29. Scene IV.viii - part I
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project
BELOVED FOOL! BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA
[Finarfin is sitting with his head bowed on his arms, when shouting from over by the waterfall makes him look up]
Ranger: [very loudly]
But what about Ungoliant? Eh? What about Ungoliant?
[Finarfin is compelled to leave the hill and come investigate]
Well? What about her?
You can't just keep saying, "Because of the Silmarils," for everything. You have to say something like, oh … "Because if Ungoliant hadn't crossed through Beleriand leaving her little brood, there wouldn't have been any giant spiders for Beren to fight through on the way to Doriath."
Excellent! We can take her off the list. What about Helka and Ringil, though? I don't see any way we can connect Beren with them.
[They notice that Finarfin is present and observing them, and go suddenly quiet. Several of the Ten rise and bow, uncertainly; the Captain nods, while the Steward stares ahead fixedly]
--Dare I ask, knowing shall
They're trying to cheer me up by proving that I'm responsible for everything that's ever gone wrong in the universe.
[starts to speak, stops, then has to ask]
And doth it have th'effect intent in it?
Beren: [bemused, nods]
Such exceedingly -- strange -- friends.
[starts to walk away, shaking his head]
Youngest Ranger: [whispering]
Who's he talking about?
Beren, I think.
I thought he meant all of us.
Finarfin: [turning back]
--Strange, but -- admirably loyal.
[in the background two of the Ten are having a whispered argument:]
Warrior: [nudging his neighbor]
Go on, ask them!
No! Stop it! It would be rude.
Well, if you won't, I will--
What was it like, when you two intersected?
[the Sindarin Ranger closes his eyes and looks very much as though he'd like to vanish]
You and his Majesty's father -- we saw it when you were talking.
[he glances up at Finarfin]
Not much. Like light, I guess, -- like when the sun bounces off something like a horse-brass or a sword, you know how you don't really feel it unless it's in your eyes, but you can tell sort of.
[giving Finarfin another hesitant look]
For me at least.
Finarfin: [looking at the cavalry officer's shade]
Of what matter is thy question?
[the Warrior is too embarrassed now to say; Finarfin turns to Beren with an inquiring expression.]
What it felt like, when you tried to take the Ring from me. We were wondering -- earlier, that is -- what would happen if someone living hit one of us.
Finarfin: [lips tightening]
I did not strike thee, boy, nor did e'en attempt such.
Beren: [very polite]
No sir. We meant colliding in general as well -- even only by accident.
[he glances over at his friends, and then back at the Elf-King]
Um, did it -- feel like anything to you?
If you're not offended for some reason by me asking that.
[Finarfin only looks at him, not saying anything, and he get embarrassed -- then looks back up with a self-amused hopefulness]
Finarfin: [shaking his head]
Less than twenty-four and six--!
[even more mildly]
--Like to naught but to a shadow passed suddenly 'neath on summer's day, or to a chill air, that moveth off the water -- and to naught else.
Thou art a curious folk.
Ah, did you mean that "curious," like we wonder about things, or "curious" as meaning really strange? --Your Majesty.
Finarfin: [slight smile]
[he looks away, hiding a grin]
Next dumb question, were you talking about my people, or about us?
[gesturing around at them all]
You know, I can see now where he gets it from.
[the King's expression darkens]
You sure you don't want to sit down, sir? There's plenty of room, even with Huan taking up half of it.
[the Hound and he share a grin]
Nay, I think not so.
Only think? 'Cause if you're sure, that's one thing, but if you only think you shouldn't because you feel awkward about everything in the past, that's not gonna be fixed by you pretending we're not here, and if you think we have issues with you that we're being too polite to say anything about but you won't ask, it won't go away either by you not saying anything.
[Finarfin gives him a long, level stare]
Thou kennst ne'er when -- nor dost heed plain sense! -- shouldst cease, I think?
I'm not just doing it because I feel sorry for you, sir, or because I don't want th-- Finrod, to think we weren't welcoming to you. My parents would be furious with me for not doing right by a relative, if I didn't even make the effort.
[silence -- Finarfin stares at him, frowning]
--We're -- kin, s--Sire.
Really. Even if it's just by marriage and by marriage again. That's why they got thrown out of Doriath by your lady's uncle, so it would still be true.
To what dost thou refer, boy?
You know, sir -- when Thingol -- oh wait, you all used to call him something else here, not even Elu -- Elwe? -- he kicked them out of Menegroth -- only just on a temporary basis -- after -- wait, I'm assuming you know where Menegroth is, but that's not necessarily so, is it? Or maybe you would have heard, from gossip? --Would somebody please make me shut up and help?
Fourth Guard: [obliging tone]
All right. [he grabs him and claps a hand over his mouth, effectively gagging him, until Beren elbows him hard in the ribs and there is a brief scuffle which ends when Huan gets up to participate, stepping on people in the way, and they break it up.]
