Curufin, at least?

[aside]

Or to us . . .

Orodreth: [shrugs]

I don't know if it's the madness of the Oath at work, or some residual sanity preventing them from so much self-deception.

Finduilas:

--Or Luthien's cloud?

[increasing agitation]

No one else seems to have realized it either. If -- he --

[she can't say it]

Orodreth:

--Breaks?

Finduilas:

--won't we be under attack -- here?

[her father shakes his head]

Why? Why not? What do you mean?

Orodreth:

He can't. He doesn't know how. When he's losing -- he doesn't change the rules, he changes the game. Not like 'Tariel, going about it with brute force until whatever's in the way breaks or moves, willy-nilly --

[absolute certainty]

He won't betray us.

Finduilas:

Do you think -- do you think he might escape . . . ?

Orodreth:

I don't know. No one ever has. But if it were anyone--   [he breaks off]

Finduilas: [frowning]

But . . .

Orodreth: [guessing her train of thought. No, of course I would not prevent them from returning, though I doubt that even the gods could say what would come as a result. But in any case -- I think -- he would almost certainly leave us to our own devices, to continue on the path we have chosen -- just as we were let before.

Finduilas: [slowly]

This is what he said -- this is what he Saw -- to Aunt 'Tariel, isn't it?

Orodreth:

I am afraid so. If Nargothrond is annexed by the House of Feanor, then what, indeed, remains of the realm he built?

Finduilas: [shaking her head]

--Is there any way that things could have turned out differently?

[pause]

Orodreth: [flat]

We should never have let the Feanorions into Nargothrond.

Finduilas:

But -- we couldn't turn them away. He said that himself -- what else could we have done?

Orodreth:

It would have been better to give them Minas Tirith and let them hold that province.

Finduilas:

But that was yours!

Orodreth: [shrugging]

Perhaps they would have done better than I, perhaps not. --Certainly, no worse. But the idea of uniting their strength with ours was a foolish one -- the alloy not stronger at all but flawed and brittle, weakening all of us. Yet--

[opens his hands]

I would not make the suggestion, though it was but the rational decision, being too proud, too weak, to give up what I held, and Finrod could not suggest it where I would not, could not betray me nor belittle me before the world -- and thus -- thus left himself open to such betrayal in turn, relying on whom he must, trusting us to return that trust, and -- we have all broken beneath that weight of responsibility, fallen, under that freedom, and now -- I think perhaps we are doomed to betray each other and ourselves, over and again, until not one of us has not forsaken the other--

Finduilas: [distressed]

--I shan't betray you, Father!

Orodreth:

I'm sorry, child. I didn't mean that you would. I'm -- I'm just talking. Dark thoughts, night thoughts. It's always night here, truly; she's right about that. --As well.

[quietly]

Do you remember when you were young, and you'd say the stairs were too tall for you to climb going up to the house in Tirion?

[she nods, wary]

How you'd sit down and refuse to move, and Finrod would pick you up and put you on his shoulders and run you up them with you screeching like a peacock all the way, and then pretend he'd forgotten about you while you laughed the whole time that you were taller than we, to your mother and myself?

[Finduilas hides her face in her hands]

When I was as little as that, he'd carry me like that as well. And the rest of us too, before I was born, and my sister . . . We pestered him until any normal soul would have lost patience six times over, but he never got angry with us for invading his study or touching his things, and when we nagged him to show us how to make things he never grew tired of teaching, or impatient if any of us grew bored, and ran off. I'd . . . almost forgotten those days; what I didn't realize was . . . that he'd never stopped.

Finduilas: [almost whispering]

If -- if we -- if the Ban is ever lifted, and we go back home -- what will you say to him?

Orodreth: [not harsh, smiling a little]

You mean, "If we die?"

[She does not answer, just looks at him. Calmly:]

The only thing possible -- the one thing I did not say.

[Finduilas stares at him, not understanding]

--Thank you.

[Miserably his daughter flings herself at him, holding onto him for comfort as much as to give it; he holds her close but will not say anything to console her.]

Chapter Text

Act III: SCENE LXIV.i (mute)

[Levels of Nargothrond between Luthien's rooms and the royal suite]

[Huan slinks through the hallways, head and tail low but not dragging -- this is guilty-but-determined-dog mode. He keeps to the smaller corridors and byways, ducking through accidental passageways formed by the natural shapes of the rock when possible, skulking along out of sight of people occupied in conversation, music-making, dancing and various diverse arts.]

Chapter Text

Act III: SCENE LXIV.ii (mute)

[The Armories of Nargothrond. Gwindor stalks through, grabbing a helm and shield from the racks as he goes by, people moving out of his way as they notice his expression. He does not take armor, only a hefty two-hand practice broadsword. He storms his way into the training areas, warriors vacating the area before him as if swept aside by the shock of a bow-wave. The training area itself is set up as a ravine near High Faroth, with deep rocky gorges rising on one side and the dense green of the forest all around and overhead.]

[Celebrimbor is here, hacking at a far more realistic and active quintain than mortals have ever succeeded in making. As he dispatches the Orc-simulacrum, Gwindor taps him on the shoulder and dodges the automatic counterstroke. Panting, Celebrimbor gives him a questioning look. Gwindor raises his sword in salute, raising his eyebrows. Celebrimbor nods; they face each other and square off.]

[The forest ravine blurs around them, to be replaced by a smouldering field under a red-clouded sky, its tumbled surface mercifully blackened into indistinguishable charcoal, in places lava-flows still slowly rolling and cracking open to reveal molten insides, mountains on two sides of them in the distance and a forest-fire on the slopes of one of them. On this brutal terrain the two Elven-lords go at each other mercilessly, taking and receiving punishment without effort to evade the blows.]

Chapter Text

Gower:

Pride goeth gaily, astride on charger tall,
headlong rushing, recking of never a fall--

[In the royal apartments, the Sons of Feanor are bent over a workbench on which a dramatic lighting assembly constructed of angled and movable reflectors positionable so as to obviate cast-shadow problems has been placed. Curufin has been busy for some while, and is showing off the results of his work to his elder brother.

Celegorm: [gesturing at the array of reflectors]

So you finally got that all figured out?

Curufin: [nods]

I thought it was rather daftly overdone, but once you get the hang of it, it really makes a tremendous difference in terms of enhancing the levels of relief.

Celegorm:

Are the different colored waxes just to help distinguish the separate design elements, or are you going to work them in different colors of metal as well?

Curufin:

Ye-es.

Celegorm:

Ah. Gold for the flames, silver for the leaves. --Very apt.

Curufin: [smiles]

Neat, eh? I thought so.

Celegorm:

I also approve the placement of the dual bands of flames around the inner single band of leaves. Very, ah, symmetrical.

[Curufin grins sleekly -- they are in perfect understanding]

Now, what do you think about . . .

[as they discuss design possibilities, Huan creeps in behind them and pads silently across the chamber in the deep shadows cast by the glare of the reflector. The other hounds look up at him, and respectfully put their heads down or return to gnawing.]

[Huan goes into the inner rooms and takes down the casket containing Luthien's cape in his jaws. He crushes it very slowly, but there is still some noise.]

Curufin:

What was that?

[The hounds on the hearth wag their tails and one of them makes a loud toothscrape- grinding noise of the spine-chilling sort.]

Celegorm:

Just the dogs chewing. --Could you fit a sunburst in the middle of mine, do you think? Or would that be too much?

[Huan lays down the shattered box from which CGI darkness is beginning to spill like ink in water, and paws it apart. As he stoops again to pick up the cloak, the light seems to dim slightly, as though twilight from outside were falling, though that is impossible. He pads out with it in his jaws, and as it trails past the other dogs lay their heads down and close their eyes, and the Sons of Feanor slide forward onto the worktable as though they'd been very tired for a very long time.]

Chapter Text

Act III: SCENE LXIV.iv (mute)

[The hallways near the throne room and the great solar]

[Huan glides through again, a cloud of shadow and haze drifting around him from his muzzle. Darkness like twilight follows him, spreading out in a widening tide, and everyone it touches goes into a trance, caught in pleasant dreams and memories, oblivious of the Hound passing, whether they fall asleep actually or not. The twilight continues to pool slowly through the City and drift down its halls, carrying with it a faint sound of night breeze in leaves, running water, crickets, owls, & nightingales.]

Chapter Text

Act III: SCENE LXIV.v (mute)

[Luthien's bedroom]

[Huan enters, and the drifting cape fills the entire room with nightfall -- Luthien sits bolt upright, shocked awake by the change of atmosphere, looking around wild-eyed and dazed. For a moment she looks at the Hound and doesn't recognize him or understand. He drops the cloak on the floor next to her couch, and Luthien gasps. She springs to her feet and snatches it up, clenching it in her arms fiercely. Then she hugs Huan, tears running down her cheeks, and kneels before him, attentive.]

Chapter Text

[The main corridors of Nargothrond]

[The tide of Eveningspell flows down the stairs and ramps, spilling like water into lower levels of the city, even as it ascends like drifting smoke to the levels higher]

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Act III: SCENE LXIV.vii (mute)

[Luthien's bedroom]

[Luthien stands up very straight, her chest heaving, her eyes wild. With a sudden gesture she flings out the cloak in her arms, so that it carries wide all around her, and spins it back over her shoulders. Huan drops down couchant before her and she pounces onto his back rather like a kitten, and bares her teeth in a snarl-smile. He stands up and she pats his shoulder as though he were a horse needing reassurance. They go through the apartments at a careful walk -- when they reach the door Luthien leans over as though opening a gate from horseback and takes out the needle, tossing it behind her. Huan pushes the doors open and they walk through as though there were nothing to hold them back. The camera follows them past the ensorcelled hall-guards, who doze or gaze past them without noticing them at all.]

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Act III: SCENE LXIV.viii (mute)

[In the Armories]

[The Spell trickles down and pools over the flagstones past the ranks of weapons and barding and helms towards the training area.]

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[The Gates of Nargothrond.]

[Luthien and Huan pace softly through them onto the terrace, unseen by the entranced guards. Evening pours through the pillars of the threefold gate behind them to merge with the true nightfall outside. Huan halts for a moment, sniffing the wind, then looks back over his shoulder, anxious, and whines. Luthien bends over and whispers into ear, petting his neck and he turns back to the trail. He wags his tail once, as if in reassurance, and then springs forward at a run now that they are free of the power of the City. The darkness of the cape follows behind them, hiding his gray coat entirely from view in the moonlight.]

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Act III: SCENE LXIV.x (mute)

[The great solar, near the fountain]

[The twilight-like shading of the ambient light evaporates, like diluted ink, as the Carillon unfolds and runs through its sequence unobserved.]

