8. Scene V, Part II
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project
Houseguests from Hell, or, 'So, what exactly do you two do around here, anyway?'
THE SOJOURN IN NARGOTHROND FROM THE LAY OF LEITHIAN
retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script
(with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare)
SCENE V - Part II
. . . So does that answer all your remaining questions, then? Have I left
anything out that you can see?
Curufin: [looking at his brother, not at the King] I rather think so, myself -- and you?
Celegorm: [answering the other question as well -- We'll go for it] Oh yes, absolutely.
There's just one thing in all this that you're forgetting, kinsman.
[draws his sword and clangs it down on the table in front of them, declamatory:]
"Be he friend or foe or demon foul
of Morgoth Bauglir, be he mortal dark
that in after days on earth shall dwell,
shall no law nor love nor league of Gods,
no might nor mercy, nor moveless fate,
defend him for ever from the fierce vengeance
of the sons of Feanor, whoso seize or steal
or finding keep the fair enchanted
globes of crystal whoso glory dies not,
the Silmarils. We have sworn forever!"
[Dead silence. All are as if in shock at the first overt invocation of the Oath in centuries which is now loosed again into the World. Only Finrod is completely calm and unaffected by it]
Finrod: My lord my cousin, I thought we had settled this matter to honor's satisfaction for all concerned.
Celegorm: How could we possibly have settled it, when it's not even begun? But we will settle it.
[The Sons of Feanor segue back and forth seamlessly between Good Cop/Bad Cop and Smart Chap/Simple Chap routines throughout the "debate" -- and shamelessly.]
Curufin: Not that this insanity has a hope of success, of course -- but on the off chance that whatever whimsical force exists to unbalance the plans and careful calculations of thinking Elves is ruling this hour, we want to make our position perfectly clear. There can be no compromise on the matter of the Silmarils. Not even to temporize, not even temporarily. --If that's what you really intend. Cousin.
Finduilas: I should think you'd want even one of them out of Morgoth's control, no matter who got it, just because of what he did to your father! And it's for a good cause. You should be ashamed of yourselves!
Curufin: Be quiet, Sparkly, and let the grownups talk.
[to Gwindor, preemptively:]
Sit down, pup, and learn to control your temper if you don't want to go West early --
[to Guilin, before the rest of the Council has a chance to get offended]
I do apologize, good sir, but the role of impetuous youth at High Councils is to watch, listen, and learn in respectful silence from those older and wiser than they -- or so I've always believed, gentles.
Second Counselor: [evidently has resented the kids' presence at sessions] It's good to hear somebody saying that, finally.
Orodreth: Your comments are offensive, Curufin --
Curufin: [interrupting, coldly:] --But correct. The fact that you are offended by them is irrelevant.
Celegorm: [lazy smile] After all, it isn't as though you can exactly throw us out now, is it?
[There is a silence, Finrod expressionless, the rest looking apprehensive but generally in agreement]
Beren: Wait, wait -- why not? What exactly do you two do around here, anyway? Except help out the King's huntsmen, sort of, when you feel like it?
Steward: [urgent] My lord, please.
Captain: [aside-but-loud-enough-to-be-heard-by-everyone] --Good question, actually.
Third Counselor: Your question, sir, is as rude as it is ridiculous. There are the sacred rules of hospitality, that are surely even known to mortals, which forbid the refusal of shelter to any guest -- and so much the more when guest is also of one blood and family.
Beren: [shakes head] No, gentles, I'm sorry but I'm not seeing it at all -- when times got harder, we had a lot of people staying with us, and most of them were kin some ways or other, and they always were expected to do their own chores and contribute to the general running of things. Anyone who wouldn't abide by the house rules could just go build their own fort someplace else. Too much at stake to play dumb games over how the wood gets stacked or the blankets folded or the dinner cooked -- or--
[glances at Finrod]
--who stands what watch.