Beren: [to Huan]
[to the royal Guard]
--I meant take over, you loon -- Now you all are going to have to suffer through my version of it.
[to Finarfin, who is staring with a completely bemused expression]
What I heard was, and somebody'll correct me if I'm wrong, probably all at once, that the King and -- that is, your kids -- were visiting Tinuviel's family again, which they did kind of a lot, only this time it was because they were visiting their sister too, since she was living with them then, and somehow rumors had gotten around about the Kinslaying in Doriath and Thingol called them on it and it was a big mess and there was a lot of yelling and not as much listening, at least at first, and then even after it got straightened out on how you all weren't involved, her dad was still really furious with them for first off not stopping it, and then for being okay with House Feanor afterwards, and then for keeping it a secret from them.
--Though Tinuviel said her mom had figured out a lot of it on her own, or at least that it was something big they weren't talking about. --Because they were -- are -- related to Thingol since he's their granddad's brother. So he threw them all out for a while, only not th-- your daughter. And he let them come back later. And if you want better information than that, you need to ask someone who was actually there and remembers it--
[looking around very pointedly at his companions]
--like certain people here who are letting me flounder around telling it, or else ask my wife. --So if Tinuviel is your kids' cousin because she's related to your wife, that's a direct blood relationship, but she's related to you, right, by marriage, because your in-laws are kin, too, at least the way we consider it back home, and I think it's the same for you, right? At least, I always assumed it was.
[he looks over at the Steward, who nods]
So I'm related to your kids now, by marriage, but that means I'm also related to you. Well, obviously. [ducking a little under Finarfin's expressionless stare]
--Sorry. --Your Majesty.
We cannot, so the adage goeth, of our kindred by our own choosing make selection.
[Beren looks down, accepting the cut]
Being ignorant of thy people as of thee, 'twould ne'er hath occurred, to choose so -- yet of all whom I perforce must name my kin, thou art by no means worst in my esteeming, nor last whom I had chosen, had choice been given me-- Peace; I'd walk a little while, and think upon all that I have heard this day, and likewise seen, and perchance then 'twill suit me to take place with ye, and hear this curious manner of speech, and more curious tales, brought back from afar.
[He turns towards the door again, and is halted by a discreet cough as the Captain tries to get his attention]
Would you -- that is, should one of us accompany you, sir?
What have I said, that thou shouldst think to say so?
You aren't afraid to walk the Halls alone, my lord?
Is there aught of danger to the living in these Halls? Or wild beast, or storm, or precipice, or folk of violent disposition, the which might work to my harm? Surely were it so, my Lord and Lady should have forewarned -- or say ye nay?
[Beren starts to explain, but is discouraged (though not quite so rowdily) by the Guard beside him]
Not to the living, my lord. But -- most -- few Eldar I think would be at ease. Not even the Lady Amarie was comfortable here, though she hid her fear well.
Finarfin: [with a peculiar, thoughtful expression]
Amarie, thou sayest, is eke come hither? By request? Or hers, or his, or other's yet?
I -- we think it is the Lady Nienna's, my lord.
Were the Song known, none should e'er know surprise. Peace, I'll not yield to speculation, nor ask of thee the same. --For what, then, dost think I fear? Or tell the old tales of the dark far past before the Crossing of the Sea the truth, of unquiet dead that steal souls of a night, or lure with deadly pity? Would ye guard me then, that none might dispossess?
No, sir, it can't be done here. Lord Namo wouldn't have it.
Finarfin: [with a touch of pride -- he is, after all a King]
Think ye, then, that I do fear where is no ground beneath?
[they are somewhat abashed]
I think the only thing you're afraid of is doing something wrong. --Sire.
Thou hast taken the lead.
Again: hast thou not marked it? --Nor ye?
[the Ten and Beren look at each other uncertainly]
This child speaketh as were a lord among ye, nor ye to take affront, that he should speak for all, nor claim such precedence, even as there is no contending betwixt thee and thee--
[to the Steward and the Captain respectively]
--that share authority as 'twere a cup at banquet without strife. Are ye come to Vanyar then, in death, or hath this change earlier nascence yet?
Er -- Beren is a lord, milord. He hasn't got a place anymore, but -- none of us do either, really.
He is a child -- not even old enow to wed, far less to rule over many.
Not by their years, sir.
Steward: [speaking up at last, in an out-of-duty way]
Of thy brother's following, the mortal House of Marach has held his chief fortress in office over both their own folk and ours, and two lords of Men -- to my knowing not a third -- have died in its defense, Galdor son of Hador, and his father before him in the Sudden Flame, who was a most valiant warrior, and a skilled commander as well as faithful to his liege lord, and not uncivil in his mastery.
--Nor is their skill but in violence, as some aver: the sons and daughters of the Secondborn are apt to learning, and possess even wisdom no less than discernment, for all their brevity, nor are their songs lacking in all beauty.