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Act III: SCENE LXIV.xi (mute)

[The training area of the Armories]

[Celebrimbor standing with blank eyes -- wakes up and looks at the sword in his hand, frowns.  Gwindor, also standing with his arm hanging by his side, starts and stares around, then looks up towards the ceiling, frowning at the direction. They exchange looks of dire alarm -- then turn and run through the armory as one hastening up the stairs to split off in different directions at the landing.]

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Act III: SCENE LXIV.xii (mute)

[Sirion River Valley]

[High angle -- full moon shining down a long stretch of the river northward. Silhouette of towers just to be seen on horizon between mountains and forest.]

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Act III: SCENE LXIV.xiii (mute)

[The royal apartments.]

[Asleep on the worktable, Curufin stirs, lifts his head groggily and looks around blinking. Something is stuck to his face, and he fumbles it off -- the wax model for one of the wedding rings, crushed and melted by the heat of his skin. As he grimaces, a confusion in his expression that is on the verge of turning into worry, a pounding on the door causes the hounds on the hearth to waken, leap up and start barking. This makes Celegorm spring bolt upright, tipping his chair over sideways and causing him to, if not exactly trip, still collide with the table rather hard and involuntarily. Recovering, he rushes over and flings the doors  open -- revealing one of their Household, wearing a look of Doom, outside...]

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Gower:

Shattered now, at the tolling of the hours,
fadeth the sweet tranquility of Lorien
cast upon the City's folk, the scent of flowers,
the dreamlike peace and dreaming then--

[Luthien's apartments. The door stands open, the guards stand about in defensive clusters trying not to look at all responsible for anything. A few poke through the back rooms of the suite as though she might possibly be hiding somewhere, they just missed her somehow. Celebrimbor is sitting on the bench beneath the North-facing window that Luthien used to haunt. Disheveled and rather bloody in his combat togs, he looks at the hilt of his sword musingly, tracing out alternate designs for it with his fingers as he waits for the inevitable entrance of his family -- now happening.]

Curufin: [white-hot rage]

--What do you mean, "The door was open and she was gone"? That just can't be --

[sees his son]

What are you doing here? Is -- this your doing? If it is, so help me --

Celebrimbor: [pleasantly]

--Who? I'd be interested in hearing who the patron of Kinslayers is, Father -- though I think I know already.

Celegorm: [breaking in]

What happened? Where is she?

[His nephew laughs wildly and hilariously]

--Dammit, answer me, you little punk!

Celebrimbor:

It seems -- that your nightingale has flown. The rooms were thus when I awoke downstairs at the pels.

Celegorm:

She can't have gotten far -- get the horses saddled and we'll track her --

Celebrimbor:

Do you really think you'll catch up now, Uncle? It's been more than a bell now.

Celegorm:

What, is she going to fly? She's got no horse, you idiot.

Celebrimbor:

--Do you think she needs one?

[they look at him like he's insane]

Oh come now -- you don't see Huan about, either, do you?

Curufin: [scornful]

He's a Hound, not a horse, 'Brim.

Celebrimbor:

--Who happens to be as big as one, and faster than any courser we've owned. A horse would just slow them down, I expect.

[silence]

Celegorm: [doubtful]

He wouldn't stoop to being ridden . . . she wouldn't dare, surely.

Celebrimbor: [deadpan]

He's her friend and she loves him and trusts him with some justification. It's plainly inconceivable.

Curufin:

--Leave the room.

Celebrimbor:

No, thanks, I think I'll stay here for the time being.

Curufin:

Be careful of defying me, boy.

Celebrimbor: [grimaces]

Unfortunately, I am . . .

[enter Orodreth with entourage, foremost his daughter and her fiance, the latter standing protectively next to her, still carrying his sword as well.]

Orodreth:

My lords. This is -- a surprise, I gather?

[wary Looks all round the Feanorians]

So -- your Leaguer has been breached, I take it. --Once again, putting trust in the strength of pales without to hold within a determined and unmeasured force has proven to be -- ah, inadvisable. It seems The Beoring was right, after all, as to the repetitive nature of strategy and offense.

Celegorm:

[inarticulate growling noise]

Orodreth: [glancing around the room, as though sniffing the air]

Very impressive. Entirely constructive in its nature, too. What an amazing use of Healing principles to unblock barriers as well as to foil observation. And strangely self-maintaining, too, to linger so long afterwards -- What, didn't you know what her Working could do, my lords? You had it to study long enough.

[pause]

What extraordinary forbearance, as well. I really -- well, unfortunately I can imagine only too well what my sister might inflict on those who had served her the same way. It would be . . . memorable. --Quite unforgettable, I should say.

[The Sons of Feanor stand shoulder to shoulder, scowling at the Regent's party, the rest of the people in the room standing between them in uncertain alignment except for Celebrimbor smiling mockingly at his folks from the sidelines, one hand on his updrawn knee, one on the hilt of his sword, where he leans back on the bench.]

Celegorm:

Did you know she could do this?

Orodreth:

No more than you.  

Curufin: [turning on the rhetoric]

You're remarkably blasé about all this, cousin. Has it not occurred to you that the Lady Luthien is presently hastening to destruction, alone and helpless, while we stand here deliberating technicalities of Art?

Orodreth:

Hardly helpless, by the look of it, nor -- where is Huan, by the by? -- I should guess alone. She can hardly do any worse than has been done so far.

Curufin: [icy]

You may think this but touches our Household -- but I would remind you, Lord    Steward of Nargothrond, that she -- they -- must go with certain knowledge of this City's location and the ways back to it, which now must all be trebly obscured and guarded, and still the jeopardy will not be entirely removed!

[The Prince Regent only stares at him, arms folded, with a slight, one-sided smile]

Orodreth:

It is, as the mortal saying has it, far late in the day to be thinking of that.

[pause]

What will come, will come. What has already happened, has happened. Nothing of your will, nor of mine, can change either in the slightest. All we can do is wait, and be ready. --My lords.

[In the middle of another angry glare Celegorm's eyes suddenly widen -- he has remembered something else.]

Celegorm: [aside to Curufin]

--The letter!

Curufin:

. . .

[Shocked realization followed by mutual dismay]

Curufin: [recovering, sneering]

Well, my lord Steward, such passivity is only to be expected of you. My brother and I, however, are not content with that, and we at least will set ourselves to  &bbsp;  such countermeasures, defenses, and contingency plans as our combined wits and the resources of our House can concoct. I trust you'll not object, seeing as our end is the good of the City?

[The Regent shakes his head, smiling faintly]

Are you coming with us, son?

[Celebrimbor shakes his head.]

--Stay with these losers, then -- but don't expect me to take you back without a full apology. I promise you, you'll soon think better of your stupidity!

[turns to go, barely under control. Aside:]

--I'm going to kill her, I swear--

[Stalks out, followed by Celegorm. Some of the guards follow them, some start to,  then stop guiltily, others look at each other, the Regent and his assistants, the floor. As Finduilas takes hold of his hand, Orodreth looks anxious, afraid to hope, yet unable to help it.]

Gower:

 --Now for the nonce, for little while 
Nargothrond yet remains in habits false-secure, 
choosing to refuse the fearful intimations that rile 
the surface of the current, Time's stream a lure 
illusory, that seemeth ever same and changeless, 
and yet is ever other, ever changes, ever bears 
burdens small and great within its mirrored dress; 
But the Doom, their Doom, is already loosed 
and sweepeth down within the sky-reflecting flood 
like to a baulk of timber to shatter the unwary used 
to calms, driven 'gainst water-gates on tide of blood, 
it comes, and all effort to stave off shall turn 
but to a hastening-- 
Of this unknowing, too, but too well aware 
of fate general and dark, for her heart doth spurn 
its confines like rush of wings, the Nightingale no more 
on Narog's selfish shores doth bide -- freed 
of her soft confines by love unmarred of greed, 
Northward she hurtles like a driving storm to fare, 
horseless and needless, fleet Huan her faithful steed, 
swift as swans' flight or the forces of the air 
launched from steam-catapult in the van of war. 
    For herself no thought of harm, no terror, 
no more than long-doomed Huan ever of the fate 
anciently set upon him, that "wolf more great 
than ever walked the world" shall be the bearer 
of his destruction, nor the King her kin, 
whose words self-spoken centuries past 
work to their full completing now at last-- 
    Tinuviel upon the trail doth fly: behind the din, 
the hue-and-cry, mattering naught beside the path 
she follows to its dread sentinel of stone, more dark 
in cruelty and power than twisted shade of Delduath. 
--Like unto fire-arrow loosed against its mark, 
--like the fast falcon falling in fell dive, 
--like to a star that shoots across the vale, 
her soul and self she sets complete to strive 
'gainst Morgoth's haughty servant, though mail 
nor bow nor sword nor helm hath she, 
nor aught of gear of war, or the grim travail 
in years of Leaguer to learn their ways -- only free 
the given heart to raise in challenge high, 
her sword her song, her shield of main-wrought dreams. 
    Pitiful to wield, and her only choice to go, it seems 
from prison to prison, and there as thrall to live, or die 
even as her love, far from the fair woodlands where they met. 
      --Forward her face like adamant is set 
and backwards looks she never--

Chapter Text

A caccia is a hunting song, related to the modern words "catch" in both senses, the verb and the song, and so appropriate in multiple ways — first there is the story's theme of following, followed by the trapping and holding of the heroine, and second the medieval (perhaps older) use of "the hunt" as a metaphor for pursuit in love — and hence thirdly as a play on the Lays of Beleriand. "At bay" of course refers to a game animal held encircled by the hounds which summon the huntsmen to finish the job, and by extension refers to anyone forced to a confrontation largely one-sided.

 

 

(I almost feel like I'm cheating, in writing this act — essentially I'm just riffing straight off the Lay of Leithian fragments, whence come such insights as Luthien's altered time-sensibilities and lots of illuminating dialogue…)

As Act II had several purposes and points of focus, Beren's character, the Oath and the Silmarils, the unfolding of the War against Morgoth, and the relationship between the Noldor and the Edain, so too Act III. It is Luthien's turn, and part of that is the exploration of the Return of the Noldor as it affected those born in Middle-earth: instead of contrasting the situations of Elf and Man, I attempt to contrast the differences between the native and emigree Elven cultures.

In both acts, as throughout The Script, I also endeavor to make clear the connections with Third Age events and persons. Any such apparent references to LOTR are, in fact, intentional, just as before.

