35. Scene IV.xiii - part I
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project
BELOVED FOOL: BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA
[beside the waterfall -- the Ten are gathered in a loose circle, at ease, though not entirely careless: there is a wary attention both to the shadows around and to the latest addition to the company, who is seated among them with only a slightly-less hostile and confrontative demeanor. Beren is on her left, on the other side of the Teler Ranger, and Huan is curled up behind the Captain and the Steward, (who are using him for a backrest) with his nose between his paws, though his expression betrays the fact that he is paying attention to the conversation. The Sea-elf is looking across the circle at her ex with rather a critical tilt to her head.]
Teler Maid: [to the Steward, wonderingly]
I do not think I have ever heard you be silent for so long.
It is -- most awkward to engage in a conversation when the matter of it is one's own praises.
Teler Maid: [acerbic]
I do recollect it never troubled you before, that you should be hailed amidst your peers, and those you'd have hold you as such. --And what's more: since when is "madly fixed upon every least detail unto the weight of a single grain," a word of praise?
Third Guard: [breaking in]
--Since it meant the difference between life and death to an awful lot of families, my own included.
And not just ours, but the High King's following as well.
That's what I said.
Oh. That's right, you were with them originally, weren't you? I'd forgotten.
Teler Maid: [turning sharply on him]
Are you a Kinslayer, then?
No. We were with Lord Turgon and their father, not his siblings.
Teler Maid: [darkly]
I could almost wish it were so that one might speak untruth here, that I might deny you.
[Beren leans forward to get her attention]
Hey. You want to take your anger out on someone, yell at me, why don't you?
But you were not party to it -- you were not even born yet, then.
Doesn't seem to make much of a difference to most folks, so far. But that's my point.
[she scowls at him]
I do not like you so well now.
Teler Maid: [distracted]
--How do you manage without your hand?
Not too good.
--Do you not mean "well"--?
Beren: [shrugging again]
[as he answers she catches herself, guiltily, and gives a quick look over in hopes that the Steward hasn't noticed. No luck, though he does not say anything and looks down at once; she glares hard at him and crosses her arms in defensive defiance. The Youngest Ranger taps her elbow, and nods meaningfully towards the mortal.]
Youngest Ranger: [not meanly, though]
You want to really drive yourself mad -- and everyone else for good measure -- try counting how many different ways he's got for saying yes that aren't the word "yes."
Teler Maid: [stiffly]
I am sorry, Lord Beren. I ought not to make a fellow guest to feel unwelcome here.
Beren: [terse, staring straight in front of him]
--Wouldn't be the first, won't be the last.
Beren: [abashed, bows his head]
[to the Elven girl]
[she looks away, still annoyed, and gives a quick glance at the Captain before addressing the Steward again:]
He said you did not treat me well when we were both alive.
[the Steward sighs, nodding]
You are not angry at that?
For what should I be angry? It is no more than the truth.
You were not always so easy with the notion that you might possess them -- far less to hear any chronicling of your faults.
That too, I cannot deny.
[pause -- very reluctantly]
You do ill, Maiwe, to seek to make division between us.
[she tosses her head and looks away, obstinate]
Do you think it betrayal, this friendship of ours, of yours?
[she does not answer]
But that was our friendship's foundation, Murrelet.
Teler Maid: [challenging]
That he should talk of you to one that knew you well, and speak of how ill he'd treated you to one who'd not gainsay him.
Teler Maid: [still very skeptical]
Captain: [looking to the Steward]
--Shall you, or shall I?
[the other raises his hands in a resigned gesture]
You will enjoy it far more.
Captain: [shaking his head tolerantly]
--For one who'd have been a bard, you've a curious distaste for telling stories.
Only mine own.
And those you're involved with.
Steward: [with a cool Look]
That is what I said, is it not?
Not exactly, no.
Steward: [still more acridly]
On the contrary: if I was involved, even on the periphery, then it is to however small a degree my story as well.
Well, by that principle, then everything that ever happened involved you, for if you weren't present, someone known to you was, or related to you, or it had some consequence direct or indirect upon your life. Therefore I maintain my assertion, that you are signally unfond of recounting tales.
Steward: [icy patience]
You are, as usual, exaggerating grossly again.