Finarfin: [very dry]
That is most high praise, from thee.
Captain: [slipping from addressing Finarfin to the Steward to Beren by turns very confusingly]
But it's more complicated, even, than that with regards to young Barahirion here, because he is -- or was, depending on how you look at it, and if you ask your eldest, and what mood you catch him in -- a liege lord to the King in his own right, and I think that the Princes are cheating there, claiming authority over him, because they predeceased Barahir, so I don't see how they can claim that Beren ever owed them allegiance himself, except when he was simply part of the hearth-guard of Beor, but certainly not as Lord of Dorthonion--
[turning back to Finarfin]
--and thus no less truly a peer of the realm, though admittedly a junior one on several counts, and then proved himself worthy again and in his own right by demonstrating discretion, restraint, and being able to follow orders, which I'm sure you'll appreciate, sir -- even when said orders turned out not to be well-advised, and if you bring up the question of whose fault it is one more time I'll dunk you myself -- and now he's practically family even before we realized that he was family, so to speak. So--
[raising his hands]
--if he wants to speak for the rest of us now, instead of hiding behind us having panic attacks and episodes of agoraphobia and unworthiness, that's quite all right. If we disagree -- we'll say so, believe me.
Finarfin: [amused despite himself]
'Tis like a conflagration, this manner of speech -- the spark of it hath caught in thee as well.
[glancing around at them]
The War hath changéd ye, nor for all the worst. Strange, belike, but not more cruel nor--
[he looks up at the water sculpture]
--unvaluing of beauty nor of graciousness, for all the bluntness of thy thought. --As some have feared it should.
--Passing strange, that rebellion should return ye trained to obedience even as to command! --Lord Edrahil.
[this first instance of being addressed as an adult in his own right catches the Steward by surprise]
Will't please thee walk with me, and converse upon sundry matters, and perchance it may be to advise?
No, my lord. --But I'll do it all the same.
I did but ask, sir -- not ordered thee.
And I but answered: it will not please me, and I will do it. I cannot answer other, save to refuse either word or compliance.
[Finarfin starts to say something, then checks and nods. Shrewdly:]
Thy crest hath fallen since last we held converse.
For what the cause?
[with great reluctance, clearly debating silence, the other replies:]
I…have learned that she who bore the choice-name Sea-mew and was your lady's handmaiden, -- and that I did most poorly love -- was among the Kinslain these long years, that I had deemed had long forgotten me with a better.
Thou didst not ken?
How should I, sir?
[Finarfin looks at him, puzzled]
These Halls are large and there are many here. Give me a little to recover my composure, and I shall overtake you.
Shall't have no trouble then, for all its largeness?
Most assuredly not, for two reasons -- the first that you being complete and undiminished even by your sorrows, do shine like a cresset on hilltop, and no more trouble to find than such a beacon -- the second, that does one know that one whom one seeks is present, it is much lighter work to find that one.
[the King frowns]
But do not think thus to find the King your father, sir, nor even your elder brothers, for none may be found saving only that he -- or she -- does choose so.
Finarfin: [clearly unsettled]
Doth the truth of these walls extend so far as to grant vision of one's inmost heart, that nothing be concealéd, nor unsaid, nor spoken?
[the Steward shakes his head]
In life, in the eastern lands, I stood upon your son's right hand in all things. I know you thus -- beyond the knowledge of the past Outside, when all of us were other, and stood in wise far different to each other -- through my understanding of him, and doubtless imperfect for that double remove; yet from my words, and your return, I guess that those two mirrors have not distorted past all truth. --I'll come to find you anon, my lord, I pledge: and then you may bespeak me as you will, and ask, and I shall endeavor to answer in such wise as you shall find comprehensible, nor give offense.
I would not increase the burden of thy sorrows, still.
Steward: [with a glint of his usual self]
Nor I yours, -- who can say? Perchance we may even succeed at that, my lord.
[with a faint smile Finarfin gives him a polite, acknowledging nod, and another generally to the rest of the company, and goes out through the archway]
He did say that he didn't mind so much having me for part of his family, didn't he? Not just that there were relatives he hated worse.
The exactness of the phrasing was ambivalent: either might have been meant by the specific words employed. But I too believe you have the right of it. --He is very like our lord.
[he gestures for the flask, and his colleague passes it over, but holds onto it long enough that he has to look up and meet his gaze]
Are you going to be up to this? Is dealing with him, now, a good idea?
It will, most like, forestall the brunt of his remorse from falling on the King, and equally his long-held wrath, and at a time when our lord can least withstand either nor spare thought to defend from it. It is my task, and my place. But my strength is not yet equal to my resolve.
Is there anything I can do to help?
--As, for example, standing by to watch a duel of words, where the aim of it is seemingly to lose?
[they share a wry smile]
It will -- disengage my mind from other troubles.
I don't think it's as hopeless as all that for you two. It's going to take work, but I feel sure she'll give you another chance.