 

 

There are two ways of considering the character of Lúthien — I'm tempted to be flippant and say: one is to read the texts, the other isn't — but that isn't terribly helpful, so I'll try to clarify. The first, and to my mind oddly) most common way I've encountered is to assume that she is no different from the "traditional" fairy tale princess (who is in fact not traditional at all) coming to us courtesy of Disney and Co., ignorant, naive, and just waiting for some chap to say "Let me show you the world", so to speak.

The other way, which may seem a bit simplistic (at first at least) is to assume that when Aragorn calls his many-times great-grandmother "wise" in his ballad, he's merely speaking plain truth. After all, he's met at least two people who knew her personally and had ample opportunity to converse with them — the Lady and Lord of the Golden Wood, as well as who knows how many remain of Doriath's refugees in their company.

You can assume that someone older than most of the Returnees, growing up in not only one of the great cultural centers of Middle-earth, but the cultural center for most of that time, as much a crossroads and confluence of different ethnic groups as Rome, and under continual siege for, again, most of that time, is completely oblivious to the harsher realities of life (despite being both a trained healer and a trained mage in an embattled capital) and incapable of making rational decisions — but I'm not sure why anyone would.

So — what does one discover when one looks at the relevant texts? And further, into the archives and chronicles of Middle-earth? The answer is, surprisingly perhaps, someone rather scary. Not because of her intrinsic, inherited power — but because of her uncompromising principles and force of will (which long predate the self-discovery of her abilities as the most powerful telepath ever to walk Middle-earth — and that includes Melian), and the fact that she doesn't just do things randomly and without forethought. So that when she does make a decision, you have a better chance of turning aside a tidal wave than stopping Tinúviel. The only thing more intimidating than a wild-eyed idealist is — a cool-headed, logical, dispassionate idealist, wouldn't you say? And when that icy rationalism is combined with passion, the result is absolutely terrifying.

Everything in here derives either from a comprehensive reading of the Silmarillion, and a consideration of the connections and implications, or from the Lay of Leithian fragments. Relevant quotes will of course be supplied along the way. (Occasionally I have also had recourse to the oldest form of the story, the "Tale of Tinuviel" from The Book of Lost Tales, vol. I, for insights and images, when helpful.)

Again I have made the usage of dialogue reflect background, to some extent, and Luthien speaks with a less formal idiom to reflect the changing and much-influenced Sindarin culture of Doriath as opposed to the more static, and archaic society of the Returnees from Aman. Ardalambion has an amusing essay on how language becomes simpler and faster when you're fighting Orcs and all…

Luthien's appearance comes straight from the Lay of Leithian fragment 1, as do the rest of the quotes in this act unless otherwise noted:

"Far from her home, forwandered, pale,
she flitted ghostlike through the vale;
ever her heart bade her up and on,
but her limbs were worn, her eyes were wan…

down she let slip her shadowy cloak,
and there she stood in silver and white.
Her starry jewels twinkled bright
in the risen sun like morning dew;
the lilies gold on mantle blue
gleamed and glistened…"

This is clearly the same overgarment she wore the previous winter when Beren saw her dancing in the ice, compared in LL1 to the Northern Lights overhead:

"Her mantle blue with jewels white
caught all the rays of frosted light.
She shone with cold and wintry flame…"

For her ragged and barefoot state further textual evidence is found in Canto X, where she is described as

"worn, unshod, roofless and restless."

Ronia, the Robber's Daughter is an excellent, bittersweet YA novel by Astrid Lindgren, more famous for her creation of another spunky heroine; Trina Schart Hyman's cover illustration for it is perfect, as are all of her illustrations; she was a great influence on my visual imagination from my adolescence.

 

Scene I

 

"In Nargothrond the torches flared
and feast and music were prepared.
Luthien feasted not but wept.
Her ways were trammelled; closely kept
she might not fly. Her magic cloak
was hidden, nor did answer find
her eager questions. Out of mind,
it seemed, were those afar that pined
in anguish and in dungeons blind
in prison and in misery.
Too late she knew their treachery.
It was not hid in Nargothrond
that Feanor's sons held her in bond
who Beren heeded not, and who
had little cause to wrest from Thu
the king they loved not and whose quest
old vows of hatred in their breast
had roused from sleep. Orodreth knew
the purpose dark they would pursue:
King Felagund to leave to die,
and with King Thingol's blood ally
the house of Feanor by force
or treaty. But to stay their course
he had no power, for all his folk
the brothers had yet beneath their yoke,
and all yet listened to their word.
Orodreth's counsel no man heard;
their shame they crushed, and would not heed
the tale of Felagund's dire need."

Taking this as my theme and inspiration for the understanding of Lúthien's own sojourn in Nargothrond, I've built on the very gothic themes of this canto to make a dark mystery story of the unfolding revelations of the situation, past and present. I don't think I'm going out unwarrantedly, though, in this — it isn't specified how long it took for that which "was not hid" to become completely clear, and the indication that Nargothrond is in severe denial creates for me an atmosphere of extreme surreality in which the one sane person appears, inevitably, mad.

I've used, and will use throughout, ballads mostly from the Anglo-Appalachian tradition to represent the songs of Dorthonion — partly because they have so many apt quotations and applications, partly because I know them best, having grown up hearing them, and partly because they fit, for me, with the "hick" aspect of Dorthonion, Beren's remote back-country accent which so annoyed and horrified Elu Thingol, which I had deduced before I actually discovered that in HOME there's a reference to that fact. That Lúthien has not sung until it becomes necessary to her escape, combined with the ideological decision to learn the Bëorings' ancient language as a rejection of her own family's rejection of them, is my motivation for having her employ the folksongs of the Edain, common across Hithlum as well as Dorthonion, which would be in the then-Common Tongue of Sindarin as spoken in the North.

 

Scene II

Curufin spake: 'Good brother mine,
I like it not. What dark design
doth this portend? These evil things,
we swift must end their wanderings!
And more, 'twould please my heart full well
to hunt a while and wolves to fell.'
And then he leaned and whispered low
that Orodreth was a dullard slow;
long time it was since the king had gone,
and rumour or tidings came there none.
    'At least thy profit it would be
to know whether dead he is or free;
to gather thy men and thy array.
"I go to hunt" then thou wilt say,
and men will think that Narog's good
ever thou heedest. But in the wood
things may be learned; and if by grace,
by some blind fortune he retrace
his footsteps mad, and if he bear
a Silmaril -- I need declare
no more in words; but one by right
is thine (and ours), the jewel of light;
another may be won -- a throne.
The eldest blood our house doth own.'

It's clear that they do care for popular opinion, and that equally, they care nothing for the truth…or murder.

As far as Orodreth's characterization, that too derives from the Lay fragments as much as from consideration of the entire history of House Finarfin as told in the Silmarillion, but the source texts must wait upon the proper time for their presentation.

 

Scene III

 

Yes, the Sons of Fëanor did in Canonical fact pretend to be merely "Lords of Nargothrond" as well as acting like it was all news to them, that they'd never heard the name Beren before; qv. LL1, Canto VIII. (In other words, Lúthien isn't a fool, she didn't not know that they were hereditary enemies of her House and prattle away to them cluelessly. She just didn't recognize them as the Sons of Fëanor — not like there are tabloids and publicity shots in Middle-earth, after all.) It's my assumption that they would have used the less-familiar mother names of Aman naming convention, and have constructed for them the Sindarin forms used here.

"O lady fair, wherefore in toil
and lonely journey dost thou go?
What tidings dread of war and woe
In Doriath have betid? Come tell!
For fortune thee hath guided well;
friends thou hast found,' said Celegorm,
and gazed upon her elvish form.

In his heart him thought her tale unsaid
he knew in part, but nought she read
of guile upon his smiling face.
    'Who are ye then, the lordly chase
that follow in this perilous wood?'
she asked; and answer seeming-good
they gave. 'Thy servants, lady sweet,
lords of Nargothrond thee greet,…"

"..........…Sign nor word
the brothers gave that aught they heard
that touched them near…"

 

Scene IV

 

This scene, of the seduction of Finduilas to the aid of Curufin's plotting, has a dual purpose: to illustrate Curufin's skilll with words and half-truths, how the Sons of Feanor hold sway without need for violence, as per LL1,

"…for all his folk
the brothers had yet beneath their yoke,
and all yet listened to their word,"

and to set the stage for the upcoming scenes between Luthien and Finduilas.

I have tried not to be too unfair to Finduilas throughout — though we know that she will abandon Gwindor for Turin, she is more than a stock "fickle woman" in the originals, and so I have, while using her as a foil for Luthien, tried to draw her as someone not particularly recollected, very conventional without understanding or caring for the philosophical principles behind the conventions, and much attached (as are many of the Returnees who suffered through the Helcaraxë, q.v. Gondolin, not only poor Salgant) to comforts and "the good life," though not as the Socratics understood it. She holds positions and views like wax — that is to say, in perfect detail until replaced by another, stronger impression, hard yet brittle until softened for a new stamp. —She is, sadly, a composite of many real characters I have known in my life.

 

Scene V.i

 

Of Huan's crisis of conscience in LL1:

Ahead leaped Huan day and night,
and ever looking back his though
twas troubled. What his master sought,
and why he rode not like the fire,
why Curufin looked with hot desire
on Luthien, he pondered deep,
and felt some evil shadow creep
of ancient curse o'er Elvenesse.
His heart was torn for the distress
of Beren bold, and Luthien dear,
and Felagund who knew no fear…

 

Scene V.ii

 

It's interesting — to me at least — how Beren's gifts and abilities so closely mirror Celegorm's. Oromë, after all, is the Lord of the Hunt, the Vala most fiercely devoted, historically, to hunting Morgoth's fell creatures and minions, and the one who taught Celegorm the language of beasts as well as giving Huan to him. Beren, however, not only hasn't had it quite so easy — I would say that besides coming by his gifts the harder way, he's also been doing Oromë's work far more seriously for longer instead of the rather dilettantish way Celegorm's been going about the work of monster-slaying. —Even before any other ethical challenges presented themselves. (And yes, I do include House Feanor's performance in the Leaguer in that description.)

For this reason (as well as reasons of style, character distinction, and humour) I've given Celegorm the idiom of the "huntin', shootin', fishin' " aristocrat of British literary tradition, the sort of chap who in Jane Austen's delightful parodies of popular romance is willing to break off his engagement when he discovers that the day set for the wedding is also the first day of "the Season"—!

 

As I cannot come up with a single instance of a Teler or Sindar historical figure who uses the Noldor conventions of mother- and father-names, but only a single personal name and an epesse, or aftername — and in some instances only aftername seems to be employed — it's my conjecture that the use of two personal names in childhood is a convention developed in Valinor. This may be a mistaken impression, but I haven't found any notes to contradict it. Luthien's comment on the rationale is, of course, sheerest speculation on my part.