Master of Illusions: You do not understand, Edain: after the Battle our losses were so great that without their forces joined to ours we would have been sorely pressed to defend our borders and to also maintain the city as it requires -- it's not as easy as you might imagine -- and their assistance has proven indispensable.
Beren: Oh -- you'd be surprised what turns out not to be indispensable after all, after you haven't got it any more.
Celegorm: I think -- that anything this important -- ought not to be decided in secret. Shouldn't the folk of Nargothrond be allowed to at least know what arrangements their master is making for the disposition of their future?
Curufin: [silk-smooth] I think my elder brother is correct.
Steward: I do not see, my lords, that there is any need to advance the schedule for the public hearing --
Second Counselor: [interrupting] As a matter of fact that strikes me as an excellent idea. The more minds, the more vision and clarity brought to the matter, the more fresh air can only sweep through, would you not agree, Sire?
[All look at the King]
Finrod: [blandly] Oh, by all means -- if we're going to have a coup, let us do it properly.
[He signals to the Guards to go open the main doors and bring anyone who cares to come in from the solar and corridors. As the hall fills he rises and goes to stand in the center of the lowest tier, but as though he's barely stopping himself from pacing; throughout the next part, as the battle for power builds in intensity, he becomes increasingly more fey and for longer intervals, like a high-voltage line with an intermittent short (which is a rather scary thing to witness, even when it's up in the transformers of a high-tension line)--if anyone else were operating under halfway normal conditions they would not be crossing him now.]
Beren: [whispering, to the Captain] What's His Majesty up to?
[The Captain shakes his head -- he does not know either. When the assembly hall is is mostly full the King claps his hands loudly and addresses the populace at large:]
Finrod: [ploughing straight through and not allowing interruption] All right, my people, pay attention! I'll be exceedingly surprised if anyone here hasn't some idea of what we've been working on these past hours, but listen up and you'll hear it plain, unencumbered by ornament -- or even much in the way of organization. If you don't already know, then know this: the Man who saved my life in the Dagor Bragollach is dead, but his son lives and comes to remind me of my debt to his House -- a debt we all owe to the House of Beor, who stood so long at the forefront of our borders against the North. He's here seeking aid for what sounds like a quest out of a bard's story, only it's the stark truth: to gain permission to wed the princess he loves, and who loves him in return, he has been set a task impossible to mortal men.
[Beren grows increasingly embarrassed throughout]
No one here can have forgotten the story of how your King and commanders were saved in the darkest hour of the retreat from Ard-galen by mortal valor, when had not Barahir of long inheritance of friendship come riding with his shield- guard and at great cost of their own blood broken the Orc-leaguer about us and delivered us from the Fen of Serech. Few here can have failed to hear of the legend of his only son, whose name is terror to the minions of the Dark and whose deeds are bitterest gall even to the Necromancer who has galled us so these several years.
[there is a lot of low-level discussion going on in the crowd during this, of approving tone]
But there are limits to what valor alone can accomplish, as alas we know! and without our help The Beoring will surely fail, for the condition assigned him is to bring back one Silmaril from Morgoth's stronghold. I grant you it's an incredibly difficult challenge, and not guaranteed of success, but I've devised a plan that makes it at least doable, with minimal likely risk of casualties and discovery, which would break Morgoth's teeth in insult and in his repute in the eyes of his captains, sowing the chaos which he so loves to sow among us his foes, -- and which satisfies honor of all parties, in all points -- or would, had not the former Lords of Aglon-and-Himlad suddenly and at very late hour discovered cause to balk.
Celegorm: [breaking in as the King pauses to assess the situation on several levels] What our kinsman Finrod is leaving out is the following: the princess in question is no mortal, but one of our own -- no less than the daughter of Elu Thingol and Melian the Maia of Doriath, who instead of responding to such an insolent demand with the severity it should have incurred, chose this roundabout, more feelings- sparing way of saying -- not in a thousand years. Changes things a bit, doesn't it?