Captain: [leaning back against Huan with a smug grin]
[long pause, during which the Teler girl stares at them in wide-eyed disbelief]
Steward: [sighing heavily]
Go on, finish the story -- or begin it, indeed.
Captain: [shaking his head]
Oh no, clearly you'd rather correct my speaking than hear me speak, so I'll be silent.
No. No. It is entirely too twisted for you to compel me to beg you to humiliate me in public. One must draw the line somewhere.
[his friend only smiles innocently, and says nothing]
--My Lady, if you're attending, your help would be most welcome now!
The thing about help is, you don't get to say how it comes, you know.
[the other, after a visibly-jaw-grinding moment, raises his hands in capitulation and asks:]
Would you then be so kind as to answer this gentle's question that I might be spared the painful necessity of doing so myself? --This is utterly wrong.
[he sits up straight again and prepares to go on, while the Steward leans his forehead on his hand -- but is interrupted by the Sea-elf, who is too shocked almost for words:]
But -- but -- he is not angry with you?
That's just their way. They've been doing it since before I was born.
Teler Maid: [skeptical]
Oh yeah. Apparently generations of my relatives on both sides of my family used to regularly lose bets to these guys--
[gesturing at the rest of the Ten]
--expecting one of those two was going to haul off and hit the other, and they never did, of course.
[she shakes her head]
I do not understand the notion.
It's when you don't know what will happen, and so you make a promise with someone else that if it falls out one way, you will give them something valuable, but if it falls out the other way, they will give you something valuable instead.
Teler Maid: [puzzled]
[he shrugs, embarrassed and unable to explain better]
It makes things more interesting that way.
I do not see how.
[uninterested in the subject, to Beren:]
Where are your kinfolk?
Beren: [taken aback]
Uh -- dead, mostly.
But they are not here?
[completely thrown by this question, Beren looks around at the others for help]
Mortals don't abide here, Sea-Mew. But surely that's known to all in the Halls, certainly after the Bragollach?
Teler Maid: [shrugging]
Mayhap. But I have not cared to attend much to all that's said or done herewith.
Then for what are you here? I had thought you must be the first of the Secondborn.
Beren: [starting to get agitated]
--No. Not by a long shot.
But then why are you yet here? Or do you but ignore my questions as was his wont?
Beren: [increasingly distressed]
No. I -- I'm not supposed to be here. It's this big mess.
[on his other side the Warrior grips his shoulder, deeply anxious -- Beren answers the unspoken question through set teeth:]
--I'm okay. Really.
Teler Maid: [total frustration]
Captain: [half plea, half exasperation]
Because I'm trying to stay with my wife.
[the realization takes place]
She is one of us . . . ?!?
[he nods, once]
[she trails off, her brow furrowing]
Beren: [very dry]
Believe me, I don't think there's a variant of "What on the gods' green earth does she see in you?" that I haven't heard yet.
Teler Maid: [shaking her head
That was not what I would say, only -- I do not know what I would say. There are too many things, I think, that I must know to ask what I must know!
[she pushes back her hair with both hands and lets them fall in a gesture of resigned dismay]
I did not comprehend that it should be so new upon you, nor that yours should such a different matter prove, else I'd not have pressed you so hard for answer. I shall not more, for I like it little when others do ask me hard questions I would not answer.
Teler Maid: [worried]
Are you much angered with me?
I do like you, truly, I do believe.
[at this admission the Youngest Ranger stops glowering between them; abruptly she turns back to her original question:]
So, then, tell me -- how did it happen that you should happen to talk of his unmannerliness to me?
It's a long story--
--but not that long, don't worry.
[Beren gives an exaggerated sigh of relief]
Teler Maid: [affronted]
You do jeer at me again.
No, we're teasing Beren this time.
Or he's teasing us.
Teler Maid: [wary]
Then which, pray tell, is it?
Oh, definitely both. --Probably.
Now you do tease me indeed.
[she can almost completely keep from smiling]
[she makes a dismissive gesture, rolling her eyes, and turns back to the Captain]
Was that before or after he shot you?
[the Steward covers his face]
Captain: [shaking his head]
He didn't shoot me, Curlew, not by accident or purpose. He simply ignored my warning and ventured into a dangerous situation.
Then whence came you to mischance?
We were riding escort, and that's what the job entails, dangerous or not.
[there are looks exchanged among the Ten]
If you insist upon telling it, then tell it properly, at least!