 

Scene VI

 

This should have been easy, since I'm only reworking LL1, cantos III-V in the first person, essentially, combined with the putting of the worst possible construction on the events of those cantos, to reconstruct the sorts of messy, unpleasant and endless conversations we are told that Lúthien had with her family before they gave up on her and took the avoidant route. It actually turned out to be rather brutal to write, because it is so easy to put the worst possible construction on their romance, and so the challenge was to write something emotionally trying to the characters without being too unpleasant on the reader. Hopefully I've succeeded at it, and so far the responses have been positive, so I'm pretty satisfied with this part now.

 

 Orc-raids targetted at Lúthien: this is true — q.v. Canto VII — though I'm assuming for the sake of the story that this has been de-emphasized for well-meant reasons, until such time as it might be useful in turning her to the path of prudence and away from the insanity, as her family sees it, of planning to go looking for Beren on her own. In fact, it's a critical plot point, and one of several ways in which the Lay of Leithian manages to weave archetypal myth and folklore elements in with the most unromanticized, unromantic of war/espionage tropes in a merge that still continues to amaze me. The fact of information lacks, lags, and gaps on both sides leading to confusion and catastrophe is something all too familiar to those familiar with the real military, and not Hollywood's rendering of it — that is after all why it's called "Normal" as well as having an acronym…

 

 In the oldest rescension, the musician Daeron [also spelled Dairon] is her older brother. In HOME he has become the renowned polymath genius of Middle-earth, whose invention of the cirth (runes) and association with Elu Thingol goes back to at least the time of Lúthien's birth. Hence I see it as rather a Little Dorritt situation — except that unlike Little Dorritt, Lúthien wasn't drooping about hoping he'd finally, eventually, someday notice that she was All Grown Up and waiting there for him to realize it. She has a life, and the last thing she's waiting for is someone to come take care of her. Snow White she isn't, nor Dierdre of the Sorrows (though there are closer parallels to Dierdre than to Snow White in her story, by far.)

This does a very good job of explaining Daeron's bizarre behavior — because there is no way that Daeron can be considered anything but neurotic, as I have Luthien point out. If all this past millenium and almost-a-half he's seen her as "little" Lúthien — and this is not only plausible, but common, not simply to older friends, but to parents as well, the inability to recognize that children do grow up and don't stay three-year-olds — then to suddenly realize that she is indeed an adult, not merely intellectually but having it inescapably presented to him, is going to be jarring, to say the least. And in that jarring, he too gets his "first sight" of her — which doesn't happen until he sees her, as it were, through Beren's eyes.

Because the people who have grown up with her, all her life, don't see her until circumstances are drastically changed. (This includes her parents, most definitely.) They are incapable of perceiving her true strength and potential power, because they take her for granted as their little girl. (There is also the complicated, and oft-missed, fact that in the Arda Mythos, "beauty" is among other things a metaphor for moral strength, the reasons for which are made rather clear in the essay "On Fairy-tales." This is not of course sufficient and complete: the ways in which this is used and abused within the histories provide ample warrant for the Canonical necessity of trusting one's feelings as well…But this is a topic probably outside the scope of these Notes.)

So add to Daeron's cognitive dissonance not only the fact that now he realizes that Lúthien is an adult, is not a child, and is not only old enough to fall in love, and has done so, but that she is desirable as an adult, and desired — and that he didn't notice at all, and does now, and at the same time has the image of her as child and practically younger relative, and you have the combination calculated to send even the most intellectual and rationally-governed of Elves (or Men) round the bend. Mix of shame/embarrassment over feeling that these feelings have to be inappropriate, self-reproach over lost opportunity, conviction that "Hey! I should have dibs! I've known her longer!" and back to the inappropriateness and forfeited opportunites, plus the automatic older-relative-protective mode, and realization that that isn't appropriate for him, her being a competent adult, either—

—Way easier just to blame the interloper for it all. (Which I suppose is better than blaming Lúthien, but not much more rational.)

Further warrant for this interpretation is found in LL1 in the fact that the issue at court is that Beren is a stranger in Doriath (not supposed to happen) and worse yet, of a class entirely forbidden (this was always the case, even in the oldest version of the story, where instead of being Mortal he was a Noldor lord displaced in the War and the grievance against him was the hereditary association with the Kinslaying) and the fact of Daeron's subsequent shame:  there's no self-righteousness after he gets caught, he's morbidly guilty right from the start, even though he keeps hoping throughout the Throne Room Scene (guiltily) that Beren will be executed. Doesn't stop him from doing it again, out of (ahem) the best of motives — or from being ashamed yet again — the old saying about the path paved with good intentions seems to be illustrated here in hellish detail.

 

"a tender goddess" — homage to P.G. Wodehouse, of course. The favorite descriptive phrase of Bingo Little, known for sudden, frequent, complicated and embarrassing crushes that entangle all his acquaintances as well.

 

 By Middle-earth standards, Lúthien is a fully-qualified paramedic, with ample opportunities for honing her skills. Things were pretty messy in Beleriand for quite some time before the Return, (Silm., "Of the Sindar") and in LL1 it's stated that being able to do this is just one of the ordinary domestic skills of an Elven-lady of Doriath — not unlike that of a medieval Lady, who also couldn't simply dial the ambulance service. Lúthien has advantages of inherited power as well as incentive, but this should give pause to those who would dismiss either her or all Wood-elf maidens as dainty and decorative, but no more. Unless you're up to (as I've remarked elsewhere in another venue) crawling out of the wreck of a kidnapping attempt to negotiate a truce with the hostage takers, and when the truce breaks down, shrugging off attempted murder to deal with one's partner's downing and performing field surgery to remove large-caliber ammunition in a wilderness situation. I've never had to do anything like it, stitches make me personally a bit ill and though I'd certainly do my best if I had to, just the thought of trying to get a broad-head arrow out of someone makes me go green. (I'd be a bit better at using the Angcrist as a machete to make a shelter, and I sort of know how to start a fire with flint and steel and build it so it doesn't smother out. But I wouldn't want to depend on my survival skills if I didn't have to, either.)

 

blackbirds: in Britain, the equivalent of the American mockingbird — though the one that sang outside my window mornings in the brief time I sojourned in London had a song so clearly melodic in the Ionian mode that it was several days before I was sure it was a bird, not the postman whistling. Instantly, when I realized its source was the grackle-sized bird in the tree out front, I realized that all the poems that talk about blackbirds were not in the slightest exaggeration. If I were a composer I would set that melody into a composition — I can whistle it to this day; Dvorzak might have used it in another morning-song.

 

The LL1 story from Canto III about Melian's hair vs. the Silm. story… the two don't necessarily rule each other out — life, and the self-edited versions of it we tell ourselves, and our friends and relatives, are often rather complicated. How relevant is the story of Melian and Thingol to the story of Lúthien and Beren? Is this something I'm constructing that isn't meant to be read this way? Well, several cantos of the Lay begin with historical references to something else in the Arda Mythos. We have, in addition, the Oath of Fëanor, Maedhros on Thangorodrim, the Siege of Angband, the Dagor Bragollach (including Fingolfin's Ride and the Fen of Serech), the Valar Oromë, and would have had Morgoth's theft of the Silmarils had the Lay been completed. Every single other invocation has a direct bearing on the subsequent events which immediately follow as well as on the backstory and conditions surrounding the action as a whole. So, no, I'm not stringing together fancies here unintended by Tolkien.

 

"Swarn" is a real Green-elven [Nandor] word, thanks again to Ardalambion [http://www.uib.no/people/hnohf/], and it does mean obdurate, intransigent, and just plain mule-stubborn, without any connotations of darkness or evil involved; probably pronounced with a hint of a "ch" in the initial consonant cluster as it descends from the primitive form squarno. It's my guess that the Laiquendi would have applied it to the Returnees. (With a word like that just given away, how could I pass it up? I've been waiting for a chance to use it for a long time.)

 

Thanks to loyal beta NovusSibyl for the line "he just wanted to be sure" which came up in a plot-mulling session, (and who is also responsible for the much-lauded casting of James Marsters as the Brothers Fëanorion.)

 

Scene VII

 

horn-mad: crazy as a mad bull, used in The Comedy of Errors, where Adriana of the much-tried patience mistakes it for an accusation of retributory infidelity against her Antipholus by the unfortunate Dromio of Ephesus.

 

This is my hubristic effort at recreating in part a letter Canonically known to have been so awful that it not only incited the mobilization of Doriath, but actually made Lúthien's father think somewhat (note, only somewhat) better of Beren, as in — All of the Sons of Feanor for sons in-law (however many of them are actually still alive at this point) is definitely worse. They really have no clue what they almost bring upon themselves. (There's an AU that boggles the mind.)

 

Curufin's empire-building ambitions, the Canonical motive of consolidating all Elven-realms under one House Feanor rule before going after the Silmarils, combined with his rising paranoia and the willingness to destroy anyone who thwarts him, bear to my mind suspicious resemblence to Someone Else's behavior in Arda…This is how I reconcile the earlier version, written before it was established that Curufin was Celebrimbor's father, with the latter, where it says that Curufin looked "with hot desire" on Lúthien as well, which although it could make for an interesting dramatic rivalry/rift between the brothers, doesn't work that way in either the older or the latter Canon, so alas I can't warrant doing it — thus Celegorm desires Lúthien for her beauty and attractiveness, Curufin as a political pawn and key to power. Neither one of them sees her as a person in her own right, and both of them have incredible self-esteem issues tied up in getting what they want. Achilles has nothing on the Sons of Fëanor.

 

go critical: this is not really an anachronism, despite appearances; in foundry-casting of elaborate sculptures with many deep undercuts and small extensions, it's necessary to force the metal to sort of explode out into the farthest reaches of the mold, so that you don't have to make patches and weld them on, which is less stable. The famous Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellino in his Autobiography describes getting up from having the 'flu to supervise the casting of the giant Perseus with the Gorgon's Head, and having to sacrifice all his silverware to push the molten alloy to the critical point where it would boil over and fill the entire mold, except for a small part on one of the feet, which he'd already expected he'd have to fix. (This is, by the way, the same statue that features so prominently in Lois McMaster Bujold's excellent Renaissance Italian fantasy The Spirit Ring.)

 

Scene VIII

 

Gower is, of course, referring to Banquo's appearance in Macbeth.

 

 As with most things, I don't see Celebrimbor's subsequent rebellion against his House and deliberate alignment with Orodreth related in Silm. as coming out of the blue — events, like cars, don't just "come out of nowhere." Hence I have chosen to illustrate his conflicted struggling between moral duty and the easier way of doing nothing. (There are — of course — ulterior motives of story and reference as well, which shall become clearer in subsequent exchanges.)