Yes, but you would, being an unreasonable optimist.
Well -- I've been right so far, have I not?
I can almost not believe you said that -- but I've known you too long.
I mean, it seemed the worst luck that Lady Amarie wouldn't hear a word from Himself, but look what came of it -- we're still here to help Beren and the Princess now that they need it. And--
Yes, lad, I know.
[Aegnor returns, alone, quite composed (at least apparently) and not fazed by the unfriendly and wary looks directed towards him. As he comes towards their group--]
Our liege lord has not returned yet, I'm afraid.
[he puts a slight emphasis on "Our" not unnoticed by the Prince.]
Aegnor: [superior tone]
On the not-unlikely chance that he's taken off again and is haring about somewhere as usual, Angrod is looking for him throughout the levels instead. --Which I see was a correct assumption. I'll stay here and wait for him, then.
I don't recommend that, Highness.
Why? Have you claimed this Hall in your own right, then? Going to stake out a realm of your own now, are you?
No, it's simply that I doubt you can keep a civil tongue.
Aegnor: [raising an eyebrow]
"Fly pride, quoth the peacock"--!
[he does not say a word towards Beren, nor the rest of the Ten, but strolls a short distance off and settles down where Finrod had been playing, taking up the harp that the Steward had manifested earlier.
Looking it over critically:]
The design of this thing is so squat and ungainly, I've never understood how you could bear to be seen with such a clumsy piece of work, let alone claim the design of it for yourself!
Steward: [still sounding tired]
It stands travel better, and the breadth of the soundbox prevents it from toppling when there is not secure and level place for it, as is often the case when journeying, nor requires additional carry of a stand.
At the sacrifice of tonal quality, no doubt.
The dimensions of the chamber are calculated to compensate for the lack of height.
[he snorts and flicks at one of the strings contemptuously]
Such an approach, I guess, is only to be expected, from one who has not a drop of Teler blood or intuition--!
Third Guard: [polite but firm]
Strictly speaking, your Highness, none of us have any blood, whether Teler, Noldor, or Vanyar -- not even yourself.
[Aegnor does not answer, only fiddles with the tuning, a patronizing smile on his face]
I thought it sounded fine, Sir. I couldn't tell any difference between it and the Ki-- and Finrod's.
[the Prince gives him a sharp, sidelong Look at that]
Yes, well, you wouldn't, would you?
[the Captain catches the eye of both Rangers in turn and makes a covert set of hand-signals. Separately, throughout the following conversation, they get up and go over to the mural as if critiquing it. To Beren, though addressing him obliquely, not looking at him:]
Though I suppose that you cannot help that.
You do not answer, Beoring?
Not to you.
Aegnor: [setting aside the harp and leaning forward as he gets down to business]
You subscribe, then, to my eldest brother's belief that all are equal in death, then? Or are you merely being insolent?
Neither. My father was killed six years after the Battle. I was only ever the King's vassal. --Directly, I mean.
There is of course mere common courtesy, when another addresses one. --What became of the mithril hauberk and arms I gave to your great-grandfather Boromir? That gear was pretty nearly priceless.
Aegnor: [venomously pleasant]
You lost everything that was entrusted to your care, didn't you?
[Beren does not respond]
The lands themselves -- well, that's understandable, you couldn't exactly do anything about being outnumbered. And I can understand why your people would have left when you could no longer take care of them as well. Property, even your life -- for none of that can you justly be held accountable for, in the end. --Only for your honor.
[he looks up, then, at the still-silent Beren, ignoring the dark expressions of the Ten]
None of your House would have behaved as you did. Such a disgrace to the memory of Bregolas, of Balan himself -- to lose the life of the King whose life your own was sworn to protect: even to accept his assistance, when the price of it was merely disgrace and dethronement, should have been beneath you.
Beren: [pushed past self-control]
I couldn't stop him! There was nothing I could do--
What would your father say to that? Surely he never uttered those words.
[strangely, Beren gives him a faint smile, not changing as the Prince continues:]
Surely Barahir would say, indeed, that you should have fallen on your sword first, before accepting such a boon.
[long, tense silence among the Ten, Huan whimpers -- and Beren keeps giving Aegnor that odd smile]
I may be remembering this all wrong, but I thought it was explained to me that you and Orodreth and Angrod were pretty good friends with your cousins and used to spend a lot of time with them, and that's why you set up your holdings in the East so close to the Pass, and why he was with them at Sun-Return, and why they moved in with him and Finrod when the Leaguer broke.
[with an acknowledging look towards the Steward]
I'm sure it was more complicated than just family, but even with there not being all that many places to go, after the Sudden Flame, the thing I'm wondering is, if maybe you feel a bit guilty, since maybe you all being so tight with that crew had something to do with Finrod giving them such a warm welcome, if it was partly for your sake. --Just going on how things were in Dorthonion after it started getting bad, and the way people react, how it isn't all just what's the most reasonable thing to do.
