9. Scene VI
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)
In silence Beren now attends upon the King
-- sovereign at least of the few yet owning him --
musing on the grievous claiming of the ring's
right, and how from one wreck to another grim
(and more so indeed it seems) he moves,
that catastrophe doth dog his steps --
until in time needs must shatter all he loves,
Tho' wherefore truly and for what past slips
as punishment or payment kens he not.
[Back in the royal apartments, where the mood of the antechamber is anything but peaceful and conducive to thought, Finrod is exhorting his remaining troops:]
Finrod: [urgent and grim] My friends, go and make such farewells as you will, to persons or to places, and ready what you must. What you lack of gear, from use or wear, speak to Edrahil of it, and he'll make sure it's taken care of. Do not engage in altercation. That includes -- conversation, discussion, argument whether voice or mindspeech -- or looks! -- as well as any physical hostile contact. Even accidental --
[pointed look at the Ranger Captain]
-- is strictly to be avoided. I enjoin you, upon your proven loyalty -- obey me in this! We cannot afford to have blood spilled this day. I cannot afford to lose one of you.
Captain: [without resentment] Shall I bond weapons, then?
Finrod: Nay, friend, I trust you -- and will not have any of you defenseless. --Be careful.
Captain: We shall.
[No one else speaks as they leave, subdued. Finrod looks at the Steward, who has not gone with the rest.]
Finrod: No farewells?
Steward: Not this side of the Sea, my King.
[Finrod sighs and nods. Stiffly he leans against the table, his shoulders falling, now that there are only the three of them.]
Finrod: Holy stars -- I've not been so tired in -- ten years. That took everything I had and then some, to keep at bay. It nearly had me a time or two there. --But Namo and his House will have no occasion to complain of me today.
Beren: [faintly] I don't understand what happened.
Finrod: [ironic] I prepared for the wrong treason. I warded against Alqualonde, and I should have looked back farther -- to Morgoth's Parole.
[laughs slightly, shakes head.]
Beren: You are giving up your kingdom.
Finrod: I am their lord -- however ungrateful my people seem, I cannot be their lord and consign them to civil war and slaughter unawares. Far better this, a wrong but a lesser wrong, and in time reparable. I hope.
Beren: But now you are no lord either!
Steward: [ferociously] Is he not your lord as well as mine? Or will you too forsake him now?
[Beren stares at him, shocked, then rips off his sword-belt and slams it down on the tiles in front of the King, falling on hands and knees, head bent. Finrod gives his Steward a reproachful look.]
Finrod: That sword's passed so many times between our Houses that I think we may consider it given, Beor. I need no pledges from you, my friend, I know what you meant. --Get up, get up!
[To the Steward:]
Will you please see to darkening my armor? And Lord Beren's, with your own? I need to reconsider what we shall do now, in the time that remains.
[The Steward nods and leaves the room]
I mean to be ready to go at sunset, when neither the eyes of dayfarers or of nocturnal spies will be on the wing or at their best. Ask for whatever you need as well --
Beren: [urgent] No. No, look. My original plan will still work. Give me supplies and a map of the passes and I'll leave under the cover of darkness and trouble you no more This shouldn't be happening.
Finrod: [shaking his head] It doesn't matter. It's happened.
Beren: No, I'll leave, and it will be all right.
[casting around the chamber]
Where's my stuff? I'll go now, before anyone knows -- they won't even care, will they? Unless I come back with it --
[he starts rummaging frantically in his pack.]
Where's my gambeson? He said something about mending it -- and the rest of my knives -- my armour --
[not speaking coherently or tracking at all]
Let me get my cloak -- I was going to sneak in as a thrall anyway --
Finrod: Beren, stop.
Beren: No, I can't, I've got to go, this is insane--
Finrod: [catches hold of his arm] It's not that simple. You can't change what's happened --
Beren: [wrenches away -- or tries to] --but I can disappear, and then it won't matter -- please, let me go --
[tries to pull away again. Finrod shoves him against the wall.]
[effects: reverb and a brief flare of white light. Beren freezes.]
Finrod: Beren -- I am not Morgoth: I cannot reshape your will even if I would. All I can do is set you in bonds rather than let you run mad to your destruction, like any mortal lord -- though you hate me for it after. But I will do so if I must -- but I entreat you, son of my friend, do not make me do so!