 

The story of the heraldic device of Finarfin is my own devising, but the notion of apotropaic serpents (er, sorry, that is to say, protective & beneficial — too many archeology books at an impressionable age) is both Egyptian and Indo-European, and elegant metalwork snakes, both jewelry and freestanding sculptures, can be found in Graeco-Roman art, as well as the royal emblems of the pharaonic tradition. (Serpents are also associated with the oracular in both traditions.) And wreaths of flowers, worn by the lords and ladies of the ancient world, may be seen in murals of festivals from Amarna and elsewhere. The explicit connection of the implicit relationship between ancient High-Elven (and later, Numenorean) cultures and Egyptian/Near Eastern civilizations is found in Letters, bearing out the subtler indications given in ROTK and Silmarillion. I don't know that this is the association behind the emblem, of course, but since it's nowhere explained, and very mysterious, I thought I'd venture a history for the enigma.

As far as how, in Primary World history, real heraldic devices came to be chosen — many are much odder than this. Puns abound (William of Islip, whose escutcheon bore an eyeball and a shouting man falling out of a tree, "eye" + "slip" = "I slip!") along with instances of people taking insults and turning them to their own interpretation, as well as the more common adoptions of mythic or conventional symbology — but how in the days before myth and symbol had become tradition? One historical instance of a totemic animal being chosen after witnessing an incident which was taken as oracular exists in the story of the pioneering settlers of Tenochtitlan, presently known as Mexico City: the emblem of the hawk battling the snake which has endured for millenia.

 

subtlety: an elaborate dessert, often representing something else (like a gingerbread castle or marzipan fruit.)

 

Scene IX

 

"poison": a reference to Hamlet. More than one kind can be administered by ear — this was, after all, Morgoth's favorite ploy, to start rumours, make insinuations, raise doubts, and then let them grow and run wild on their own. After all, one can always find evidence for one's suspicions…

 

More illustration of the mess that has to have been made of Nargothrond's social structure — and a reminder that there were significant fault lines underlying long before Beren's arrival, owing to the presence of a huge contingent of Feanorian partisans arriving in the wake of the Dagor Bragollach…and the shock to morale and society of the battle itself, which would have been the largest single loss of life since the Return, quite apart from it ending in defeat and a barest stalemate/retrenchment scenario.

 

I don't know what art form Finduilas would have favored — blown and worked glass is my own assignment — but it's important to remember that all Elves were artists, that centuries of life allow for even more exploration of talents than we can achieve (and some of us manage to cover a wide range, though few reach the level of a da Vinci) and so the popular idea of the idle, untalented and utterly boring lady of high degree is no more accurate for Middle-earth than it is for our earth's Middle Ages. And the symbolism seemed apt as well…

(As a side note, I highly recommend that everyone read the works of Frances and Joseph Gies, historians who make medieval Europe come to life with authentic quotes from firsthand sources and often darkly-hilarous details. Life in a Medieval City, for example, brings us the image of an angry Abbess leading her retainers in a local war against papal demolition crews, while Life in a Medieval Village provides coroners' reports to demonstrate why Alcohol and Crossbows Don't Mix.)

 

Scene X

 

tafl, or "table", also known as "king's table" and "king-stone" (cyningstan) after the key piece, is the Scandinavian board game similar to chess, but offering an interesting challenge. The form of it I have used here is the Finnish version called "tablut," which uses an 8 - 16 ratio instead of the more common 12-24, and thus allows for such a use as I have made of the common gameboard setup. The source for the rules and layout of the game I found here, with citations from early texts and archeological references [http://www.vikinganswerlady.org/games.htm]; the applicability is, I hope, obvious.

I am perhaps taking some artistic liberties here in assigning Primary World board games to Arda, as I cannot immediately recall or provide any citations regarding either chess or draughts (checkers) in Middle-earth (the apparent citation, of "amber chessmen" in the endnotes in LB is not in fact by JRRT, but a suggested, unused, stanza by C.S. Lewis, so I don't accept it). But as such games of strategy and skill are common in the epic tradition and throughout the world as well as across the ages, I feel warranted in using the device here, upon the assumption that someone in Beleriand would surely have devised some such game, especially with the artistic opportunities that the pieces provide, and that other peoples would have mucked about with the game and made their own versions. (Given their long-standing occupation with both warfare and artistry, it's entirely possible that such a game would have been invented by the Dwarves first — though that would probably pique certain factions of the Eldar no end!) One may simply assume that as with the Red Book of Westmarch, the Middle-earth game has been "translated" into an equivalent form here•

As for the rationale behind the rules of tablut, that is my own, but I think it plausible, though I will stand corrected if any Scadians have better information and/or combat experience, of course. The use of chess in both life and literature as an opportunity for political and romantic metaphors is well attested. (Plus there's just something apropos about using a Lapp form of the game, given that Tolkien was so inspired by the Kalevala as to learn Finnish in order to be able to read it in the original!) Battles for incredibly high stakes — not only property, but spouses, and even one's self, abound in Indo-European folklore — unfortunate addicts to the ancient Irish version called "fidchell" occasionally made the mistake of playing for keeps against wizards and ended up trapped in animal form as well.

 

 

red and white: modern readers may not be aware — as I was not prior to reading a Sayers novel involving an antique chess set — that in ancient times the traditional colors were white (stone or bone or walrus ivory, as in the Lewis chessmen) and dark red, which is an easily obtainable color from iron oxide, permanent, non-fading, and unlike black allows finely carved details to be easily seen.

 

Scene XI

 

"our mothers": neither Feanor's wife Nerdanel nor Celebrimbor's wife approved of the Return, and chose to remain behind in Aman. We know that there was a long history of trouble between Curufin's parents, but the details of his own marriage as far as I know were never written down.

 

I intend here to pay homage to Primary World history in the developing storyline of The Geste here — how it evolved might be surprising to some, both what changed and what did not, and I don't pretend to either have all the elements, or to understand how they all fit together chronologically and artistically, though I do understand many of the reasons for inclusion and rejection, the various artistic tensions and narrative demands warring over the final plotline.

One significant element is the entire creation of Nargothrond, which exists, in great measure, and as it eventually is revealed, not only because of Turin's destiny. From a fall-back secondary base camp dating from the breaking of the Leaguer it becomes a great and ancient City — and Finrod becomes its King and founder — because Beren must go there. By the time of the writing of LL1 circa 1926, it is established that Orodreth was not the original ruler, but the third and youngest brother of the King (this is when Finarfin was named Finrod, and it had not been established yet that "Felagund" was an aftername, and before Galadriel was known to be their sister) and that the Sons of Fëanor are guests (in fact DPs and refugees) of their cousins.

However, in some of the earlier summary outlines, Celegorm was the original founder and rightful King of Nargothrond, who had become indebted to Beren's father, and so the conflict was both more and less complex: the Oath binding him from whole-hearted assistance, he nevertheless sends a warband with Beren; and following their capture, when he takes Lúthien prisoner it is less cynical, more pathetic: he explains that he has already sent his troops with Beren and cannot send more, and though he does hope that Lúthien will turn to him instead, he eventually lets her go when she appeals to his conscience.

So the sense that he still retained some better nature that could be appealed to, which was not necessarily overridden by either passion or the Oath I have chosen to allow in the shading-in of Lúthien's captivity in Nargothrond.

 

Scene XII.i

 

Hamlet also provides us with the line "A hit, a very palpable hit" — and an example of a friendship betrayed.

 

 

"invisibility cloak": there are many forms of invisibility — sleight of hand, the ability to go unnoticed in various circumstances, camouflage — and being able to put watchers and attackers into a dreaming trance would certainly also qualify. Are there disquieting parallels to the One Ring inherent here in the story of Lúthien's "tarnkappe" that I'm trying to emhasize here? You bet. (No more so, of course, than to that other famous fairy-tale trope, the story of Tattercloak and the variants, where being a ragged and unkempt eccentric conveys a certain amount of invisibility on the heroine at court — with the signal difference that Luthien doesn't have any animals killed to make her cape.)

 

Doriath: although the specifics of Green-elven and Grey-elven cultural borrowings and differences are my interpretation, this building of Doriath's atmosphere is straight extrapolation and often straight lifting, from the source texts. (Remember that Turin's name is cleared of Murder One in the Saeros incident when Mablung finds a witness? Who just happens to be a loner of a young lady who hangs out in trees?) The rich ethnic compostion, dense politics and layered history are all set out in Silmarillion. I've just tried, again, to shade in the sketches. As for any perceived similarities between the Wood-elves and tribal American life — I've always found it difficult to understand how so few others seem to notice this. Even before I found JRRT's own statement that, after Scandinavian stories of dragons and battles, his favorite books as a kid were stories of North American Indians, since they had almost everything he wanted in them — primeval forests, bows and arrows, and other, ancient, languages — it was obvious to me, at least, right in LOTR. (Just like the illuminating similarities — and differences — between the Rangers of Ithilian and the inhabitants of Sherwood Forest in TT.) And are the parallels with Third Age Lothlorien either unwarranted or accidental? —I at least don't think so, in either case…

 

Denethor: the first known to bear this name was the King of the Green-elves of Ossiriand, who came though severely outmatched to the rescue of Doriath before Melian closed it to invaders, and was killed by the Orcish army together with his heirs and household in the battle before Thingol could join up with him. Subsequently some of the Lindir chose to stay in Doriath, while others returned to Ossiriand, where they refused, for reasons unspecified, to choose another leader, and for obvious reasons never went to open war again. Most of the Third Age names of the Dúnedain are Elvish in origin, though not all.

 

"war-orphan": this is my conjecture regarding the fact that Beleg (and Mablung too, for that matter) only use afternames. (Remember, the Silm., being translated into English from Quenya, gives the Sindarin name and the Quenya meaning after in English, as with Legolas Greenleaf in LOTR.) In LHH Beleg is called "the hunter of the hidden people," and "the son of the wilderness who wist no sire." Now in mortal terms that could as well be an implication of bastardy — yet given the standard permanence and honesty of Elven affections, that really makes no sense. However, the highly unsettled state of affairs in Beleriand during the centuries before Melian and Thingol were able to consolidate and lay the Girdle about Doriath resulted in many displaced families and casualties. I don't think it's a stretch to consider Beleg as a foundling and survivor from some early catastrophe — and that would also be reason for a close personal identification with the fatherless Turin in later years.

Another possibility — there are always other possibilities — is that for prudential reasons the native Elves of Beleriand only used a common name in public, given the magical controls possible through names, just as the Dwarves did. But my remark on legitimacy still holds, either way.