Yes, but by that you mean painting yourself in as bad a light as possible.
I mean leaving out no pertinent detail.
Very well, I'll do my best, though you'll not be pleased of course. --The reason we were riding to a parley with minions of the Enemy was that against my counsel (but not mine alone, I wasn't as senior at that point, but all of us with much field experience thought it a bad idea, not myself merely) he had persuaded our lords to permit him to respond, saying that as it was then known (or at least rumored through his contacts among House Feanor's following) that the ill-fated parley had gone wrong because the Noldor side had gone with far more than their promised number in hopes of taking the Enemy's emissaries as hostages, and broken faith first, it wasn't certain that negotiations were truly out of the question, as a good-faith attempt had never been undertaken.
Teler Maid: [shrewdly]
But was not Melkor given his freedom in good faith, and did break that faith, ere ever you reached the other shore?
Did I say I thought it a good idea? I didn't, many of those who had seen combat didn't, none of those who were born in the Old Country, veterans or not, thought it so, and Lord Turgon, whose Following had already attracted a great many of the locals and thus had direct access to a great deal more information unmitigated by protocol, never did agree with it.
Beren: [interrupting, shaking his head]
I still don't see why they did. I mean, maybe that's hindsight, because of us fighting the War for so long and that was early days, but still . . .
Captain: [lifting his hand in a small shrug]
Well, between the appeal to Family rivalries implicit in the assumption that we could do it because we were smarter, as well as more honest -- which captured the support of Prince Fingon and their father from the first, before any operational details were discussed -- and the moral high ground of trying to solve things peacefully as well as honestly, which lured Himself into it eventually, we skeptics were outshouted, -- which is an exaggeration, true, voices were raised but it wasn't quite shouting. We didn't know then that the Enemy had also sent a force vastly over the agreed numbers to the Feanorion's parley, but nobody should have been surprised by it.
I was not surprised -- by then.
I should hope not. --So he won permission to make the attempt, and the contacts were made via their spooks, and a time and place appointed for it, and it was my luck to get the assignment, and we went. Now I wasn't happy with it for several reasons, one of which was that although the location was open, and the country open, there were a lot of rocks and it was far from flat, meaning lots of good cover.
Er, hiding places. For the foe.
Oh. Like quail.
Exactly. So there was that -- but then it was to be held in broad daylight, which was also in our favour. But the morning started clear and then started getting overcast, and I got suspicious about that, and the closer we got the more cloudy it got, and then a bit of fog started coming in as well, and I started objecting strenuously, only to be told that there was nothing unnatural about it, days often got gray as they wore on, and was this part of the country not known for its mists?
Teler Maid: [narrowing her eyes]
I think you are not saying it quite as he did say it.
Near enough. --And that was all true, only I still didn't think it was natural at all. And I kept saying so, and we just kept getting closer to the destination, and yes we had a large company, all within the agreed on limits, and I just kept on thinking to myself, Balrogs. What if the rumours about the Balrogs were right?
I have heard of them, even in my solitude there were whispers of them. Are they so terrible as all do tell?
[he nods, very seriously]
And reminding myself that neither of us was a prince of the blood, nor any particular prize, didn't help much against all the warnings from my Sindar colleagues that the Lord of Fetters didn't care who you were so long as you could make weapons for him.
But you know naught of smithing.
But they wouldn't know that, would they? And there's plenty of work that requires no particular art, merely coordination and strength.
"We're all going to end up thralls in Angband, or dead," we all kept thinking, though we hoped we were very wrong. And now we're at the edge of the place where the parley's to happen, and the visibility's poor, but not terrible, and if it were any other business I'd be worrying about rain starting and slippery footing for the horses most of all, not an iron collar -- but there's no one there in the center of the ring of flat stones that was the designated spot, and no one in sight for leagues around, and there was no way beneath the hidden Sun I was going to walk us out into that unprotected area.
Huan: [not moving]
[low, but rising, growls]
We were about three bowshots from it, and I told my riding to stay put in the gorge we'd just come through, that I wasn't going to budge until we saw some signs of a good-faith effort to meet us, namely some visible enemies coming to parley, we were going to wait, watch, and be late if we must, but we were not going to put ourselves in the open.
[he reaches back & pokes the quiescent Hound]
Stop growling, you.