[cautiously releases Beren.]
Beren: [hardly audible] Sire.
[he slips down to his knees, bowing his head]
Finrod: [kneeling with him] Are you master of yourself, now? You will not try to flee again?
[Beren, eyes closed, shakes his head, leaning back against the wall. The Steward returns, having heard the shouting, and looks on in concern.]
When I finish we will speak a little. Just -- rest, be calm, and endeavor to accept what you cannot understand for the present.
[Still frowning, Finrod returns to the table and starts retracing lines on the diagrams laid out there. Beren is expressionless and silent, but not managing to stay calm, it seems.]
Finrod: [gently] You're clamouring louder than an army, and I can't seem to shut you out, and I cannot work this way. Can you not still your thoughts even a little?
[Beren, jaw clenched, nods and tries to stay calm -- outwardly succeeds, at least. A short pause: Finrod sighs, sets down maps and goes to kneel by Beren again.]
Beren. You did not bring about your father's death. --Do you think any mortal man could have returned faster than you did -- that if you had only somehow pushed yourself harder you could have warned them in time? And do you truly think your presence at the attack would have changed anything except the number of the dead? Were they not too many for you to fight, after? Did they not take care to surround the camp and cut off all avenues of retreat beforehand? You could not have sacrificed yourself to guard their escape -- only died with him.
Beren: [self-loathing] You weren't there -- I should've--
Finrod: [flinches] --I am there now. And I see -- as you cannot -- that with what you were given, of strength and knowledge, you could have done no more. Be at peace, my friend: you are not the primary agent of disaster in Middle-earth. Leave that blame where it belongs -- on Morgoth's doorstep.
Beren: [bleakly] My father apologized to me before he sent me off that last time. It wasn't like there was any reason for him to, I drew the lot fair and square, he didn't pick me in particular -- though he should have, given the situation. Only -- if I'd been on point instead of the guys, maybe . . .
[looking at the King]
Are you all right, sir?
Finrod: [sad smile] Only a trifle jealous. I parted ill from my father, and I do not know how or when I shall ever be reconciled with him.
[Beren is quiet, his face expressionless -- outwardly; whatever is unvoiced causes Finrod to recoil as at a blow.]
Steward: [softly] My King, I would say were he one of us so cruelly held in Memory, to take him beside the Falls and let the voice of the waters calm him.
Finrod: I would say the same, mortal or not, but with the unsettled situation, I cannot dare that.
[remains frowning in deep thought for a long moment before an idea occurs to him]
Edrahil -- bring me my harp, if you please.
[the Steward nods in surprised approval]
Steward: Of course. You'll want it tuned in Stars', correct?
Finrod: Yes, thank you.
No -- wait. There is one still more restful in its accords. The tuning Treelight, if you please.
[The Steward looks at him oddly]
Steward: It goes against all custom, sire.
Finrod: Custom appears to have been banished to the Void this day. And none of us three shall be offended, unless you think it ill done in itself--?
Steward: Never, my lord.
[He exits, leaving Finrod beside Beren. They do not speak before the Steward returns with a small but exquisitely-elegant harp of wood inlaid with gold. Finrod plays a run of notes ascending and descending, and frowns.]
Finrod: It's a trifle flat.
[He retunes quickly. This is clearly a small ritual between them of longstanding custom; the Steward smiles a little despite his obvious worry. He begins to play, at first a rapid piece with much counterpoint and a rather martial air, only gradually slowing it down and introducing less abrupt changes of interval and harmony, until at last it is at a tempo and modality free of agitation and stress. (If you are fortunate enough to have a copy of The Harper's Land by Ann Heyman and Alison Kinnaird you will have an inkling of what it should sound like. --For equestrians, it is similar to getting a nervous, jigging, high-strung beast down to a proper collected-yet-relaxed gait -- not just throwing a switch from one to the other.) When the set is finished he continues to block out chords and let them ring in a low, continuous background. Beren has slipped farther to lie curled up on his side, eyes closed, on the floor.]
Steward: [low voice] Does he sleep?
Finrod: [frowning] I can't tell. But his pain no longer consumes his thought.
[looks up at the Steward. Hesitantly:]
You should not have bespoken him so harshly. My honor is not worth such zeal in defense.
Steward: [bitterly] I beg you, do not remind me. --We failed them, my King. Did we not?