 

Brethil: Just to help keep the chronology straight — two years after the Dagor Bragollach wound up, more or less, in early Spring (although it had a definite opening there was never a clear end to the offensive), is when Orodreth, who was in charge of the garrison at Minas Tirith, abandoned it before Sauron's invading forces, retreating back to Nargothrond. This had a cascade effect all across northern Beleriand, some of which has been outlined in Act II. This was another consequence, related in Silm. as well.

 

"summer-snow": literal translation of a Quenya word, "lairelossë," which is the name of a kind of tree. (Thanks to Ardalambion once again.)

 

"mutant boar": in the Lay of Leithian it's told how the Outlaws of Dorthonion were harrassed by Morgoth over the years, before Gorlim's betrayal,

"…and wolf and boar
with spells of madness filled he sent
to slay them as in the woods they went…"

I don't think it's an unwarranted assumption that similarly "enhanced" wildlife might have been sent out against other disputed borders as disposable drones. (This also put me in mind of Mononoke Hime when I read it.…)

 

Losgar: the location where Fëanor burned the beached ships, leaving the rest of the Noldor to their own devices — which if not solely responsible for the catastrophe of the Grinding Ice, since certainly Finarfin and a significant element did choose to return and apologize for the rebellion, was at least a huge and necessary factor. This was forgiven, at least on the surface, by the followers of Fingolfin and Finrod, at the Feast of Reconciliation which transpired after Fingon's rescue of Maedhros from Angband — but Curufin was ringleader in backing up his father, and Celegorm, unlike Maedhros, didn't either object or try to dissuade him from burning the Teler flotilla.

 

Scene XIII.i

 

Gower here invokes T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, where many trenchant observations on the nature of power may be summed up in the following quote—

"King, emperor, bishop, baron, king :Uncertain mastery of melting armies,War, plague, and revolution,New conspiracies, broken pacts;To be master or servant within an hour,This is the course of temporal power."

—a rather eye-opening thing to encounter as a teenager trying to understand the facts, foundations, and myths of authority in the Primary World, requiring a lot of mental wrestling with concepts rather contrary to popular assumptions.

 

The company that rides to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad under Gwindor's command in the name of the House of Finarfin, does so against Orodreth's will. Everything starts somewhere…

 

Scene XIV.i

 

For the use of music for accompaniment of moods as well as their alteration in Shakespeare, see Twelfth Night.

 

I've known a few "mouthy" hand-holders. It's kind of sweet…and kind of messily inconvenient. One so hates to hurt their feelings.

 

"your City": ObRef to "when in Rome," of course. —One actually does have to do as the Romans when in Rome, to a certain extent, no matter how against the grain and one's upbringing it goes. (Then of course, stateside again, one has to unlearn such potentially dangerous Roman traits as crossing traffic with glorious abandon whilst disregarding the perpetually-red crossing lights, tossing one's trash onto the pavement because there are no visible barrels beneath the trash, shoving through to the counter instead of waiting for a queue to form, expecting to find nice homey inexpensive places to stay, expecting to be able to buy excellent coffee and decent fast food at any hour pretty much anywhere for reasonable prices, &c.)

Scene XV

"adage": Another Macbeth ObRef — a play much concerned with loyalty and its reverses.

 

 Celegorm seems like the sort of person to me who would deal with emotional stress by activity, not introspective thought.

 

 The hounds do answer to Huan. The chain-of-command is thus made somewhat complicated, and has serious metaphyical underpinnings, but becomes all too practical later on in the story.

 

Scene XVI

 

"gild the gold day lily" : Gower's epigram refers to the collapsed quote taken from King John, Act IV.ii, which is known in the phrase "gilding the lily", but in the original goes "as well gild refined gold, paint the lily" — and refers to the addition of a second royal title upon a first by conquest and/or marriage. The play dealing with the matter of France and England, the symbolic lilies in which form such a theme throughout the play would in any case have been gold, the heraldic fleur-de-lys of the ancien regime. (Shakespeare's prediliction for queenly brunettes found most prominently, but not only, in the Sonnets, makes the contrasts and parallels still more apt.)

 

 white roses: these have strong sentimental importance for the lovers, q.v. the Notes to Act II, Scene III. Probably should be envisioned as small, coin-sized, possibly single-petaled, much like the roses of heraldry — and much more fragrant than modern long-stemmed roses; driving through the wooded countryside not far from here I smelled an amazing breeze of rose-perfume, looked around for a large garden set back from the road — and found only a single large bush of quarter-sized (franc-sized) pale-pink dog roses growing wild in the trees.

 

 Beren's objection in HOME centers on Doriathrin Sindarin being so much lovelier a language, he can't fathom why she wants to learn his.

 

Scene XVII

 

"ceremony": ObRef to Henry V, of course. (Act IV, scene I — "thou idol ceremony" — a very appropriate passage in all ways.)

 

This scene is foreshadowing and reference to the information in HOME that Celebrimbor, in addition to helping to build the Gates of Khazad-dum and forging the Three Rings of Elven power, was tragically enamored of Galadriel in the Second Age. I see a spiritual kinship in art as well as troubled idealism laying the path — instead of falling for the lady's picture, as is common in old romances, more likely for one of the Eldar to fall for her painting instead.

 

Scene XVIII

 

"auguries": ObRef to Sonnet 107, which opens:

"Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
can yet the lease of my true love control,
supposed as forfeit to a confinéd doom…"

 

I wanted this scene to convey a certain air of "Powhattan's daughter in London," the sense of a "barbarian princess" both fascinatingly exotic and at the same time unconsciously patronized. It seemed to me likely that a great part of her mystique would be her role as Melian's daughter, and that people would be extremely curious about her parents' relationship; while the outré nature of her escape would also have a certain fascination and gossipworthiness. The trick of course is making it plausibly outrageous without complete caricature; the most appalling rudeness (and the most entertaining from outside) is that which is committed completely obliviously.

As far as Lúthien's defensiveness in regards to her homeland, I've derived that from the ambiguity of her own words and feelings in the Lay:


'My heart is glad when the fair trees
far off uprising grey it sees
of Doriath inviolate.
Yet Doriath my heart did hate,
and Doriath my feet forsook,
my home, my kin. I would not look
on grass nor leaf there evermore
without thee by me. ...'

—as well as from the fact that it would be pretty hard not to have absorbed the same attitudes as her father across four hundred years and more of being snubbed and/or verbally threatened by two of the three Houses of the Returnees.

The superior attitude of the "Easterners" and to a lesser extent the original citizens of Nargothrond is inspired largely by Fëanor's words to Olwë: "Yet you were glad to receive our aid when you came at last to these shores, faint-hearted loiterers, and wellnigh empty-handed. In huts on the beaches would you be dwelling still, had not the Noldor carved out your haven and toiled upon your walls." (Silm., Of the Flight of the Noldor)

I also wanted to carry a bit of the historical contrasts with the "Home Front" inevitably seen in any war — life goes on, oddly, and people don't worry and mourn all the time, if they aren't actually under siege. I modeled the atmosphere partly on the decades of WWI reading I've done, fact & fiction, modern and contemporary, and partly on the Second World War, as depicted in the classic film The Cruel Sea. Back again to the verse:

"In Nargothrond the torches flared
and feast and music were prepared......................
....…Out of mind,
it seemed, were those afar that pined
in prison and in misery."

 

"Especially after we saved you…" — The subsequent conversation refers to both Dagor-nuin-Giliath, (Silm., Ch. 13, Of the Return of the Noldor) and on Lúthien's part, the First Battle of Beleriand (Silm., Ch. 10, Of the Sindar.) This was the one which took place centuries before the Return and resulted in the creation of Doriath and massive political reorganization sub-continent wide. It didn't get a memorable name like "Under Stars" or "The Glorious" or "Sudden Flame" or "Countless Tears," presumably because it was the first, as with the Great War; possibly because of cultural differences between Sindar and Noldor. (Any similarities to occasionally-heard Primary World statements  which might indicate a dig at certain of my compatriots' attitudes are, of course, purely intentional.)

 

 "language": The initial pack-your-bags-and-get-out-of-my-sight reaction from Thingol on learning of the fact that his relatives had not had the nerve or the consideration to tell him about the Kinslaying and the Exile feels very much like the genuine emotional reaction that would follow such revelations. For a comparable scenario, imagine discovering that the charming colleague from the overseas office was, in fact, a political terrorist personally responsible for several car bombings, and that a trusted friend hadn't told you this, on the grounds of mutual friendship and the fact that, well, that was all in the past, he'd put it all behind him and didn't engage in such activities any more. One might well be too angry  for civil conversation, for the moment.

The subsequent injunction against the use of Quenya in Beleriand, however, has more the feel of a deliberate and considered measure, opportunely taken. One cannot think that the defender of the Sindar would have been overjoyed at seeing their ways and cultures lost and overwhelmed in the tide of the invaders, any more than he liked the thought of them being dispossessed from their hereditary lands. (I do not, however, have any hard proof of this conjecture.)

Now King Thingol welcomed not with a full heart the coming of so many princes in might out of the West, eager for new realms…[He] hearkened to the words of Angrod; and ere he went he said to him: 'Thus shall you speak for me to those that sent you. In Hithlum the Noldor have leave to dwell, and in the highlands of Dorthonion, and in the lands east of Doriath that are empty and wild; but elsewhere there are many of my people, and I would not have them restrained of their freedom, still less ousted from their homes. Beware therefore how you princes of the West bear yourselves; for I am the Lord of Beleriand, and all who seek to dwell there shall hear my word…" —Silmarillion, "Of the Return of the Noldor"

(It was in response to Angrod's delivery of this message that Caranthir Fëanorion publicly referred to Thingol as a "Dark-elf," which attitude I've chosen to see as coloring all the following of Fëanor, and not obliterated by a mere decade of contact with the Nargothronders.)