Curufin: Moreover, your King attempts to trade upon our honesty and honor by pretending that he will arrange a merely formal bartering of jewel and girl and once the exchange is done the gem will be returned to our rightful custody. Frankly, since everyone knows that no one on this earth will ever give up a Silmaril voluntarily, I'm surprised that he's attempting to enlist our support in an outrageous attempt to have us cheat ourselves, but then no doubt he thinks us all no more than fools and children by comparison to his legendary wisdom -- the wisdom that more than halved Nargothrond's fighting force in the execution of his long-thought strategy of the Siege!
Captain: Oh, please --!
Finrod: [ignoring them] -- My cousins, on the other hand, who have been living here these ten-odd years as my guests, are now apparently trying to change their status from guests to hosts, and would like to convince you that they'll do a better job of it than I.
Curufin: Our concern is solely for the people of Nargothrond.
Captain: [loudly] Which people? Yours? -- or us?
Curufin: [patronizing] Don't worry -- you'll still have a job.
Captain: [as if changing the subject] You know, I remember hearing about a couple of field commanders who insisting on carrying a mosaic floor everywhere, to go in their field headquarters. Made themselves remarkably popular with their support staff and logistics people, not to mention the poor slobs who had to carry the thing.
Beren: [amazed] Mosaic? That's stone, right? Little stones? How on earth . . .?
Captain: On panels, and in boxes, with a lot of effort. --Did you bring it back from Ard-galen, milords? No? How many lives did it cost, of soldiers and horses too tired from hauling it to run when the fires came? That wasn't a small pavilion, as I recall. Was it worth the price to impress everyone with how organized and successful your House was? Didn't work, you know. You still had to move in here and sponge off of us. I'm sure they were really impressed with your care for them. Going to look after Nargothrond the same way?
Celegorm: I'm sure I've no idea why you think we're interested in taking charge here. We are the eldest heirs of Finwe, and we don't exactly need any other addition to our prestige.
Curufin: However -- in the event of incompetence and lack of leadership, failures of judgment, absence of vision, even -- dare I say -- abandonment of wisdom, we would of course stand ready to ready to supply whatever assistance might be required, to the best of our ability.
Celegorm: And I must say, we've seen Morgoth's mercy of leadership today, or any of the rest of it -- except the incompetence. We've heard a great deal about responsibility to mortals -- but what about responsibility to Nargothrond?
Curufin: After all, it was only their duty after receiving the Grant of Ladros, was it not? not to mention your House's generosity in deeding them the northlands in the first place. It is not as though the mortals were the only ones to lose kin in the late battle against Morgoth.
[Finrod's expression goes from furious to murderous; Orodreth closes his eyes, pained; Guilin frowning nods in agreement; there is a lot of crowd consensus at this. Unable to listen any more, Beren jumps up and strides halfway across the dais, staring off into the darker apse. Unfortunately, it's hard not to hear.]
But that is, ultimately, of little concern to us. It's ancient history, so to speak. What concerns us -- concerns us all! -- is the Future. What becomes of Nargothrond -- of the Noldor -- of all the Kindreds, if Morgoth's ire is roused from the past decade's slumber and provoked in such an outrageous manner?
Celegorm: In one word -- war.
Curufin: [gesturing offhand towards Beren] Do you want your children to end up like him? Homeless, kinless, friendless beggars living without even the rustic community of our Dark-Elven kindred? Savages scarcely to be distinguisted from the beasts of the forest where they dwell -- or worse yet, thralls slaving away in Angband as payment for the rash presumption of having chosen to defy the Lord of Fetters?
Celegorm: And don't imagine that he won't retaliate -- there's no possible way old Fetters is going to take this one quietly. There will be hell to pay, quite literally, after the fact -- and for a long time thereafter. --This is assuming of course that the mad plan is even executable, that it won't simply result in the loss of all involved -- their lives thrown away in an action with nothing in return.