Finrod: [closing his eyes] Yes.
Steward: They were betrayed. And not by our neglect alone.
Finrod: You sensed that too?
Steward: He strove to conceal it, but the fact was too much for him. And yet there's no anger there, either. --Only for the Enemy that caused it.
Finrod: Would we all had such wisdom.
I think -- I think we have just seen what happens when the Oath encounters a mortal soul.
Steward: Not a pleasant sight, indeed. As though not strong wine had mastered him, but almost as if he'd taken the flat of a blade, helmless.
Finrod: [anxious look] Edrahil, do you think it possible for words to invoke themselves? For a Doom to call itself down?
Steward: How so, my lord?
Finrod: I don't understand this at all, this business from start to end, coming now and seemingly from nowhere. Why should Elwe -- Elu -- suddenly ask for a Silmaril of all things? He's never even seen them. And as far as I dare read, no one had been speaking of them to suggest it, not Luthien certainly, not from his thoughts --
Steward: There is a not-incomprehensible association, perhaps -- in that the Silmarils are the most rare and precious of all things in existence, and the daughter of Melian and Thingol the most precious of all things to them, and hence the idea of one infinitely-valued and inaccessible treasure to be set as price for another?
Finrod: [unconvinced] Hm. --I still don't like it. If an impossible quest was what was needed, why not ask for Glaurung's tongue to prove him killed? No less inaccessible, and certainly more useful than a Silmaril.
Steward: My lord, you're the one with Vision; my talent is for overlooked-but-necessary details. Do you think it possible for the Curse to waken itself again?
Finrod: I don't know. . . It tastes of Morgoth's will to me, though I can't see how he could directly influence any of it. I could spend a dozen years pondering the implications of this --
Steward: But we have not twelve years, my King -- nor even ten --
Finrod: Speak your mind, friend.
Steward: It comes to me that these last ten years have been the most dearly bought of all my life, at least, and that I should have spent them in better use.
Finrod: I know. --Where did they go, master of my Household? How shall we account for them? Two years of grim hornlocked contest, driven back hoof by hoof until the slip and rout of Minas Tirith, leaving the winner to bellow and tear across the North without bar; five years after of grateful respite, when our Enemy seemed content to hold what he'd taken without further onslaught, barring us in turn, testing us in small ways that did not cost us much, and we recovered from the Burning or so it seemed, so far as that could be. And then after it was done we learned of the trials of the far marches, and their silent fall, and we knew why we had had so much of peace -- "so much" I say, when it was in truth as an hour, was it not?
[The Steward nods]
An hour that slipped by unnoticed, and they were gone from this world. And I mourned them, as did you all, and reproached myself, and knew it vain, and set my mind to the safeguarding of the West, and the keeping of this City, and the inevitable clash that is to come -- and thought to honor them in this way. And then the strange news came, in the very days that war kindled anew against my kinsman, and I much distracted, of one the Singers said the woods themselves sang of, and a name not yet dead under the stars, and I rejoiced with you, and before I did anything word came hard upon the first that he was gone, overwhelmed by an army of wolves and dark sorcery. And again I mourned, and thought the song of Beor was done --
[as he speaks he rings the lowest string of the harp, twelve times, and then once more]
until the hour that he came before me, famished, in rags, far past his strength -- asking only because what had been demanded of him was beyond any mortal measure -- No sword, no spear or bolt I've ever taken has hurt a fraction as much -- not the Cold, not the sight of the fires in the East -- only that other Fire, and the fall of knowledge that my brothers were gone: for I knew then that Morgoth's lies were true, that we should spend their brief lives in lieu of our own, and think no more of it than of a faithful hound slain by wolf or boar --
Steward: [anguished] No, my King, not so --
Finrod: [ignoring him] -- and Nienna witness for me, I knew the same terrible joy-in-sorrow as at the Fens of Serech, when the ox-horns sang out of the ash cloud and out of utter destruction came our redemption. What price for a King of the Eldar, then? More than a pretty trifle, a "thing made by craft," indeed? Time to find out --
Beren: [with tremendous effort, not otherwise moving] Gentles . . . I am not asleep . . .
Finrod: Your pardon, Beren.
Beren: If you'd prefer . . . I'll retire apart . . . my lords.