[Huan gives a penitent tail-wag-in-place]
And -- since he wants me to tell you it as if he were telling it, there was a lot of unpleasant conversation at that, and I wouldn't let him embarrass me into going through with it, and he wouldn't agree that I knew what I was talking about with regard to the number of troops that could be hidden in this apparently open countryside, so he says to me, "Do as you please, and I will do my duty," and goes to ride out there alone.
We couldn't tell if ou were insanely brave, or just insanely overconfident.
Neither. I was petrified. But I did believe in the mission.
So obviously I had to go along (though I really wanted to take the flat of my sword to his skull and drag him back home regardless) with strictest orders to my company to stay put, regardless, and dire threats of what would happen if they didn't -- and all of us so rattled it didn't occur to any of them to ask me how I'd manage that if things went badly. And we get halfway there, and nothing stirs, not even the wind, and you could not have offered me a Silmaril to keep going, and he just keeps steadily on at a walk, and we're about three-fourths of the way there, and something spooked my horse -- but it might only have been me, so I circled about a little--
[making a descriptive gesture with his hand]
--trying to catch another glimpse of what it was that I'd thought I'd seen, and apparently that worried our adversaries into thinking we were about to give up and go. So someone from their side lets slip a little too early, from behind one of those scattered boulders on the heath, and that's how I got shot. Our armour wasn't so good then, before we purchased proper mail from the Dwarves and learned the art of making it ourselves.
Where? --Nor do you say, "in Beleriand"--!
[he indicates a point on his upper arm]
Ranger: [with exasperation]
Might have been a little higher--
[the Steward elbows him]
Oh, well, that too, -- but it was the other side.
How many arrows by which you were struck?
[she is nervously twisting one of her braids tightly around her fingers, not even realizing that she is doing so]
--Nailed right through to his ribcage and into his lung. That's what I heard, at least. I wasn't there for it, as I wasn't yet born.
[she gasps, wide-eyed, and then turns an absolutely furious glare upon the Steward]
I had seen death, and I had seen those slain, and even wounded, but only after significant time and sufficient for medical attention to have begun -- never anyone so gravely injured and yet living, or halfway. Not at that early point.
Captain: [to the Sea-elf, trying to reassure her]
It was not that bad.
It was very bad, and would have been so had not the arrow been poisoned as well.
I thought I was telling this story.
It could have been much worse.
It was bad, sir.
I didn't say it wasn't. But at least -- no, wait, I can't say that, can I? At any rate, we were able to get back to the others where I'd left them, and there were some sharp words, but quick, for the need to hasten past our foe's reach, and by the time we reached a distance where we might alight in some surety, if briefly, the poison had taken strong hold, and our company healer didn't want to draw the arrow, but didn't dare leave it in for the sort of riding we had yet to accomplish, and I was starting to lose my grip on reality, and so were my companions, with less excuse, and there were some very harsh words given to, though not exchanged with, our Herald.
And yet they're not here, with one exception.
Many died before at the Bragollach, or in the retreating actions of the subsequent years.
Captain: [looking at him directly]
And I repeat: with one exception, those Rangers who rode at my command in that hour are not here, nor those who fell beside us in the Fen. And yet you are.
[the Steward looks away. Simultaneously asking:]
[the two Rangers look downcast and upset, but say nothing]
It's -- complicated. We -- as has been said before, are a disreputable and disorderly lot -- well, you've seen it, Beren, though Maiwe's only heard us before, and not everyone is quite comfortable associating with us. Or at least, not on any sort of formal and regular basis.
But you said people follow him anyway. Like with the battles.
Yes, but it's all most informal, and . . .
Warrior: [filling in]
We got into trouble for it. Some people aren't very happy at the idea of having the Powers possibly angry at them again.
There's a sort of unofficial official recognition which is quickly disavowable, and tends to alternate between unthinking enthusiasm for projects -- no, not us, I meant with the reenactments -- and a wait-and-see-if-They-toss-him-or-them-in-the-non-existent-dungeons, first, attitude. Essentially folk ask him for advice and help, and he makes recommendations and doesn't ask anyone else for anything now. Except us.
I do not quite follow you.
I do. Sounds like a repeat of Nargothrond, again.
Not quite that bad.
Doesn't he mind?
I'm not the one to speak on that.
That's why he got so upset when he thought I turned on him.