Curufin: Obviously if there were any hope of it succeeding we would certainly be the first to offer our support -- but we hold our responsibilities as guests of Nargothrond no less sacred than your duty of hospitality extended so freely towards ourselves. If the leadership of the realm forgets duty towards you, may you not then in good conscience seek good leadership? If your overlord chooses for you a path that is wrought of disaster, leading only to destruction, is it not your duty to take heed for your families, your lives, your lore? And make no mistake, this path leads to destruction.
[Getting into full demagogue cry here]
If you have no care for yourselves, consider your children -- your sons dead in battle, gone for what might as well be forever, or hurt so badly that they fade regardless of the breath remaining in them, your daughters injured in the wrack of war, trapped in the mindless wreckage of battle that spares not beauty, the flames and the falling walls, your life's work both living and breathed forth in art all gone, or ruined past repair! Think on your friends and far kinsmen doomed to endless war, the heartbreak of civilizations shattered and lore forgotten, the songs silenced, the harpstrings mute forever, the holy words lost for good, the fountains running red with blood and black with ash, empty the halls where children sang, no sound but that of innumerable mourners, and afterwards a scattered and a broken people, remembering not even their own true names, wandering lost in forests of shadow and terror, with neither cirth nor tengwar to bear the memories of wisdom to after generations, becoming even as than the Turned Ones, as though you had never been anything more -- is this the future that you want? Because it certainly isn't the one I'm hoping for!
[it's clear this is having the desired impact on everyone present, the imagery at least, if not the implied politics]
Because what I hope for, for Nargothrond, which is now my adopted home as it is your own, is a future in which the great works you have already accomplished here in such short time, with such heroic effort in a land that might have been entirely new for all the untamed wilderness that surrounds us, all the beauties you have made -- are nothing. That's right -- nothing. --Not because they are destroyed, but because they are nothing as compared to what we will create in the days to come! I do not wish to insult you by naming you cowards, too ensnared by the webs of fear and memory of Darkness to go on -- rather I wish to praise you by naming you wise, wise enough to move onward in new directions entirely, free of the shackles of hidebound tradition and outworn custom. Let us stand together, friends!
[he pauses, panting, while general acclaim begins to rise in volume]
Steward: Lord Curufin?
Curufin: [extremely wary, but hopeful -- winning the King's right hand lord over would be the coup of the coup, so to speak] What would you like to contribute, my Lord Edrahil? I know that your work must give you a particular awareness of the value of civilization and the need for cooperation in caring for and preserving it.
Steward: I think no reasonable person could disagree with any of the sentiments you've so eloquently expressed just now. But, my lord, I cannot tell from your words whether you are endeavoring to convey that our King's endeavor will lead to war against Morgoth -- which is the state that currently obtains, not peace -- or to war against Doriath, stars know why, unless you're planning on starting one, -- or to a civil war of your following in Nargothrond against the House of Finarfin. --Or all three. In all my years' service in my capacity as Herald I never yet heard such a discordant mix of half-lies and half-truths and serpentine redoublings of one across the other -- save when we received the occasional bribe-and-threaten from across the Leaguer. Would you care to explain in as simple language as is possible for you, so that I can render it into plain Sindarin for the benefit of everyone else?
[Curufin looks at his older brother with a You-want-to-take-this? expression]
Celegorm: War is war. --As you ought to know. The end result's the same -- burnt cities and mourning widows -- wherever it happens, or who's involved.
[This oblique and shameless reference to the Kinslaying shuts Finrod's partisans up for the instant, dumbfounded]
Beren: [finally turning to speak] --Look, this is crazy. I'll just do like I was originally going to do, and infiltrate Angband by myself. I'm not going to start a civil war here!
Celegorm: [dropping the good-will act] If you dare to claim what's ours, we will hunt you down to the ends of Arda, mortal.
Beren: [shortly] You're welcome to try.
[to Finrod] Sir, with your leave I'll take your intent for action and consider the debt paid, and leave myself to remove the occasion for trouble in your realm.
Finrod: That's not possible, I'm afraid.
Beren: Sure it is. As the party collecting I should be the one to say when it's fulfilled, shouldn't I?