A most interesting question. --Is that the case, I wonder?
I do not choose to answer your unworthy speculations.
[the Captain lifts his hand as if to interject, then lowers it.]
I believe that you have quite well, your Highness.
[In the background, the attentive Rangers swing up via the high-relief "forest" onto the stones forming the ascenders of the waterfall and edge over the top of it]
Still defending him?
[shaking his head, scoffing:]
No doubt you'll say that it was not so bad, after all, since it happened in a noble cause, for the sake of a greater good.
[Beren's expression goes grim -- the Soldier puts a hand on his arm, reassurance as much as restraint]
No, I should never say that. It was far worse than I could ever have conceived of, worse than the Ice, worse than the Bragollach, singly or together.
[this gives Aegnor pause, but only for a moment before he comes back:]
Then he, at least, should show a trifling amount of reverence -- at least --
[the Captain rises to his feet]
--rather than taking for granted and without gratitude the continued generosity that's been shown him.
[with enough nonchalance to convey a distinct menace, the Captain walks slowly over to where Aegnor is sitting, rests his foot on a boulder just short of him, and leans over him, smiling all the while and keeping his eyes steadily on the Prince's]
What, are you going to challenge me at last, then?
[the other shakes his head, still holding his stare]
I will not fight you, sir.
[pause -- smiling wickedly:]
I've no need to, you see.
[his associates ambush the Prince from above-and-behind and drag him backwards to the edge, whence they toss him in with extreme enthusiasm. Aegnor's attempts to recover dignity and land are not aided by Huan's deciding that this looks like a fine idea and leaping in with him. After a couple of tries he manages to climb out and stands there looking intensely disgruntled, sopping, and enough humiliated on several levels not to try to retaliate]
Aegnor: [glaring at the Steward]
Is this the consequence you were hinting so darkly about?
Evidently so. One consequence, at least. There could be others too, I suppose.
[As Aegnor starts to say something else, Huan climbs out and shakes vigorously, splashing everyone, who react with good-natured annoyance -- but coincidentally standing right next to Finrod's brother. It couldn't be on purpose, after all...]
Huan!? What's wrong with you, dog?
That's what Celegorm wondered, too.
[Aegnor turns a furious Look on him, getting a raised eyebrow back at him]
Ranger: [interrupting, to the Captain]
--Might we again, sir?
[he gets the glare instead; his commander looks over to his senior colleague for confirmation]
Steward: [shrugs, smiling a little]
It doesn't matter to me either way: I'm feeling much heartened already.
[Aegnor incautiously puts a hand on his sword-hilt -- and is shoved back in with the additional help of a possibly-unnecessary boot behind the ankles to prevent him from getting his balance, by the other Rangers. Huan follows suit again voluntarily.]
Ranger: [to Beren, as Aegnor crawls out onto the rocks again, very bedraggled]
You know, you're right: it is both fun, and funny. In a very curious and primitive sort of way, of course.
Of course, you're really supposed to do it to your own relatives, not your liege lord's family. Or to your friends. And remember, you have to watch out on account of it usually escalates into retaliation.
[looking consideringly at Aegnor]
Only I don't think you really have to worry because first off, he's worried about his dignity and secondly, you've got him way outnumbered if you count everybody, plus Huan, which goes back to the first point.
You should have helped, then it would have been all right and proper.
Beren: [shaking his head]
Oh, I doubt he's gonna like the fact that I'm kin now any more than that we decided he wasn't actually in charge of me. Though I do think Celegorm's worse, all around, than me.
[he and Aegnor lock stares, much more serious this time.]
My lord, you provoke him much, and some might say needlessly.
Beren: [quiet and slow, like someone reporting on distant troop movements]
I know, but…we've got the truth lying here between us like a hot coal, and…he can either pick it up and deal with it, which is going to hurt, or try to kick it away by walking off or picking another fight. I'm betting…that he's going to leave it there and walk off again. Given the fact that the last couple fights weren't too satisfying…
[Aegnor stands there looking at him, dripping and frustrated, not saying anything, for a long moment. (Note: sfx -- the drops do not land on the floor, but vanish continually as they fall, unless (as with Huan shaking himself off) they strike another spirit: the Platonic Form of Water doesn't leave puddles.) Abruptly he turns and walks evenly away with as much dignity as he can pull together. To his chagrin and annoyance the Captain accompanies him, and follows him to the door]
Are you so petty in your triumphs, then, that you must make them last so long?
No, sir, I was wondering if you'd learned anything from this, and if we should be prepared to do it again -- if not you, then Angrod in his turn.
Fear not, I'll tell him you're mad and violent when I speak to Finrod about this.
Good. Since the Beoring has no hard feelings towards you, I'll give you a word of advice, then: you may be deceived thinking you discern the King your brother, though perchance not; but Lord Beren at first mistook the King your father for Felagund instead. You might warn him about that, as well as our diversions here.