Finrod: I'm not leaving you alone. I have nothing to say which should be safeguarded from your hearing -- neither of you, nor of any other. But if you need silence to rest we will converse in silence, though I think it rude to do so before mortals.
Beren: That doesn't matter -- I can rest in a hurricane.
[Slowly he pulls up onto his side and draws up his knees, locking his arms around and resting his head on them. He looks sick and more than a little dazed still.]
But you don't want me hearing -- that --
Finrod: [coolly] Do you presume to tell me my own will? If you had been truly asleep you would have heard and known it upon waking. If I had not wished you to hear, I would not have spoken. You are Edain, not Eldar, Beren: remember that there are many things you cannot understand.
Beren: Including what you said. I don't blame you for not understanding what Time is to us, how could you? but what --
Finrod: [breaking in] --Do you recollect the words of your kinsman Bereg?
Beren: [stiffly] We don't talk about him.
Finrod: Nevertheless, as with most of the lies of our Enemy, what was said in those days had not a little of truth in it. Not always the same, perhaps -- I trust I have taken more care than say, Caranthir, for all of my subjects, not simply those my nearest kin -- but it might be argued that the Elf-friends have had precious little in return for their friendship to us.
Beren: [dismissive] That wasn't what I was asking about. I meant, what did you mean about the Oath trying to start all this? It's not real, is it? It can't do things, like a person? Unless you mean it was what started the War in Middle-earth in the first place, because what started this was me getting stuck on the southern border and not being able to get around the cordon. Otherwise I'd have gone west to Brethil, obviously, not down into Doriath, and none of this would ever have happened -- You're not saying the Silmarils are doing it somehow? Are you?
Finrod: No. Not quite. What do you remember learning about the Night of Darkness, about the Jewels and Feanor, about the Doom?
Beren: Um. Huh. "--There was considerable disagreement as to what should be done next. Mistakes were made. People got hurt. --Here we are."
Finrod: [covers eyes briefly] Ah. --Was I really that reticent?
Beren: [trying very hard not to sound at all critical] There was more, but I was pretty young and it didn't make a lot of sense to me then. My cousins and I couldn't get it. We figured it had to be something Elven, or maybe just Feanor -- the -- with the . . . the Kinslaying. We were just happy to play at being mythic heroes battling Morgoth and not worrying about the details. Now . . . being older and possibly wiser, I've seen enough of what stress does to ordinary people to realize that no, it's not that completely incomprehensible after all.
And yeah, I think that probably a lot got left out, or maybe we just didn't bother remembering it, because now that I think about it it took longer for my uncle to recap the story of The Business With The Vaharions' Five Sheep, Or Was it Seven, And The Rights To The Salmon Pool In Northfell when he got back from sorting that all out, and that was probably a bit less complicated in reality than the history of the Noldor returning to Middle-earth.
Finrod: [quietly] -- Probably.
Beren: But I still don't get it about the Silmarils. This place is full of jewels. Are they that different? What kind of magic spell is on them that makes people go crazy in their presence? Or even outside it, like you're telling me now? How are they different from the things I've seen here today?
Finrod: [remembering, rapt] They're like nothing on Arda -- quite literally. All that remains of the First Song is in them, the first calling of the world into the Void. They sing, you know, like blossoms themselves, they're alive as the Trees from which they were taken, they inhabit the shells of Earth as the souls of Elves and Men inhabit our bodies, and they shine like all joy and all hope together. In a way -- and I know this sounds almost blasphemous -- but they were almost more wonderful than the Trees themselves, for being the work of hands, of a mere Elf, whose years are to the gods' not as the years of Men to ours, but as a butterfly's in the Song of the World. And they are deadly -- the Starqueen blessed them so that no heart given to evil may endure them, and any that dare to lay hands on them unrightfully will be burned by their light as with fire. --And yet Morgoth cannot lay them aside, though they torture him, for the glory of them, and the living delight of their song . . .
Beren: [quiet -- in shock] I didn't think you wanted the Silmarils.
Finrod: [matter-of-fact] I don't. I never have. --What does that tell you?
Beren: [flatly] That I should be more terrified than I already am, only I don't think I can be.
Finrod: Don't be. It's counter-productive after a certain point. It doesn't change the odds any.