Finrod: Not for that. --You've never held command in your own right, or ruled over your own organization, and there are vast, vast differences.
Beren: [stiffly] That may be true, Sire, but I am still as responsible for my own actions.
Finrod: [smiling dangerously, speaking not just to Beren] --No, Barahirion, you do not understand. This is not like your Northern woodsmen, when your father made suggestion that they abandon their homes and holts for the safety of your hall, and they instead thinking, "I cut this clearing out with my own hands, and my parents before me, and theirs before them, and when fire has burnt or storm has shattered we have rebuilt, and now we have laid down our lives to hold it, and surely we can keep on doing so, and if not, well then--," chose rather to face the night and perish. These are my thanes, my trusted ones, who have taken my name and my glory to shield them, while they dwell in the halls I hewed for them, and have been glad enough to own themselves Nargothronders while I asked nothing of them. This -- is our hedge of thorns.
[Sees that Beren understands, sort of. To the Counselors and Commanders:]
Well, then -- you're supposed to be the wisest of the wise, what do you in your vast wisdom say to solve this dilemma? What a choice! between on the one side the manifold calls of honor, of duty, of friendship, of all the years of service given and accepted from the House of Beor, of my own long service to build you a home of safety and repose, of the task of our people to waylay and harass the Enemy, all these things, so many reasons for!
[There is silence from his Chiefs of Staff]
And what have we on the other side? A pair of freeloaders and the rag-tag of their glorious Host, who left us waiting on the wrong side of the Sea just a short while back, or have you completely forgotten about that? Are we not still the greatest Elven dominion this side? Or are you completely intimidated by the Feanor mystique? Or have my cousins cast a glamour over you, that you'd sooner be shamed before both Kindreds and the Powers themselves, than lose their favor?
Guilin: [sternly] Sire, neither are you nor your House themselves Powers either, and it is ill- behooved of you to issue ultimatums and demand loyalty tests as though you believed yourself a god. We are not children -- nor mortals -- to be lectured so by the son of Finarfin: we, no less than yourself, are Noldor of high degree!
[There is a lot of loud public agreement to this. Finrod freezes in the middle of starting to answer, his expression shocked but filled with comprehension of the Pattern. A longish pause.]
Celegorm: [snorting] I rather think that says it all, cousin?
Finrod: [ironic smile] So this is how the game goes, eh? Winner takes all? Like that game where you change all the tiles over at a go, white to black, not contending square by square, foot by foot for the mastery but at one fell swoop shifting the play of power from opposer to victor? Very well. The board is yours.
[to the rest of the hall, his face very taut, his voice harsh with control:]
You -- may do what you please. This set is ended, and you'd best find yourself another harper to play for you from this day forth. I -- have no choice. My faith has been given, and if I refuse to keep it I might as well have died in Ard-galen. King or no king, I hold my life a gift of worth enough that I will repay it at whatever cost to myself -- and if you are the sort of people who would feel otherwise, receiving such a grant, then I am pleased to part from you!
[a general outcry, all at once:]
Orodreth: Finrod, you don't mean what you're saying --
Steward: My lord --
Guilin: These are wild words, Sire --
Third Counselor: Your Majesty, consider well before you stoop to folly --
Finrod: [interrupts them all] What, you will have me here a tame and captive King, to follow when it pleases you, and dismiss when it doesn't? You will call me your lord, and pretend to obey my rule, and let me work to order your lives when you can't be troubled to it yourselves, but when I ask anything of you in return, -- or not in return, but merely in duty -- then you will turn deaf ears to me, pretending the inconvenient demands haven't been made?
-- NO, I say --!
[takes off his crown and slams it down on the floor -- it rolls circularly along the dais with a ringing sound. Continues, not shouting, but still quite loud:]
Let us at least have it plain, gentles, without a false plating of silver over casting of lead! If you will not trust me, then you will not trust me. No one here may say truthfully that I don't take counsel, that I do not consider the well-being of all, or that I haven't ruled you well all these centuries. Or why haven't you complained before this day, then? But comes a time, in peaceful hall as in field of war, that counsel must cease and deeds begin. Since you will not allow my leadership, I cannot allow you to claim it.
