3. Scene II
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project
THE SOJOURN IN NARGOTHROND: HOUSEGUESTS FROM HELL
Act II of The Lay of Leithian
retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script
(with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare)
- 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.]
- 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.
- Not at all. I don't imagine I'd want to trip your security system.
- 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.
- Er, food, actually.
- Steward: [blinks]
- Of course. What sort pleases you best? Manchets? Subtleties? Viands spiced and minced--
- -- Hot is fine.
- Just -- hot?
- If it's not too much trouble.
- 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: [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?
- Mortal enough, to my enemies.
- I make the jokes around here. --Mortal.
- 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.]
- 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.]
- -- Aren't you a good boy? Want some more?
- [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.
- 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.
- 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]
- Yes, don't they rub mud in their hair? And they're supposed to be short, too.
- 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...
- You know, I heard Elves were supposed to be incredibly eloquent, and wise, and perceptive on top of that.
- If you're not a barbarian, why are you sitting on the floor eating with your fingers instead of a knife?
- Ah, because--
- Curufin: [talking over him]
- This is called 'furniture'. That --
-- 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.
- 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.
- Insolent mortal, do you have any idea whom you're addressing?
- No, but I expect you're going to tell me.
- I am Curufin, formerly of Valinor, and this is my estimable brother, Celegorm.
- Curufin: [smugly]
- Ah, you've heard of us, I see?
- 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?
- Let's just leave it at renowned, okay?
(-- 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!
- Whose dog are you, anyway?
- I'm no man's dog -- or Dark Lord's. --Sir.
- I was not speaking to you.
- You've quite the opinion of yourself, haven't you?
- 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.]
- [tail thumps]
- Celegorm: [angrily]
- Stop feeding my dog!
- Maybe you should take better care of him.
[throws another piece to Huan]
Then he wouldn't be so hungry. --Would you, boy?
- [loud tail thumps]
- So, I assume all this . . . artistic slovenliness. . . is just an affectation?
- Beren: [swallowing]
- Come again?
- 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.
- I don't eat meat any more.
- Celegorm: [flabbergasted]
- Why ever not?
- 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.
- You didn't answer the question.
- 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.
- So now you're equating us with Orcs, no less.
- I never said that.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.]
- No!!! Bad dog!!! Down, Huan!!! <
- 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.]
- 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]
- 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.
- I don't say it's easy. But I figure if the Sindarin clans can do it, then I can manage it too.
- Oh, so now you're putting yourself on the same level as the Kindred, are you?
- 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.
- 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.]
- Oh, there you are! Can I have your autograph, milord?
- ? . . . ?
- --What are you about, cousin?
- Isn't it wonderful? This is the mortal who saved my uncle at the Dagor Bragollach!
- No, er, that -- that wasn't me, that was my father.
- Oh. Oh.
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]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.]
- 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!
- Well, I -- I wouldn't say that, necessarily --
[An Elven-lord enters, to be enthusiastically greeted by Huan]
- Down, boy! --Did you find him, Faelivrin?
- Curufin: [grins]
[She blushes as she points out Beren.]
That's so cute.
- 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?
- . . .
- Gwindor: [oblivious]
- A champion of the oppressed -- the Man most hated by the Dark Lord himself!
- Mostly -- tiring.
- 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--
- I said he was an outlaw --
- -- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- Ah, practicality. So -- what was the most exciting part of your career?
- Beren: [after a long pause for thought]
- The sky.
- The sky--?
- 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 --
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.
- 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?
- That wasn't what I -- Never mind.
- 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.
- Oh, you're hateful! I wish you'd never come here.
[She storms out.]
- Gwindor: [with a stiff and formal nod]
- My lords.
[to Beren, with a deeper bow]
[stalks out after Finduilas]
- Celegorm: [leans back in his chair, grinning broadly]
- Young love . . . Sickenin', ain't it?
- 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.]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
[rises and bows]
Gentles, I -- I am honored . . .
- The honor is entirely ours.
- Your father used to talk about you.
- It seems like we've known you forever.
- 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.]
- 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?
- 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!
- Oh come, you know those were the days!
- Days of hell, you mean.
- Perhaps so. Perhaps so. But brightest the stars on the darkest nights. --You'll surely drink a toast to the Edain?
- 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?
- 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.
- Everyone! Move back! Give Lord Beren some breathing space! More manners, less enthusiasm, and we'll all have a more enjoyable time.
- Beren: [quietly]
[The King's entourage enters, bodyguards, petitioners, clerks, and Orodreth all trailing along behind Finrod. Beren resolutely shoulders through the mob.]
- 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--
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?
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