53. Scene XLIII
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project
TINUVIEL AT BAY: A CACCIA OF BELERIAND
--'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.]
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:]
Orodreth: [very dry]
What, exactly, would a compromise look like, under these circumstances?
Between going and staying there isn't much of a third route, is there?
Father. I meant, in principle--
I'm sorry, my dear. It's been a long couple of bells --
You look so tired . . . Can't you get someone to help you with all of this?
I'm afraid that's the problem, not the solution to it.
I meant . . . us. . . ?
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 . . .
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]
Sir -- what else could you have done?
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...
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]
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.]
Should you -- do you need to go talk to him?
[she shakes her head, definitely]
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.
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.]
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.
And if he hadn't?
Then we asked around.
And if no one knew where it was?
[her voice goes very quiet]
--We asked Edrahil.
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.
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.
It made a good deal of sense . . .
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 . . .
. . . it still wouldn't have done any good.
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!
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--
That's almost what Luthien . . .
What did she say?
She says there's a cloud over the City, but it's in Nargothrond instead of outside. She thinks it comes from living underground . . .
I'm not surprised she can feel it. But it doesn't come from the caves themselves. It began when we betrayed him.
Please -- don't, father. It -- it wasn't like Alqualonde.
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.
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?
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.
You're not a coward, father.
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--
But it was for the greatest good--
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?
I don't understand.
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.
But -- why then haven't they thought of that? Why hasn't it occurred to Lord Curufin, at least?
Or to us . . .
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.
--Or Luthien's cloud?
No one else seems to have realized it either. If -- he --
[she can't say it]
--won't we be under attack -- here?
[her father shakes his head]
Why? Why not? What do you mean?
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 --
He won't betray us.
Do you think -- do you think he might escape . . . ?
I don't know. No one ever has. But if it were anyone--
[he breaks off]
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.
This is what he said -- this is what he Saw -- to Aunt 'Tariel, isn't it?
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?
We should never have let the Feanorions into Nargothrond.
But -- we couldn't turn them away. He said that himself -- what else could we have done?
It would have been better to give them Minas Tirith and let them hold that province.
But that was yours!
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--
--I shan't betray you, Father!
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.
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]
[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.]
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