Leithian Script: Act II: 6. Scene IV, Part 2

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6. Scene IV, Part 2

A Boy, A Girl & A Dog
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project


Houseguests from Hell, or, 'So, what exactly do you two do around here, anyway?'

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THE SOJOURN IN NARGOTHROND FROM THE LAY OF LEITHIAN

retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script
(with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare)
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SCENE IV, Part 2

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 should be a riddle -- it isn't appropriate to stop at two, you know.

[SQL Stops reading out here]
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.


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.

Story Information

Author: Philosopher At Large

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/25/03

Original Post: 06/21/02

Go to Leithian Script: Act II overview

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