 

"enhancement": —Did Lúthien know what she was doing in her unprecedented project? Going by the text, one has to say yes, whatever the Noldor expert might have thought. Canto V of the Lay of Leithian describes this process in great detail, which in part is excerpted here:

"Now Lúthien doth her counsel shape;
and Melian's daughter of deep lore
knew many things, yea, magics more
than then or now know elven-maids
……A magic song to Men unknown
she sang, and singing then the wine
with water mingled three times nine'
and as in golden jar they lays
he sang a song of growth and day;
and as they lay in silver white
another song she sang, of night
and darkness without end, of height
uplifted to the stars, and flight
and freedom. And all names of things
tallest and longest on earth she sings:
the locks of the Longbeard dwarves;
the taleof Draugluin the werewolf pale;
the body of Glómund the great snake;
the vast upsoaring peaks that quake
above the fires in Angband's gloom;
the chain Angainor that ere Doom
for Morgoth shall by Gods be wrought
of steel and torment. Names she sought
and sang of Glend the sword of Nan;
of Gilim the giant of Eruman;
and last and longest named she then
the endless hair of Uinen
the Lady of the Sea, that lies
through all the waters under skies.
Then did she lave her head and sing
a theme of sleep and slumbering,
profound and fathomless and dark…"

Note that some pretty strong stuff is invoked there, and not all of it "nice". (Glómund is an earlier form of Glaurung, by the by.) The principle of sympathetic magic is that similar things are metaphysically connected and may be substituted for, or invoked, to affect each other.

 

bindweed: wild form of morning-glory, with white flowers. For some reason it thrives along railroad tracks — you can see it growing along the lines into London.

 

"bowstrings": this is an homage to the Icelandic saga of Burnt Njal, well worth reading, in which this practice is a crucial plot point.

 

prisoners-of-war: this countermeasure to Morgoth's practice of subverting captives' will with delayed commands, cited earlier in the Script (and dating back even to the earliest version in The Tale of Tinuviel) is spoken of as preceding this time-period — which means that indeed, Finrod would have been responsible for such decisions. If that gives the reader pause — it should. Both military commanders and heads of state have to make harsh decisions which they would prefer not to, and which will not be popular: it takes more than niceness to build and administer the largest single territory in the Known World.

"But ever the Noldor feared most the treachery of those of their own kin, who had been thralls in Angband, for Morgoth used some of these for his evil purposes, and feigning to give them liberty sent them abroad, but their wills were chained to his, and they strayed only to come back to him again. Therefore if any of his captives escaped in truth, and returned to their own people, they had little welcome, and wandered alone and desperate."   —Silmarillion, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand"

 

Scene XIX

 

The Hall of Maps is based on a real place that I found in Rome. It's part of the Vatican Museums/Library complex and is incredibly cool — no other word for it, I'm afraid. They go all the way up to the ceiling, they're divided with ornate gold borders, so that when you walk in you're not sure if they're tapestries or not — except that tapestries don't have that intense cerulean blue and jade green to them. The semi-topographical nature with the realistic color makes it much more like a fly-over shot than a conventional map — which I find more useful than the artificially-colored and ruled maps that used to predominate atlases. And the place-names are lettered in gold… I don't remember how old it is, but it's at least two centuries, and possible quite a few more. (And I want one of my own — but I don't own this building, so I can't make one…)

There should be a distinct Helen of Troy atmosphere in this scene: despite the fact that it was at least as much Paris' fault, and subsequently his father the King, and their counsellors who chose to back the Prince and not the law, it was Helen who got all the blame from the people of Troy for their downfall. (This was a topic for discussion and debate through classical times as well as returning again through the present.)

 

 Amon Ereb: A hill in southeast Beleriand, site of the concluding action of the First Battle of Beleriand mentioned in the preceding scene.

 

Amon Rûdh —the "bald hill", landmark to the north of Nargothrond; later the site of Turin's headquarters.. I'm assuming that Luthien would have followed along the general course of Esgalduin as the most direct as well as the simplest way of staying on track, which would have brought her out of the forest not far from this hill (though this is not necessarily the route she took at all — she could have taken a more southerly trail.)

 

"for Nienna's sake": as Nienna is the embodiment of pity, I don't think this is an entirely unwarranted invocation.

 

Scene XX.ii

 

"straw out-burneth": Gower makes a deliberate contrast to the seventh poem of the sequence "The Passionate Pilgrim," in which complaint is made of the lady's fickle love, burning as bright and as quickly consumed as dry grass.

 

"up high": a reference to Luthien's preferred place for solitary meditation, LL1, Canto V:

"A tree she climbed, till the bright air
above the woods her dark hair blew,
and straining afar her eyes could view
the outline grey and faint and low
of dizzy towers where the clouds go,
the southern faces mounting sheer
in rocky pinnacle…"

 

Scene XXI

 

Barad Nimras: this is the fortress that Finrod built on the south coast of Beleriand to guard against the possiblity of Enemy attack by sea; which did not however take place. I threw this in as a reminder first of Valinor and the West, and secondly of how much their power has been diminished and their dominion hemmed in since the Bragollach, and doubly so since the loss of Tol Sirion.

 

Lord Gwindor's projected involvement with the government of Nargothrond doesn't come out of nowhere. He is engaged to Orodreth's daughter, which under ordinary circumstances usually indicates some level of familiarity, particularly given the small-town atmosphere and long acquaintance of the Returnees; he is also of high rank, with a reputation for military valour well predating the Nirnaeth. He has enough authority to override Orodreth and lead his own command to the League of Maedhros against orders. All this indicates to me that he was no mere brainless cavalier or court butterfly, but someone with deep connections and functions in the realm, despite his impulsive and passionate nature. I see him as rather the Harry Hotspur of Narog, a fierce ideallist, — and one of those described in the Lay of Leithian thus:

"And even such as were most true
to Felagund his oath did rue,
and thought with terror and despair
of seeking Morgoth in his lair
with force or guile…"

Moreover, it seems plausible that in such desperate times, the Regent would rely most heavily on those closest to him, and put such responsibilities and authority as he still controlled into trusted hands — all of which would contribute to the ongoing meltdown of Nargothrond with subsequent developments.

The entire sequence of the sortie at Thangorodrim took on added impact for me when I put it together with the Geste: Gwindor has an extremely personal stake after his brother is made example of by the enemy, but for the rest of his company to take part with the same demented berserker rage in the assault on the Gates speaks to me not only of vengeance but of atonement as well: —This time

It also is strongly indicative to me of later events in the Silmarillion, most particularly his dying words to Turin, but also the latter's ascendence in Orodreth's affections and counsels — and Finduilas'. Turin can be seen as Gwindor's doppelgänger. Consider: Gwindor returns from captivity in bad enough shape to seem as an elderly mortal, while the son of Morwen the Elven-bright, tall, black-haired, raised among Elves, and an implacable warrior against Morgoth, has to have seemed almost Gwindor himself come back from the past. Thus the royal house can't help but fall for him, and so the Noldor lord can't hate him, despite Turin co-opting his life and the destruction caused by his rashness: "As you were, I once was, and as I am shall you become."

 

Scene XXII

 

The discussion between Lúthien and Celebrimbor is not only intended to introduce and foreshadow the battle for the "spoken keys" of Tol Sirion, but as a quiet reminder that Fëanor's grandson was not only responsible for making the three Elven-rings and inadvertently aiding Sauron's rise through the creation of the One, but also assisted with the fashioning of the Gates of Khazad-dûm on the Hollin side.

 

Scene XXIII.i

 

"miss the mark": Hopefully it's obvious — but not too blatant for the irony value — that more is going on with Celegorm's testing of bows than merely the obnoxiousness of the brothers unscrupulously making free of Finrod's belongings.

 

"taken care of": And here we have at last the explicit manifestation of the lines

"Her ways were trammelled; closely kept
she might not fly…"

 

Scene XXIV

 This sequence is another homage to the original premise that she would leave with Huan, but without her cape, requiring subterfuge and infiltration instead of direct action to lure out and overpower the foe. Also, though without access to it her powers were greatly diminished, still her knowledge and essential skills wouldn't have been forgotten. The preceding verse indicates to me at least that she did try to escape, if she had to be thwarted and prevented — which is only logical, considering previous events.

 

Scene XXV.i

 Gower's speech is a reference to Sonnet 65, which opens:

"Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
but sad mortality o'ersways their power,
how with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
whose action is no stronger than a flower?"

 

"spin this tale… and warp it too": as noted earlier, people tend to use metaphors familiar to them from their own life experience. It also, together with the cut about time, serves as a reminder of how much Luthien's perspective has changed from her fellow Eldar: the three days it took her to make her gear seemed "long."

 

"How long": Is it really plausible that the most arrogant and acquisitive and contentions of the sons of Fëanor would be permanently content to live on as "poor relations" of their youngest cousins, no matter how lavishly treated — any more than it's likely they wouldn't have already been resentful of the fact that the largest Noldor kingdom in Middle-earth wasn't theirs? Frankly, I don't think so for an instant. It was only a matter of time: Beren just happened to be the catalyst.

 

Scene XXV.ii

Structurally, I needed a way to get the whole tale retold without spending unnecessary (for the audience) screen time on the retelling. Hence the cut; however this also serves the purpose of reinforcing the dual facts of the ambiguousness of the citizenry of Nargothrond, to be strongly in the forefront later, and of the complications and messiness surrounding the House of Finwë in Aman, though that should hardly be necessary…

 

Scene XXV.iii

…and equally, this scene recalls the long duration of the connection between the families of Orodreth and Luthien.

"the Necromancer's aura": The atmosphere of horror which facilitated Sauron's taking of the fortress is described in the Silmarillion in terms nearly identical to the scenario of the Lord of the Nazgûl's assault on the second Minas Tirith at the end of the Third Age. Coincidence? I highly doubt it. One might remember as well that two factors seem able to counter the Black Breath, as recounted in ROTK: the first is divine origin, the second already being so used to functioning under depression as to be essentially immunized to further assaults. Lúthien shares to a degree in both.

 

"listened to Melkor": I don't think that Morgoth necessarily tempted him (explicitly!), because the poisoned atmosphere of rivalry leading up to the slaying of the Trees would have been more than enough to encourage envy, though it's certainly possible — but I think the fact that once again, their elders' sins are being played out, would have hit Orodreth hard, once it was pointed out to him.

 

Scene XXVI

 

sickening indoors: this belief is the reason for the elaborate and difficult scheme Thingol and his counselors concocted regarding the house in Hírilorn, as described in LL1, Canto V:

…In angry love and half in fear
Thingol took counsel his most dear
to guard and keep. He would not bind
in caverns deep and intertwined
sweet Lúthien, his lovely maid,
who robbed of air must wane and fade,
who ever must look upon the sky
and see the sun and moon go by.

 

Readers have correctly noted herein (yet more) sinister foreshadowing of the future of Nargothrond.

 

"Finduilas -- I'm older than your parents." She really is. In fact, she's older than not just Finduilas' parents, but also her grandparents. And older than Fingolfin, King of the Noldor in Beleriand. This may have influenced some difficulties between the returned Noldor and Doraith as well; compared to Thingol's age and wealth of experience, all these intruders are hardly children playing dressup.