[to Beren -- very formally and calmly]
My lord of Dorthonion, I beg you to accept my apologies for failing in my assistance to you. But where one had planned to go, alone, two shall surely stand better chance. I cannot pledge any more than this, my own sword and strength to your aid, -- though I had hoped at least that I'd rate better than nothing for a retinue!
[looks around the hall, not really seeing any of those present]
Will none of you come with me, then? For the hope of glory, if nothing else, or from vanity, so that Nargothrond will have some tiny crumb of pride left? Or are you all cowards now? Did every scrap of moral integrity and courage get burnt in the Dagor Bragollach as well? Must I be evicted from the refuge I built for you with nothing and with no one to take my part?
[The Steward rises and moves to stand beside him.]
Steward: [gently] Sire -- you had only to ask.
[Finrod gives him a Look of exasperation and apology, still shaking with fury]
Captain: [as quietly] Actually, you didn't.
[over his shoulder, louder]
--Lads? For the old songs' sake?
[The two Rangers who were present the night of Beren's arrival and this morning come forward with the Soldier and the Guard, ignoring the "don't be insane" remonstrating of friends and colleagues in the crowd.]
Anyone else? It's no different from any other mission: you'll either be coming back or faring-forth -- there aren't any safe times, when arrows miss and axes don't cut, you ought to know that by now!
[The Cavalry Commander's aide rises and shoves back his chair -- his chief gives him an angry look, and the Warrior stares down his CO and goes across to stand beside the King. He is joined by the three Guards who were at the Fens -- the other turns away from his friends' expectant looks. Gwindor jumps up, and is grabbed on the one hand by his father and the other by hs fiancee, who assail him silently with pleas until he sits down, biting his lip in shame, head bowed.]
Is that it?
[The Captain looks around at the volunteers, raises an eyebrow]
Just like old times, eh, Your Majesty?
[Finrod gives a short bitter laugh]
Steward: My lord, what arrangements are to be made for the government of the realm?
Finrod: [shrugging] I don't know. It isn't my job any more.
Steward: Surely you will not give your city over to these strangers' authority?
Finrod: [offhand] No, I don't need to -- Nargothrond seems to have done that for me.
Steward: [giving up on rational persuasion] My lord, hear me --
[He kneels to pick up the crown and remains on one knee as he speaks:]
Perhaps they have not realized this yet, and perhaps they choose to ignore it, but regardless of what has just taken place, you are still as much their King as you are mine. You must not leave Nargothrond leaderless, -- for you have not that right, any more than these have the right to do what they have done, to set aside this burden unconsidered. You must choose in your turn a steward for the realm, to hold it in your absence.
[The King gives him the Look again, but nods heavily and comes to accept it with careful graciousness from his hands]
Finrod: [tiredly] Very well. --Orodreth, you're next in line, it's yours by right: if and when I come back I look to you to make me a full report on what you've accomplished, but until then, it's all yours -- Catch!
[He tosses the crown to his brother]
Orodreth: [catching it and looking at it in dismay] What can I possibly say in return? I cannot even thank you without sounding like a hypocrite, as though I wished for this -- or as though I'm mocking you.
Finrod: [mild tone] You're welcome.
[There is a pause, in which tension seems to dissipate and people look at each other all through the hall, seeming slightly stunned]
Beren: [to self, half aloud] I thought I'd already known the worst of fear, and guarded against it.
Finrod: [distantly] Well. It's always clear after the fact, isn't it? Weird, isn't it, how one can't change it, even forewarned, even prepared, no matter how one tries . . .
Orodreth: What are you talking about? --Do you mean that nonsense about the dream you had, the one that 'Tariel was so worked up about at the housewarming party? You do, don't you?