[Aegnor gives him a stricken look]
F -- my father is here?
And in good health, though not spirits.
The Powers requested him to speak with the Lady your cousin, and he accepted the task. But her words unsettled him too much to go on, and so he came back here for a while -- until we unsettled him too much in turn.
What -- did he say about me?
Nothing, Highness, nothing at all.
What did you talk about, then?
Of my treason, and its consequences, the ones past, present, and it may be to come.
He said nothing about me whatsoever?
Not to me, my lord. He might perhaps to Lord Beren -- they spoke for a brief while apart -- but you would have to ask him.
[nodding towards the mortal -- Aegnor gives him a glare]
But I don't think it very likely. I gather the substance of their conversation was…similar to yours, but with differences.
[another, worse glare]
Well, I just don't know, your Highness. I wasn't present, and they've not told me, and you've indicated extreme dislike for conjecture, so I shan't venture to do so. Sorry, but there you have it.
[pause -- the Prince does not leave, and the Captain relents.]
I think your father is far too troubled at the moment by discovering the same facts concerning our mutual lord's death that so much aggrieved you twain, to think on your long-held resolution, that is not news nor new grief to him -- I believe the information has been nearly as great a blow to him as your words, and the ones which you did not say, were to the Beoring, who nearly faded from this Circle before we might convince him that no fault in it was his, no more than part. --Now do you understand why we shall not permit you to do so again, even if you judge us mad to name him yet friend?
[they match stares for a long moment -- Aegnor tosses his head at last]
Only now you said you would not speculate.
I didn't expect you to thank me for it, my lord.
That's as well then, milord -- I'd not have you disappointed.
[with that retort he turns to go -- and barely avoids a collision with Nienna's Apprentice, entering, due as much to the agile recoil of the later as to his own attempts to sidestep. The Apprentice stares at him with astonishment -- the Prince gives him a savage Look and vanishes, leaving the other quite bewildered.]
That was your lord's brother.
[the Captain nods]
He was very wet.
He insulted the Lord of Dorthonion, again. --I hope you weren't thinking of doing so?
Believe me, it had not even crossed my mind. --Nor will it, I promise.
[he shakes his head, looking over his shoulder into the corridor]
So have you anything useful for me?
I -- er, I hope so. Nothing has been resolved or decided, except that your friend's lady is one of the most stubborn souls ever to have been born, and the only development has been that far from discouraging her romantic illusions -- that isn't my wording, please don't be offended -- Nerdanel has rather taken her part and argued her case for her. Up until the discussion…got off the trail onto another course, rather, and she and the Hunter started trying to convince my Master's family to let them decorate the Halls with tree-toads.
Carved from chalcedony with garnet eyes. --It's a longish story and not very relevant, which is what Lord Namo was pointing out. Unless you want me to go through it?
No, that's right. --Hm. And your Master hasn't turned up yet either, has she? Very interesting. Has Lady Yavanna returned?
Apprentice: [shaking his head]
Nor her sister. The only people left now are Lord Namo and Lady Vaire, Lord Orome and Lord Aule, and Lord Irmo. And Luthien, of course. Oh, and Nerdanel -- but I already said that -- and Curumo -- that's Lord Aule's principal aide, he's like me, only -- of a different -- kindred. And not -- pretending to be anything else--
--and failing miserably at it!
--Perhaps you know whom I'm talking of?
I didn't know him personally back in the Day, but the brief encounter I observed earlier between him and my master gave me the distinct impression that he's a bit conceited and given to causing trouble if he can get away with it. Of course you'll no doubt say that I say it as shouldn't, as the saying goes.
No, you're spot-in -- spot-on? -- from target-shooting, correct? But not the kind of trouble you lot are always making.
He just -- says things -- sometimes, clever things, and one looks such a fool--
--You really should not be commenting on nor criticizing your elders and superiors, don't you think?
[to his annoyance, the Captain struggles not to laugh out loud]
Sweet Cuivienen, how do you think I got this job? --The intelligence part? That's what I did for amusement, watch people and imitate them at gatherings. It took Himself to show me what use was in it, even before the Rebellion and the founding of the Kingdom -- how the things I noticed were often more than simple mannerisms, and not infrequently something that the individuals themselves were unaware of, and how much less guarded the lordly folk were about the cheerful fellow who only talked about bows and hounds and hawks and points, than about each other. Very useful to Lord Finarfin, when the rest of House Finwe was intriguing like mad.
Still, I don't expect you ever -- parodied him, or his family!
I repeat, how do you think I earned this responsibility?
And…he didn't mind?
Well, I'd not say that. He rather minded falling off his horse for laughing, but not the imitation. Not as much as his sister did -- she wouldn't speak to me for a whole day, which got tiresome with her having to ask my sister to ask me whatever it was she wanted to know, though when I started doing it back she decided it was a bit funny and left off for the rest of the hunt. Which was just as well. --I presume you're speaking of Finrod Felagund, and not Lord Finarfin? He thought it a bit childish, but harmless. --Little did he know! But little did we all, then.