 "It can't happen": Yes, the Sons of Feanor were, according to Silm. ("Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin") the least interested of the Noldor leaders in taking the war to the Enemy. This is a point worthy of some consideration, in my opinion. After all, they did have the most potentially to gain, both in terms of stolen property and of revenge.

 

 The verse is taken from one of the very, very many versions of the song, "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair," where it follows the stanza:

Black, black, black is the color of my true love's hair,
His face is something wondrous fair,
The purest eyes and the bravest hands,
—I love the ground whereon he stands

(Another version, speaking of a female beloved, has the refrain, "—She of the wondrous hair.")

Oh yeah, it featured prominently in an episode of Twilight Zone

Appalachian song of English derivation, learned from the version as sung by Joan Baez on the Vanguard recording In Concert 1. (Amazon link, no audio clip avail.)A midi of a version similar to this may be found here at The Contemplator.

Scene XXVII

Name magic: in Primary World lore, it's been used to control and bind, hence the use of secret names as well as masks for protection against hostile supernatural forces in shamanic traditions. Power can be held over someone by the fact of knowing an identity without any magical control as well, as in the case of espionage agents, or as described in "Narn i Hîn Húrin" (Unfinished Tales) when Nienor defiantly and catastrophically reveals herself to the dragon. Hence the secrecy with which Aragorn conceals himself, until ready to challenge Sauron with his presence.

Another use of what might be termed "name magic," is in self-definition and revelation. In Arda this is manifested in the "names of insight" or prophetic mother-names given among the Noldor, and in the "afternames" which are chosen or conferred throughout one's life, such as the many names of Strider. In the Primary World we only fortuitously encounter names which afterwards seem to have been given prophetically, though we do choose names that are meaningful and inspiring for our children. However, the giving and/or taking of names of usage is a huge part of growing up, and the rejecting of nicknames, alteration of spellings, using of middle names, and return to old forms all can be ideological and deliberate processes of self-identification.

The theme of identity, both as part of a family, and as a self standing apart from one's family, is also one of the many constant themes found in Middle-earth. All of these factors being active in Lúthien's situation, it seems plausible that she might very well make an issue of being recognized as she chooses to be, by her enemies-and-relations, and

 

Scene XXVIII

 

Gower is referring to the vow Lúthien gave her father when Thingol tried to get her to promise not to run away:

He sent for Lúthien, and said:
'O maiden fair, what hath thee led
to ponder madness and despair
to wander to ruin, and to fare
from Doriath against my will,
stealing like a wild thing men would kill
into the emptiness outside?
''The wisdom, father,' she replied;
nor would she promise to forget
nor would she vow for love or threat
her folly to forsake and meek
in Doriath her father's will to seek.
This only vowed she, if go she must,
that none but herself would she now trust,
no folk of her father's would persuade
to break his will or lend her aid;
if go she must, she would go alone
and friendless dare the walls of stone.

In angry love and half in fear
Thingol took counsel his most dear
to guard and keep…

 

 The Trees They Do Grow High

English ballad said to be inspired by a true story which took place as I recall in the 1400s.

Link to Real Audio clip of The Trees They Do Grow High, sung by Joan Baez on the Vanguard recording Joan Baez 2.

Link to Cantaria page with full version MP3 and sheet music.

 

Scene XXIX

 

ObRef to the famous sonnet by Sir Thomas Wyatt, which I think fits rather well:

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about: 
   Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
    And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.

 

Luthien's twitchiness about beetles comes from the oldest rescension, The Tale of Tinúviel. There it's noted as a personal quirk of hers, in addition to disliking spiders (as evoking Ungoliant) like every normal Elf — while, however, unlike many humans, being a normal Elf she is perfectly fine with such other bugs as moths, which tend to be attracted to her. I've kept that because I thought it rather a charming weakness in one willing to confront Dark Lords, albeit not one I myself have (though it would seem to be shared by LOTR film actor Bernard Hill, as per his vivid description in interview of the Fell Beasts as resembling airborne stag beetles!)

On the other hand, it's impossible to imagine the same person who both felt sorry for Carcaroth and faced him down being either reduced to complete incompetent hysterics or demanding immediate squishing of the same…

 

Scene XXX

 

"jaw kicked in": in the wild, this happens to bad-mannered stallions who ignore both rejection signals and warnings. Fatalities resulting from a broken jaw have been documented among mustangs, making it a pretty recessive behavior.

 

Celegorm —infatuation, implausible, or inescapable?

There's something of a fashionable trend to dismiss Lúthien as nothing more than a pretty face, and Tolkien by extension for writing characters who fall in love with mere beauty. Let us leave aside the fact that this requires ignoring a personality that, as written, for sheer stubbornness easily rivals Fëanor, to which add the combination of ingenuity, technical smarts and sheer nerve to follow through. —There's simply no getting around the fact that when the sons of Fëanor came upon Lúthien in the woods, she was not looking at her best, not after first roughing it for weeks and then having just been chased furiously through the woods "like a butterfly" by a hungry bird (LL1). It wasn't the beauty of a fashion-model impeccably painted and groomed for a photo-shoot, nor even of a Grace Kelley or Jackie Kennedy or Princess Diana at a state affair, that left the brothers dumbstruck. Like Yeat's description of a dangerously-beautiful lady as "Pallas Athena in a railway station," or the traditions surrounding Cleopatra, the most compelling beauty is that sort which is not merely symmetry and conventional prettiness — may indeed break all the conventions of the same — but which is informed by a dynamic personality and spiritual vibrance.

It is this — this charisma, technically termed — which Lúthien possesses in spades; and this being Arda, where myth is history, there are further metaphysical dimensions. She has a supernatural aura which manifests itself not only visibly in her physical appearance, but in her talents as well. (Before dismissing her singing ability, one ought to consider well what song means in the Silmarillion. Mock singing, —and one disses the universe itself.) From her divine parentage comes a link into the primal forces of Creation, and from her earthly parentage the Elven unity with nature that gives an entirely different kind of power and comprehension. It isn't that she's "only half-Maia," but rather that she combines both sets of qualities into something different — and more powerful — than either. (The question of whether or not Melian realized her own destiny was not simply to protect, but to raise up a  peaceful weapon, so to speak, in the person of her daughter, and set her free to follow a like path — and willfully (if passively) turned away from this duty, is one which can never be answered conclusively, but is worthy of much consideration.)

So on the one hand Celegorm, meeting Lúthien, who manifests the Light of Valinor untainted by Rebellion and Downfall, can't help but be as drawn as Beren, or Huan, or, in turn, Morgoth. Mortal, Elf, Principality or Power — everyone wants Lúthien. The question is, whether they see her as a treasure to be kept, accquired, confiscated and locked up — or as a person whose free companionship, under whatever circumstances and at whatever costs, is the real prize. (Any parallels which may be drawn or discerned with certain jewels of divine and Elvish origin can scarcely be coincidental.)

 

Scene XXXI

 

Aside from foreshadowing future events, the introduction of the Gondolin connection, and the Black Sword, serves not only to reinforce how the past carries through all actions, at all times, but also as reminder of the eternal historian's problem of who knew what when, and whence. Receiving history in prefabricated lumps neatly edited into narrative, we tend to forget that on the one hand, this is not how it happened, and on the other, it is not how it is learned. The inchoate mass of happening is ongoing and not organized into compartments, however the outlines and chapters in schoolbooks might make it seem. It is important to bear in mind that the Silmarillion, being a chronicle of imaginary history, is just that — compiled after the fact by several chroniclers from many varied sources after the fact, attempting to put events into perspective and track down origins and prior influences which would not have been apparent at the time to those living them scattered across the country.

Trying to figure out what information would have been available to which persons at which times and by what means is one of the challenges of the diligent student of the past — but it can be a most rewarding one, filled with unexpected delights as well as disappointing revelations. For an example — not entirely unrelated to this present project — there is no single complete manuscript of the Iliad existing from ancient times: the oldest complete copy of it is medieval. Hence we do not have the same Iliad that Alexander supposedly carried around at all times and read before going to sleep each night, either in the particular physical copy or in the substance of the text, let alone "the Iliad of Homer." Yet before one dismisses the extant Iliad as invalid it's crucial to consider the many fragments themselves, the known provenance and history of the epic — and the fact that it's quoted and referenced in scores of existing pop-culture works from antiquity, from political debates to fanfiction parodies of the myths and epics, and these all shed light on the validity of the Venetus manuscript. And that's where it gets fun, tracking down things like these. —At least, I think so.

(Obviously, the "who knew what when whence" question is a driving concern (or should be) for the fanfiction author as well.)

 

 The "very old story" of Neesha the Hunter & the Mournful Maiden half-remembered from beyond the Blue Mountains which Lúthien recounts is the story  — slightly modified — of Dierdre and the Sons of Uisneach from the Red Branch Cycle of Irish legend. Its inclusion is in part an homage to Yeats, whose immeasurable service in bringing fantasy and folklore and the Celtic mythos to popular culture must be eternally acknowledged with gratitude. (Those familiar with the Cycle will doubtless have percieved the relevance to future events recounted in Silm. as well: how kingdoms fell and alliances collapsed as a result of the treason against the lovers.)

 

Even with the change of which brother is obsessed with Lúthien, it still seems quite plausible that Huan might have had occasion to bare his teeth at Curufin as well:

Nought said Huan; but Curufin thereafter
never near might win to Lúthien,
nor touch that maid,
but shrank from Huan's fangs afraid…

 

Scene XXXII

 

"Hence and spurnéd hither:" in other words, kicked out. Gower's elegant phrasing comes from The Comedy of Errors, where a luckless lackey compares himself to a football as he's sent back and forth with unwelcome messages.

 

 Celebrimbor, unlike the rest of his family and most of the following of House Fëanor, does in fact break free of the Oath to follow his own destiny. I've chosen to mirror the future loyalty-triangle of Denethor–Faramir–Mithrandir as part of the explanation of why Curufin's son broke with his father, the problem of parental possessiveness which refuses to give affirmation, yet resents a child seeking that affirmation elsewhere. —It may also be part of the explanation of later, fatal, vulnerabilities in Eriador.

 

Scene XXXIII

 

If there are echoes in this scene not only of Morgoth's original subversion of the Eldar in Aman but also Sauron's many subsequent manipulations of the folk of Middle-earth through the ages — there should be.

 

Scene XXXIV

 

"smile and smile": Gower invokes Hamlet's words (Act I.v) on learning that his uncle murdered his father, declaring that "one may smile and smile and yet be a villain."

 

 "bloodshed": I'm assuming that Lúthien does, generally, have a pretty good idea of her parents and the way they think and will react, with the usual blind spots that we all have about situations we are too close to — and this is exactly what happens, almost.

 

A free John Donne reference for good measure:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy picture