23. Scene XVIII
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project
TINUVIEL AT BAY: A CACCIA OF BELERIAND
--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.
Er, yes -- one often is, if one's parents are . . .
[she waits for some explanation; the Bard is embarrassed realizing the social blunder]
Quite . . . so . . .
I'd best go find out what tuning they've agreed upon. --If you'll excuse me?
[Luthien turns to Finduilas, frowning.]
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?
Oh -- Well -- most of the locals aren't anywhere near as tall as we are. It's, er, just surprising.
But why is it so -- humorous?
You wouldn't -- I'll explain later.
Finduilas: [trying to shush her]
Please, I'll tell you later.
Tell me why it's funny -- or I'm leaving right now.
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?
Luthien -- it --
Beren -- isn't.
. . .
I told you so.
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.
Yes -- but -- so much?
Well. No. --So what?
It . . . just . . . looks awfully strange.
How would you know? You haven't seen us together.
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]
So! You're the famous Luthien of Doriath. Your mother really is a goddess, as they say?
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.
--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.
You haven't heard? I cut it off to make a cape out of it. And a rope.
Truthfully? That -- wasn't exaggeration?
It truly was that long?
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.
When are you going to grow your hair long again?
But don't you miss it?
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.
Your -- hair?
The rest of it, yes.
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]
So -- is your mother really one of the Powers?
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.
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.
The same reason as you, pretty much -- to explore, see the world, get out on her own.
Of course, that all is long in the past, now, that she's settled down and devoted herself to looking after one small area.
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.
Er -- as a matter of fact, yes.
Because she fell in love with him, obviously.
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?
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]
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.
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.
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!
Oh, I think I'd have heard about that if it were so, your Highness.
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.
You don't say.
This is becoming a disaster.
You'll note I've refrained from saying -- I said as much.
[Enter Celebrimbor unobtrusively. He drifts up in the background, nods to Gwindor]
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?
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.
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.
That was symbolic--
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.
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.
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.
That wasn't just an exaggerated rumour, then? Your family really did keep you as a prisoner?
Well, it was house arrest, not a dungeon -- but thirty-odd fathoms of airspace is an extremely good barrier to leaving.
Why did you escape that way? It sounds like utter insanity.
Luthien: [raising her eyebrows]
What better way would you have recommended?
But -- your hair? That's just so -- unspeakably peculiar.
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 towork 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.
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.
Ah, I do understand the "sympathetic principle," your Highness; I'm simply unconvinced that so great an -- enhancement -- could be accomplished.
The fact that I did it isn't enough?
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?
Well, I for one cannot imagine even attempting such a ploy.
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.
But weren't you frightened? A bowstring is one thing, but a lifeline!
More like terrified out of my mind. But I'd done all the calculations, and it should have been strong enough for the tension.
But what if you'd been wrong?
Then we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?
[the meaning of this occasions some rather dismayed looks, when it sinks in]
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!
Hm -- they wouldn't say I was typical, because they think I'm a complete lunatic. And I didn't feel very brave.
Well, we could have done with more of your sort of "terrified" in the Leaguer, without a doubt.
Oh, were you at Serech too? Did you know Beren's family?
[extreme embarrassment all around, especially among the veterans]
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.
You were stationed at the Fortress?
We were there -- sometimes. Rotation.
Were you there at the end?
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?
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.
Couldn't you tell?
Well, by that time, it would be too late.
I don't mean when you're actually fighting there. I mean spying on their headquarters over the years.
I'm afraid there haven't been any definitive reports since we were forced to retreat--
--You haven't kept it under observation?
Courier: [even more patronizing]
The entire region is under the Enemy's control--
--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.
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?
You weren't there, your Highness. There was -- wasn't time for that.
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.
Gwindor: [embarrassed & rushed]
Anyhow that would have been the first thing to have been changed.
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?
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.
Well, if I'd ever been able to talk to your father today, I would have asked him instead.
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--
--Faelivrin. Stop making a scene. You're behaving worse than anyone right now.
Do not tell me what to do--!
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.
What do you mean?
[everyone tries to avoid looking at her -- or each other, which complicates things]
No one taken by the forces of Morgoth is permitted to return to any of our Cities, Highness.
Why ever not?
Well -- of course -- the Enemy's power -- to permanently turn people into agents of his side --
Surely even you in Doriath know about that --
We've heard about it, yes -- but what barbaric custom is this, and when did it start?
Not custom, Highness, but the Law -- yet one more consequence of the War, made in response to unhappy discoveries too often repeated.
But he's your ruler!
Not even Kings may be above their own decrees -- among our Kindred, at least.
You mean Finrod wouldn't let prisoners-of-war come back?
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.
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]
--But what about your uncle?
Yes, Maglor, the one who was captured and had his hand cut off.
That wasn't Maglor, that was Maedhros--
And he wasn't maimed by the Enemy -- it was during the res--
--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.
He -- he wasn't brainwashed, only punished.
How do you know?
He -- couldn't have been. You would realize that if you met him.
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.
But he's -- he was the High King, and the head of our House.
[Luthien raises an eyebrow, says nothing]
You don't understand--
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.
Nothing is that simple, your Highness--
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--
Because your father wants the throne for himself? I've heard that rumour.
No! That's not--
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.
No one who's spent her entire life hiding behind a maze should put the name of coward to another.
Gwindor: [half-aside, ironic]
I want to know -- Who's in charge here?
You can't ask that, Your Highness--
Celebrimbor: [into resulting silence]
Because then they'd have to answer.
My lord, that is unseemly -- such mockery is unfitting the times--
[Celebrimbor bows, doesn't say anything]
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?
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.]
. . . 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?
--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.
What's worse -- empty gestures, or nothing at all?
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.]
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.