That's why you're all here tearing up the gods' living room on my behalf.
[to the Sea-elf]
Sorry, I didn't mean to talk around you. Long story.
First Guard: [reassuring]
We'll not desert him, Beren.
I -- would almost hazard you mean that some have forsaken Lord Ingold . . . ?
You'd be right.
But it is, as Beren says, a long story, and another -- or at least a lot later in this one. --Which I am going to resume telling, in the absence of objection. I was not doing terribly well at that point, but it was crucial to keep on as speedily as possible, not simply for my sake but because of the likelihood of pursuit. They kept changing me from rider to rider for the horses' endurance, and despite the unwillingness of my followers for reasons of sentiment, even to Edrahil, for reason of principle. And he kept saying something, and I assumed he was trying to apologize, and wanted to tell him to just stop, dammit, but that would have taken too much breath. And then I realize that what he's actually doing is the same thing our medic did, as best he can manage, having memorized, or nearly, his words when they were patching me up. And at that point I stopped worrying, for I knew things would be all right.
But -- might you not have died despite, before ever you might be brought back to safe haven?
Then why say you 'twould be well?
Because he is mad.
[she gives him an affronted glance]
Because I knew from that that he was recollected enough to withstand panic and other disorder and to make sure that all the rest would make it home safely, whether I returned there or here. And I was right. There was a motion to cut directly over some rough country that gave a more direct route to Fingolfin's command post--
--not the one you're thinking of, the castle at Eithel wasn't built at that point -- and strongly urged in the interest of time -- and does he give in? Not at all.
"We are not crows," he retorts, and refuses on the grounds that none of them knew the ground, and if it were passable, or for horses, or for a casualty, and insists upon the longer, surer route, and carries them all by force of cold reason, despite the fact that not one of them but wished it were he bleeding there, not me.
Have you any idea how many times you've changed tense already?
Yes, you get more tense each time. You'll not change the subject that way. --So instead he sends one warrior by that shortcut, and another to go breakneck (only hopefully not) ahead of us, with my horse for a spare, and the rest together to bring me back as quick as they might without killing me altogether, while whichever messenger might reach the encampment first should bring a company of medical personnel to intercept us along this our known route. Exactly what I would have done, had matters been the other way round. Though I only learnt of this after the fact, not being fully-conscious at the time. And when that happens, and it's not only those he requested but Himself as well, trying to keep me alive, he says nothing whatsoever about the mission nor his own actions, but only stays out of the way until they dared to take me back home at last.
Teler Maid: [extremely grim]
What said you, to account for your wound then?
I was still unconscious. They might have said a lot, but oddly enough they didn't -- for some reason they elected to give him benefit of honour, to see what he would say before making their report.
[the Noldor Ranger smiles wryly]
And what he said was essentially what I have said, though with longer words and more of 'em. No attempt to justify himself, nor discredit any claim they might make, by reason of their having been back of our position, nor to assign any of it to me. He made a full admission to the Princes, not in private mind you, but before all of the folk of Finarfin and Fingolfin as well, and submitted himself to whatever judgment our lord and his siblings should come to, but first, meanwhile, he said, he intended to learn what he might of healing for himself, that never should he be in such a situation again and of so little use. --And so, of course, they gave him more jobs like that, and harder, but didn't manage to get rid of him that way.
[longish pause -- the Sea-elf glowers at the subject of the story, clearly not as amused as the teller]
Why do you not speak, sir? Surely you are not content with a tale told by another not you, still less when it is of yourself it does tell!
Steward: [shaking his head]
The trouble is this -- shall I agree, and seem more arrogant yet? or correct, and seem a most ungracious ingrate? Better to be silent, and leave the matter in some doubt at least.
[several of the Guards snicker at this, and she gives them a sharp Look, and then a quick glance back, her expression becoming more thoughtful]
Teler Maid: [still taunting, though]
What would you correct, then, my lord?
It was made implicit, though not said outright, that I added healer to the chronicle of my accomplishments -- when, in fact, I merely completed a course of studies in that field.
And is that not the same thing -- for you?
My teacher and the chief of that avocation thought not so. She made -- if you will pardon the unseemly-yet-appropriate human levity, gentles all -- no bones about my lack of anything remotely akin to the proper empathic spirit required of a Healer. "Perfect pitch is necessary but far from sufficient," and "You can't improvise to save your life, can you? -- so how do you expect to save anyone else's?" were phrases I very swiftly tired of hearing.
