9. Scene VI, Part 2
Well, Men don't really have any culture of their own -- they've borrowed it all from us, you know, starting with the language.
That isn't what Finrod says. He's always talked about the creativity of mortals and their ability to make new things, to adapt.
Oh. Well. He would.
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--
Luthien: [very dry]
. . .
Sorry -- do go on--?
. . . 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.]
--Really. You don't say.
I wonder where you got that from. Not from listening to him!
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?
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.
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 . . .
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?!
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?
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.
Yes, --obviously -- there's more.
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 . . .
Finduilas: [very strained]
Was he afraid of you before that? Was that why he stayed hidden?
No, he wanted to speak to me, but he couldn't manage to do so until that night.
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.
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!
No! They didn't know about that. And he wasn't crazy. Not much. It was just something he had no control over.
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.
He's a warrior, Luthien, of course he's dangerous. Add mental disturbance to that and -- what were you thinking?!
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 --
--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 . . .
Finduilas, he called my name --
How did he know it? Did he spy on you and Daeron talking?
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?
He called me "Nightingale" . . .
[Finduilas says nothing, with visible effort]
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? --
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 . . .
Why would you think otherwise?
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?!
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.]
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.
Oh, well, people are like that.
But can't one sort of see why Daeron might feel justified in spying on you?If you'd been encouraging Beren--
--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.
That doesn't sound romantic at all -- it just sounds creepy.
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.
That still sounds creepy.
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?
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.
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?
Yes . . .
So he got caught in a Working. I see.
What's that supposed to mean?
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.
No. That's not true.
Oh, 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--
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?
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]
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 thethings he really wants to do anyway, and more than enough work already.
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?
What do you mean?
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?
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?
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!
Oh, honestly, I'm too tired to try to explain a thousand years of politics and cultural upheaval to -- from scratch.
--to someone who clearly hasn't been paying attention to the last half-millenium of them!
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.
Surely you're exaggerating. --But you've changed the subject again.
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.
We were talking about -- about you and Beren, not about politics.
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?
But are you being fair to him? Have you thought about it from his point of view?
--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?
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 --
--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.
But you couldn't know that--
Well, yes, I did--
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.
Our cousins did.
That wasn't them, that was Huan.
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.
I'm right, aren't I?
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.
But -- they'll have thousands upon thousands of years together, just like everyone else.
So? That's just longer. It isn't different.
Did you raise that point with her?
What did she say?
Luthien: [bitter smile]
What she always says, when you say something she doesn't like. Which is to say, nothing.
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?.
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?
Luthien! How can you say such things?
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!
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.]
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.
It's still wrong. It just is.
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!
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?
No, thank you, cousin. Just -- make sure you get me up as soon as your father's free.
[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.]
I can't even convince Finduilas now . . . --We're doomed . . .
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