You're trying to put me at ease and teach me something at the same time, aren't you?
Very clever you are. --Can you tell me what?
I'd guess -- something about not assuming things about people one hasn't a long acquaintance with; something about paying attention to the things and persons one doesn't usually pay attention to, something about not being being too proud to laugh at one's self. --And how to put another at ease -- and off-guard -- in a conversation.
All that just from that! Amazing. --But what I'd prefer you to be learning is, what's going on at the Council.
Oh, I am.
But you're here, not there, unless you've some other abilities beyond Elven ken to employ.
Well, no -- yes -- both, in a manner of speaking: I have friends keeping track of it and reporting to me.
You've involved others in this?
Apprentice: [increasingly anxious]
I just -- delegated, too.
Friends -- on the staff, here.
Is that wrong? You -- didn't--
No, I'll not second-guess you. I didn't tell you how to do it, nor set conditions. It would be ill of me to meddle now, when we chose you for confidence in your abilities.
[sighs again, and starts back towards the waterfall, the Apprentice tagging along with a worried look]
I trust your friends are as trustworthy as discreet -- and if they're not, there's naught I can do concerning it now.
Why? You haven't failed yet.
[as the Apprentice is mulling this over, frowning, they come up to the rest of the group beside the falls]
Yes, but if you take the easy route you're practically in Thargelion! Then you've got to cross all that distance again, and you've nearly doubled your travel time. Much better to take the shortcut through the cleft at Aglon.
Beren: [embarrassed, trying to pretend to be angry instead of grinning]
--Would you just shut up about that?
You're not giving poor Barahirion a hard time, are you?
But you do it, Sir.
Yes, but I'm allowed. "Rank hath its privilege" and so on.
So, which route do you think was the better before the War, the one through the mountain pass at Aglon, or the long way around across the rolling countryside in the east?
Beren: [to the world at large]
I hate my life.
Captain: [settling down on the ledge and reclaiming his flask]
Well, that's all right, then -- cheer up, you haven't got it any more.
[the Apprentice gives him a shocked look]
Both Rangers: [outraged]
[Beren laughs -- and casually reaches over to shove the Captain playfully on the shoulder, coincidentally as he's just about to take a drink]
Captain: [grimacing and shaking his hand]
Seems as though someone isn't feeling guilty for having been killed any more. --If that had been the real thing you'd be in trouble for wasting it, whelp. And not just the usual background level of trouble, either.
[to the Apprentice, who is slightly agog]
Was there more that you've still to say? Or did you need something?
Actually -- you see, I was wondering -- if you're allowed, that is --
It's a good thing I'm patient, isn't it--
Apprentice: [abruptly, distracted]
--Ah, what was it that you were angry about, Lord Beren?
[struggling not to grin again]
Not really. --Nothing.
It's because we found out that he gets flustered over perfectly ordinary words. Like "mountain pass." Or "rolling meadow."
Why on Arda--?
[Beren looks up at the ceiling and sighs]
Because of the way you say them in the High Speech.
Second Guard: [just as seriously]
Or what the same expressions are used to mean.
But what's wrong with saying "the bosom of the earth"--? Or "cleavage," for that matter?
That's what we've been trying to find out. He just gets more and more speechless.
I don't think one can, actually -- shouldn't you say, "less and less speechful" -- hm, that doesn't sound very well either, does it…?
Do you think you could explain the reason for such reactions to simple concepts? I don't know all that much about Secondborn customs, you see, and I find them fascinating, but I so rarely get the chance to speak to mortal shades, and I hardly know what to ask or where to begin.
You guys are going to pay for this. --Um, no, sir, I really don't right now.
You should really talk to His Majesty -- my wife's cousin, that is, and ask Finrod. He's the language expert, after all -- Elvish and human.
[Touché -- the Apprentice looks around at their expressions, knowing there's a joke going on that he's missing. Before he can ask further, Huan, who has been clambering about on rocks like a mountain goat or a puppy, suddenly bounds down and goes running off with ears trailing like a mad thing into the distant shadows of the Hall, and then back again -- and then does it over again]
Apprentice: [shaking his head, looking after the Hound]
Why is he doing that?
'Cause he's wet.
[the Apprentice looks at him doubtfully]
And he's a dog.
[at the continued dubious Look]
Dogs do that sometimes, is all. I guess you don't have any, huh?
Apprentice: [drawing himself up]
I am familiar with dogs, milord. I -- am just uncertain as to whether you're aware who Huan is.
Beren: [mischievously innocent]
He's our hound. He used to belong to my wife's cousin, and before that Celegorm got him from Orome himself. He's the Lord of Dogs.
[Nienna's student sighs a little]
--And he's like you. Immortal. Or like Tinuviel's mom. Only different, I guess.