Finrod: --Not a dream. --Nothing so clear.
[lightly] Well, one good thing's come of all this -- I won't have to shout at people for not building my arbalests and not telling me about it.
[He is a little short of breath when he speaks]
Orodreth: [earnestly, sotto voce] Finrod, you cannot mean this. It's -- insane, utterly and absolutely insane. It's all very well to honor one's bargains, but not to the point of self- destruction and forfeiture of everything one has worked for. With a little careful negotiation I'm sure this unfortunate business can be put behind us, you can satisfy your honor with some reasonable grant of assistance, and we'll figure out a way to placate the Sons of Feanor -- I know you didn't anticipate this, but --
Finrod: You mean you didn't realize this was a possibility? I thought you were the shrewd one, brother. Of course I knew it might happen this way: why do you think I grovelled so carefully and consideredly to our cousins all day, -- and set only guards that I tr-- that I thought I could trust?
Orodreth: [incredulous] Are you telling me that you had thought of this beforehand? That this isn't some impulsive gesture of yours, but that you actually planned to go through with this mad scheme? You really mean to risk throwing away your life for the sake of this mortal bravo and his, might I say upon reflection, extremely offensive endeavor? Bad enough that you lavished miruvor on him as though it were wine, as though he could appreciate it! I know the Beorings saved your life once, but you cannot actually believe that there is a real equation --
Finrod: [quietly but fierce] Orodreth -- do you realize what you have just said? -- Because I certainly hope that you do not.
[He stops talking, looking rather pale]
Orodreth: Don't take that tone with me. You're not Father. Not that you listened to him either. He was right to turn back -- if only you'd shown half the sense --
Finrod: [interrupts] I didn't make you follow me--
[checks again, his face drawn]
Celegorm: Are you going to take all day, Finrod old chap? Could you hurry it up there, do you think?
[Beren, dead white and shaking with fury, stalks over to the Sons of Feanor. Apprehensively the Captain and the Steward trail him, ready to restrain him, but he just stops a pace away and stares at them for a a long moment.]
Beren: You know what? Orcs don't pretend to be your friends -- they just try to kill you. That's the only difference I can see --
[Curufin's smile falters for an instant. Celegorm reaches down to shove him away, but Beren grabs his wrist and they stand there locked, the Elven prince unable to pull away without undignified brawling. Curufin looks over at Finrod, warningly:] Curufin: [half-lifting his knife from its hanger] Leash your hound, cousin. --Leash him, before I crop his ears for you!
[Finrod's chief officers catch hold of Beren's shoulders, but he does not move at their urging, still locking stares and arms with Celegorm.]
[Beren allows the Captain and Steward to draw him back with them, turning away as though the Sons of Feanor are not even worthy of his contempt.]
Curufin: [lightly] That boy's a wild animal, brother. I'm surprised our cousin isn't afraid to have such a beast at his side.
Celegorm: No doubt the wolf's-head will turn on him in time.
Curufin: [evil smile] Barahirion: did your mother perchance wear such warg-hide buskins as yourself? Was she a warrior, too? --Or were you just raised by wolves, eh?
[Beren's companions make sure they're blocking him securely, but Beren only glances over his shoulder at the Sons of Feanor, almost bored.]
Beren: [coldly] My mother was worth ten of you.
[looks them up and down and sneers]
--She could have taken you both.
[While no doubt more loyal than accurate, this assertion is not exactly the response that Curufin was anticipating, and he cannot think of anything to say for the moment.]
Captain: [softly] My lord -- he isn't worth your time.
Beren: [ignoring him] When we come back -- you're going down. My word on it.
Celegorm: So you do fight against the Eldar, --Elf-Friend.
Beren: I hunt fell things. And I keep my promises.
Finrod: [quietly] Beren. To me.
[At once Beren strides over to the King, wheels and drops to one knee at Finrod's left side, rips off the peace-bonds, sets both hands on his sword-hilt, and does not move. He knows exactly what statement he's making, and Curufin can't match him for sardonic looks. The King lays his hand on Beren's shoulder, ostensibly in approval, but he is actually leaning rather heavily on him for support.]