But they have a power over mind and heart that cannot be measured -- they are so far beyond any other earthly thing that, next one of them, this
[touches the Nauglamir at his neck -- think if Lalique had worked at Amarna!]
would be no more than a strand of such pebbles as your forebears counted precious, bright and glittering but nothing of depth and light in them, no mystery to hold the spirit enraptured. For them, one might consign the whole world else to Darkness everlasting, and keep them for one's self alone, without any thought to any other or care for any lesser thing. One has -- and, indeed, two. Who can say what mastery they might have, not in imagination but seen in their living selves?
Beren: [sharply] Tinuviel's not a thing.
Finrod: [grave] Neither are the Silmarils. --But I have no doubt of you. I only warn you, for your own reckoning.
It may well be that all of our people failed at first because it was fated that your Kindred should take part in their redemption, and that ere this hour all other attempts were useless. It would be a strange thing, if it should fall to my hand, and yours, would it not?
Beren: [whispering] Sir . . . why did you come here?
Finrod: I think --
No, I'll not burden you.
Beren: [gently] Isn't that what a liege's for?
Finrod: [distant] . . . I never wanted a domain, a name of glory and renown as my sister and our poor brothers, and our cousins did -- I sought only like our father to save what could be saved from the wreckage of that Night, to guard those who gave no thought to the future, and could not guard themselves. And I did that, and I did it well, as well as might be done, I think I may say without boasting. But who can say truly what he does, and whether his motives are unmixed? It would take a wiser heart than mine --
Beren: Will they remember what you did for them? When you return, will Nargothrond accept you again?
Finrod: [easily] Oh, we won't be coming back here. Orodreth can have it -- he'll do well enough. I couldn't bear it, and neither could they, if I returned to take up the crown, whether I sneered at them more scornfully than Feanor himself, or smiling forgave all. But I'm done with cities, anyway. There are lands to the East you've never seen, lands beyond Gelion where the Singers travel, beautiful country of many rivers, and mountains beyond that. We don't need strongholds: we did without them before, we can do without them again. The nomad tribes manage well enough -- you yourself attest to that, needing no roof nor wall -- perhaps we will find the scattered ones and bring them together and create something new never before known upon Arda, a civilization without a city, mortal and Eldar together and making not the old mistakes, but a new music that has never been heard yet --
[Beren looks rather wide-eyed at this; the Steward enters with the King's armour in time to overhear this last and looks quietly horrified. Finrod notices -- penitently:]
--I'm sorry, Edrahil. You must be so weary of my wanderings and wild fancies --
Steward: [who is fully armed now save for gauntlets and helmet] My lord, have I ever complained of them?
Indeed, yes, often. Do I miss the delights of the field or the allure of sleeping under the stars? Not away from them, no. Would I forgo the right to attend you in peace to any lesser member of your household? No more would I yield up my place at your right hand beneath your guerdon.
Finrod: It won't be like last time, my Herald. No fanfares, no glories, no brave ridings- forth this venture.
Steward: -- Or ever again in Middle-earth, it seems. I know.
Finrod: [with gentle regret] How should I have managed without your good help, my friend?
Steward: [dryly] No doubt as I should have done had my comrades succeeded in persuading me to accompany them with the foremost, on the Ships -- that is to say, ill.
[An Age of shared battles, disasters, expeditions and simple day-in, day-out work underlie the smile that follows between them. Regretfully:]
And now, unfortunately, it falls to me to make the perchance-unwelcome point that certain matters needs must be settled, and settled publicly, before we depart. It cannot be seen that there is any confusion in the chain of command, my king. While it is true that we undertake this errand on Lord Beren's behalf and at his behest, it is not and must not appear so that he leads, or that you obey him, rather than answer a vassal's just appeal for support. It were better he should swear you fealty before all, needless though you think it, than that your shield-band be troubled at heart.
I ask your pardon for such chill words, milord.
Beren: [unoffended] No, you're right. Certainly there should be nothing left up in the air, we don't need any more trouble. Shall I swear now, before you?
Steward: [shakes head] Better that all should witness, Heir of Beor.
Beren: All right.
Steward: Will you arm, sire?