[the Apprentice recovering from his start, gives a slightly wounded look to the Ten]
Beren figured you out all on his own. Perception, not deduction, though.
[looking around at them, uncertainly]
Can I rely on you…not to, er, what was that phrase you used?
Blow your cover, as if you were a pheasant pretending to be a thicket. --We're safe, but I
can't say the same of anyone else who might be here.
[glancing around meaningfully]
Oh, we're alone.
Are you sure? We thought there might be company earlier, and there has been at various times, in various states of presence.
No, I'm certain.
Beren: [very curious]
You can see if anyone's here who's vanished?
Apprentice: [a touch patronizing]
"See" is not the proper word, given that it is a perception or apprehension of the Unseen.
[Beren looks puzzled, and gestures to get the Steward's attention]
Am I imagining it, or isn't "perceive" like "grab ahold of" --?
There is indeed a common root.
Beren: [to the Apprentice]
So why's that make more sense, when you're not actually touching them, than for me to say "see"?
[pause. Changing the subject:]
--Still, you didn't come up with a real explanation of your answer as to why he's dashing about like a dragonfly up and down the room.
I already said. Because he's a dog, and dogs do that. Even Immortal ones. Also in the new snow, they run like crazy back and forth. Sometimes he chases his tail. In the woods he'd find fallen branches and drag them around, only they were the size of small logs, and we joked that he was a firewood-hound too.
We had a pony that used to do that with big sticks, too. Never figured out why.
And that's got what to do with Huan?
Nothing. Except they were doing the same thing, and almost the same size.
[the Apprentice frowns -- and then looks suddenly worried]
Erm -- you wouldn't say I was rude, would you?
Uh -- considering I've only talked to you what, three times maybe? that I know of, and I never heard anything about you until today -- whatever -- and that's hardly anything at all, I really am not the one to ask.
No, I meant -- to you. Just now.
No. A little sarcastic, maybe, but not really rude.
[as Nienna's student looks relieved]
Apprentice: [glancing sidelong at the Captain]
I -- ah -- well, I haven't any wish to follow Aegnor's lead, let's say.
Well. You haven't told me I should've killed myself, let alone twice yet, so you've got a long way to go to catch up, if that's any reassurance.
Apprentice: [startled, increasingly, and dismayed]
[looks around, trying to ascertain if this is a joke.]
I -- really wish my Master
were about. And I were home.
On Taniquetil, I presume?
[this does not make his victim any happier]
Ah -- could you tell me what I did wrong? How you -- figured it out? Please?
[He sits down, a little uncertainly, socially awkward among the Ten, on a rock across from the Captain. Huan comes back and flops down not far, looking at the Apprentice and grinning.]
You didn't do anything wrong.
[pause -- the Apprentice looks exasperated]
Not any one thing.
The things that you did -- or didn't -- have almost certainly not been noticed by anyone else. Most people don't, after all, if it doesn't concern them directly. Now, what I imagine you've been doing -- and correct me if we're wrong -- is that you vary your persona depending on whom you're among. I expect you're Vanyar most of the time, except on Taniquetil, since you'd have the most anonymity that way, whether in Tirion or on the seacoast, -- or in here. I also expect that you're Teler when you're in Valmar?
[the Apprentice nods, his expression mixed between chagrin and admiration]
Again, you'd be rare enough,
wherever you went, to be something of a curiosity, but so long as you have a decent reason for being there -- like being a servant of Lady Nia's, that's usually acceptable -- that rarity would mean that no one would be able, or likely so, to call you on it. And the curiosity -- assuming that firstly people here haven't changed that much, and secondly you don't do anything too eccentric--
[his erstwhile adversary grimaces slightly]
--is bound to fade very quickly as people do have for the most part their own lives and affairs to manage, even here. --In a manner of speaking, of course. A good friend of mine back home in the Old Country excels at that, fitting in. But--
[he pauses until the Apprentice can't take it any longer; the Youngest Ranger starts a bit, and looks thoughtful]
Patience, lad, patience--
Oh, all right. Due to a circumstance quite beyond your control, there is now someone here who is familiar with the Vanyar enough to mark such small discrepancies in your stories that others might not even notice, and attentive enough to matters of culture and diplomacy to worry about them. To wit, Finrod grandson of Indis, betrothed of Amarie, and also a certain number of those who were formerly of Finarfin's House, such as myself. --Not that the rest of us aren't good at spotting details, either, though not necessarily knowing the significance of them. But those remarks and reported comments helped build the mosaic over time.
But what were they? There must have been some specific things!
Lack of specifics, actually. Too vague on the details of what family you were related to, who were your kin, what was your House, all a very large part of it. The fact that none of us knew you we discounted at first, on the assumption that you must have been born after the Rebellion.
And yet -- though such only could explain -- to counter that, ever the slight recoil, the lifted brow, the secretive smile whenever any addressed you as "young."
So it was me.
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