They are no concern of ours henceforth. Hush! Do not speak your thought. Attend me -- as did your father in the Fens.
[Beren, startled that the King is reading his unvoiced worries, and still more so by his first encounter with one of the greatest legends of his people, nevertheless says nothing, but rises gracefully, continuing to bear Finrod's weight without seeming to do so.]
--It's only a little dizziness. Stay me for a few minutes more.
[aloud, to Orodreth]
Brother, we will not trouble you. All I ask is that you ensure we are not troubled in our departing, and that my people are not detained or maltreated prior to our leaving, which will be as soon as we can possibly make it.
[At that moment only Beren knows that Finrod can't see straight, and that he's faking being okay to a large extent -- and gives away nothing of the King's weakness by his stance or expression.]
Orodreth: [bitterly] What makes you think I can ensure anything?
Finrod: [low voice] I would not ask, if I did not. The people have accepted you. They require your authority now, lest they scatter like doves at the shadow of the hawk. You must be there for them. Give them such orders as they can obey, and will take honor from obeying. Do not contend openly with these rivals. Let the City have rest from strife. That's about all I can give you for advice, except -- Good luck.
Orodreth: Will you always be walking away from your responsibilities, Finrod? How many times does this make? First Mother and Amarie, then Father, then the Host to follow this hobby of humans, then haring all over Beleriand setting up a pocket empire and not sticking with any part of it long enough to see it through -- and they laugh at me for running away -- once! Whatever are you going to be when you grow up, Finrod?
Finrod: What, exactly, would "through" consist of --?
[stops, shakes head]
Orodreth, you don't want answers to those questions. I don't do rhetorical well, and real answers would take us months, or years. It's late to be bringing all this up, and bad timing to set upon me now. I cannot and will not fight with you here, under the shadow of the Oath. I'm just asking you, please, to help me prevent anyone getting hurt today.
[holds out free hand to the Prince, who turns away angrily with folded arms]
Orodreth Of course I'll do what I can to prevent violence. Of course. But don't expect to smile and get away with everything this time. I don't forgive you for placing this burden on me -- though why I'm surprised, I don't know.
Finrod: [genuinely confused] When have I ever wronged you? By giving you the crown? Should I have given it to another? Whom, then?
[stops suddenly again, sighing]
Orodreth: Running off with your mortal friends again? Off to play soldier now?
Finrod: [refusing to be drawn] Yes. --Edrahil, see that the corridor is cleared and the doors all sealed. I don't wish to be cut off, unarmed as I am save for yourselves. I'm fairly certain all will respect your authority still.
[The Steward goes quickly out, his hand resting automatically on the hilt of the dirk Beren gave him.]
Orodreth: Finrod, you can't be imagining --
Finrod: [grimly] I can imagine anything. I've seen worse. --As have you.
--Beren. I'm all right. Don't answer me aloud or in gesture. Can you match strides with me? And not too fast -- it might come back. Good. Everyone! When Edrahil returns we go, and we do not stop until we reach my chambers which have been secured to me and mine alone since The Beoring's arrival. There we'll take as our base of operations until we depart for good. --Someone get the maps.
[The Steward reappears in the doorway of the throne room and nods to the King. Finrod straightens, shaking off the weakness that has touched him and smiles with a somewhat mocking expression.]
All right, lads, all clear. Form "nernehta" -- only without the shields, of course!
[Against the hostile watchfulness of the Sons of Feanor across the room and the guilty stares of the citizenry, the Ten set themselves into the ancient moving defensive formation composed of a doubled wedge, surrounding their King and his liege as they sweep rapidly from the scene of the debacle of Nargothrond. On the opposite side of the throne room Curufin, Celegorm and their adherents-by-default go the other way; Orodreth and the others of the King's family and near-kin remain in stunned disarray.]
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.