Finrod: [quietly] --In a little. I need rest, and it will not take long to ready with your help. [He begins to play again, not just tonalities, but very quietly, eyes closed, leaning his cheek against the soundbox of the harp. Softly and without disturbing his playing, the Steward kneels behind him and removes the Nauglamir. When he returns from placing it in its casket, he begins to braid back the King's hair -- evidently it isn't Elvish custom to just rip out any bits that catch in the links if it's gotten long enough to snag in one's mail. Beren watches from the hearth,
forlornly, remembering when he too had people to look after, and to help him.] [Little by little the tempo of the music increases, Working in reverse this time, not to agitation and haste but to a steady driving pulse like the sea at incoming tide, as the King begins to recover. More and more themes enter and are brought into harmony despite the complexity. Beren starts, as though almost recognizing what he hears, and begins to actively follow the melodies, alertness starting to replace his mindblasted expression.]
[Very quietly -- or at least as quietly as is possible for a Hound larger than most ponies -- Huan slinks in along the edge of the door and around the wall to Beren's side, dropping down on the floor next him. Head on paws, he too listens to the King's music. Just as it seems that there can be no addition to the richness of it, Finrod straightens and begins his Song:
Finrod: Sing ye stars and storms of the heavens,
sing ye beasts of earth and sea,
sing ye eagles of the air,
and all growing things!
I will sing at my rising
and at my going forth
and at my returning
[The other nine return, singly or by twos, during this time, to set their packs down and sit beside them on the floor, listening in silence]
Sing all works of hands, all arts of the mind
sing all things shaped and shining
sing every craft of deed and voice --
I will sing at my rising
and at my going forth
and at my returning
[Beren joins in, hesitantly at first, on the last two verses -- much to the amazement of the others, both that he knows the song and that his voice is so good.]
With the mountains and the great seas,
the deeps of the forest and the deeps of the earth
and the unfathomable deeps of the sky --
I will sing at my rising
and at my going forth
and at my returning:
I will ever sing the Secret Fire,
the Light Beyond,
the Flame Unburning
for all my days.
[by the last stanza all have joined the chorus, impelled by example. When the final chord has almost died away the King stops it and sets aside the harp.]
Finrod: My friends, my faithful ones -- I ask your forgiveness for rash words spoken this day in your presence. I did ill to shame you before you had a chance to speak your choice. I would not have anyone come with us who comes out of shame and not in freedom -- if anyone here has been compelled thus, be free to go, with all my blessing and thanks for your many years of service and hardship, from Helcaraxe to the Siege of Angband.
[No one moves. Finrod looks away for a moment, overcome]
I too was impelled to go on a quest as well you know, both you who came and you who joined us hereafter. It may well be, as it now seems likely, that my destiny is to wrest from Morgoth the Light he stole and return it to the world once more -- and ever has been so, and for that reason I was driven across the Sea not wholly of mine own desiring, though of my own will indeed. It may be. At any rate, we resume at long last what we came here to do, and perhaps through the strange workings of Doom we will accomplish what all our agelong warfare has not done, in secrecy and seeming folly. There are no guarantees -- but I need not tell any who stood upon the fields of Ard-galen so!
[he smiles wryly, stands and crosses to the room's center, where he picks up Dagmor]
We are joined in this endeavor by one far from unknown to you, either in his person or his race, The Beoring, who makes now his own personal deed of faith to lay beside yours. Beren?
[Beren rises and comes over to kneel at his feet. He is tracking better and appears in complete control now, but there should still be a slightly concussed shading to his movements and expressions, as compared to his normal mode.]
Beren, son of Barahir, son of Bregor, in direct line of Balan known as Beor, will you exchange faith with me, acclaiming me as your King, to serve with truth in word and deed for so long as you shall live, accepting this sword of my hand in mark of my faith in you, to wield only against the Darkness beneath the light of moon and sun and stars?
Beren: For so long as I live, my King --
[Finrod places the blade across his outstretched hands and sets his right hand on Beren's head in acknowledgment briefly. As Beren rises the others come to take his place, the Captain foremost, and kneel before the King]
Finrod: What's this? It has been long, since you swore me fealty --
[looking at the youngest Ranger]
and not long at all, since you gave me your faith -- you cannot think I have any doubt or need at this hour . . . ?
Captain: Doubt, no -- yet perhaps need no less --
[He offers up his blade to the King, who shakes his head, but takes each warrior's oath in turn, after which each goes to stand beside Beren. Finrod, not trying to conceal his tears at their gesture, nonetheless raises an eyebrow when the Steward kneels at the last.]
Steward: [smiles] Shall I ask, then, what I refuse myself?
[receiving his sword back from Finrod, sheaths it and rises. As Finrod waves his two chief lords to the map table, the Steward takes up the King's mail-coat and arming doublet and proceeds to help him out of his silken over-robes and into his battledress while they speak. There should be no awkwardness: after more than 400 years of war this isn't something that requires much effort or thought.]
Finrod: Those are the only two realistic options that I see -- but give me your opinions. Scaling Ered Gorgoroth is out of the question, and it would be folly to go all the way round East through milords' brothers' lands, even had we the resources for it. Either we must go as we planned originally, with stealth rather than speed, and quietly, along Sirion and up through the Fens -- or else work farther to the West up through the mountains and down into Angband from the Hithlum side. Your thoughts?
Steward: I agree that East is ruled out no less than Northeast, but to cross the Ered Wethrin twice in going and returning is suicide, in my judgment. --Stand straight, the shoulderline's still twisted.
Captain: Winter approaches, Sire, and it is ill to be caught in the mountains then, even for us. I know The Beoring has endured it, but I think it a grave risk to compound what will not be an easy business.
Finrod: [troubled] I would say that our best chance should be to traverse this path, along the river valley, through the forest screen and stay out of the line-of-sight of Tol Sirion for as long as possible. We know that territory well, our Power should defend us against its Darkness and if on the return we were forced to take the mountains to Mithrim, and thence to the waterways, still the worst of the effort would be behind us. But there is Barahirion to consider in that, too -- can I in conscience take him so nigh Delduath?
Captain: The Lord of Dorthonion can pass its shadow unscathed, my lord.
Finrod: But he's --
Steward: [kneeling to buckle on the King's greaves] --mortal. I know. But so he says, and I believe him. And surely with your Working it would be safer still for him.
Finrod: [looking over his shoulder]
Beren? Is that true? That you can venture Tar-na-Fuin in safety?
[Beren is sitting on the floor with the others, gently stroking Huan's ears and feeding the Hound the last of his scavenged bread.]
Beren: [vaguely] What? --Yes. For a while at least. At least a year ago I still could.
Finrod: [concerned] Beren! You are not yet armed! Prepare yourself -- we have little time, we cannot spend another night beneath these stones. Shall I assist you, friend?
Beren: No -- no, I -- I'll do it right now.
Where's my stuff?
Steward: In the next chamber, on the press -- some of it seemed beyond not only repair but usefulness, and I made bold to supply alternatives, but presumed to discard nothing -- it's all there for you to decide of.
Beren: Thank you.
[As he goes towards the inner door the King's Guard and the young Ranger intercept him.]
Ranger: My lord, we do not wish to insult your competence, but if you would have aid in donning your gear and mail, we stand ready to your help.
Beren: I'd not presume --
Guard: Sir, it were our privilege to serve you.
Beren: I --
[in the background]
Finrod: . . . perimeter, and I'll join you in short order.
Steward: Farewells, lord?
Finrod: [shaking head] Checking the wards.
Beren: [gives up the useless pride] -- would be honored and grateful for the help.
[As they enter the other room:]
How do you make the metal not shine? Magic?
Ranger: [confused] No, my lord, just -- a Noldorin Working.
Guard: One persuades it not to reflect but absorb and to refract, so that the light is not cast out but held within, and such as escapes is scattered dimly, and doesn't give off flashes.
[Obviously this is perfectly reasonable and unmysterious to them]
Beren: [shrugging] --Ah. Right.
Gower: -- Nargothrond, now kingless,
waits like the calm of birds before the storm:
not daring to make merry yet, for shame,
yet fearing to speak of things to come
lest Truth should happen to force Thought,
Words breed Deeds, Will become Act.
Preparations, hasty and diminished,
with courage to fill what's lacked
of force of men and of materiel,
now come to their quick fruition;
plans made with confidence of weal
now yield to need's tuition.
The several Dooms,
spun from the earliest hours of time,
now spiral to a single thread,
crime mounteth upon crime --
the Hidden Realm, faithlessly entrusting
its faith to the faithless, lies bereft.
Good-byes, private and most painful,
have been said. Now all that's left
is the leaving --
The Harper's Land, 1983, by Ann Heyman and Alison Kinnaird (well worth the purchase price) WMA and RA sound clips here:
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.