[the Sea-elf giggles -- then checks abruptly and gives him a wary glance, continuing to scrutinize his expression covertly]
Yes, but she didn't forbid you from attempting, Sir.
With the proviso there was none else certified at hand. "You probably won't kill anyone who wouldn't die otherwise," is hardly endorsement.
It could have been worse, though -- back after the Glorious Battle, when there was such a rush to become Healers among people who'd never have thought of it otherwise, she told my lady to stick with the books, for at least parchment and quills were dead and couldn't be hurt.
[the Steward winces, then looks up as if struck by a sudden thought]
Wait -- if I remember correctly, there was a request for a new lighting arrangement and several pieces of furniture were commissioned for your apartments at about that time. Not coincidence, I gather?
Well, after we cleaned up what was left of the desk she did admit that a temper which built up like a blast in a kiln for a fortnight after being set down fairly, probably wasn't suited for medical work. There's patience and there's patience, love, I told her, and they're both important, but you've the sort that can spend months hunting down references or laying down a page of colors in lines as thin as thread, not the sort that takes being thwarted well, or criticism as other than insult.
That, I have not either.
True, sir -- but you just get more and more sarcastic, instead of breaking things.
Nor should that be most welcome at an invalid's bedside.
Yes, but that only bothers you because you're an insane perfectionist. If all you're doing is patching someone up so they'll last long enough to get into competent hands, calling them six times a fool the whiles hasn't any detrimental effect that I've ever noticed. Makes 'em more determined to prove you wrong by surviving -- right?
[at this the Noldor Ranger, who has been trying to look oblivious with decreasing success, ducks his head with a chagrinned expression]
That was a calculated risk, Sir, only -- I miscalculated. You didn't have to say it shouldn't make a damned bit of difference, since I had rocks for brains anyway.
Yes, but you never assumed after that that an enemy without a bow wasn't a danger from a distance -- and made damned sure that everyone else took the danger of slingstones seriously, too. And being angry at me kept you awake despite your concussion until we were able to get you to a fort and a bone-drill within safe walls.
[his subordinate gives him a rueful smile while Beren supresses the sort of expression most people evince at the thought of trephanation]
Could have been worse, though -- you remember that report about the accident in the storage caves, right?
The one where a bystander was quoted as saying that no one was ever going to ignore safety precautions down there again, not so much for fear of severing an artery, as for dread of learning yet more formulations of "I told you so, did I not?"
Steward: [with a slight edge]
I -- was panicked, as I'd never had call to employ that training ere then, far less upon something so grave as that!
Captain: [ignoring him]
That's the one -- my personal favorite was, "However, given precedent, I am inexorably forced to the conclusion that the majority of you will adjudge it to have been a random occurrence, and not until as many times have passed will you concede that indeed my reasoned apprehensions were well-founded -- but no matter, for it's clear as well that we've no shortage of overconfident idiots within the City, and can well-stand attrition of the same."
[the Steward leans back against Huan, looking up at the ceiling with a resigned expression]
--But I don't remember any sarcasm in word or tone when I was delirious with poison, or after when I woke at last without the taste of my own blood in my throat, and found a solemn and uncommonly quiet still-chief Counsellor waiting to beg my forgiveness -- and give me report of the cygnets I'd been watching all through the season, though the thought of him crawling through cattails to view the nest was so strange I admit I laughed, to my immediate regret . . .
[rubbing at his side with a grimace of recollection]
. . . and tell me that my fear, that I had not spoken aloud to him, nor any Healer betrayed to him, was groundless -- that he had Seen me seeing them in flight, before the bulrushes should have blown to seed, and so I knew that I should not remain purblind, nor long, which not even the King had been able to assure me of. --A great deal of awkwardness, and much formality, and more embarassment -- but nothing of mockery whatsoever.
You forgot confusion, at being thanked and commended for bringing all home without further casualty or loss. I thought you were still delirious. Or that your vision was so affected you'd mistaken me for one of your officers.
[the Captain only smiles]
Teler Maid: [with a doubtful expression]
And that is the way of it that you did find friendship?
No, far from it. Courtesy, yes -- courtesy, concern, deference, exaggerated deference even, but these things do not add up to the other. We were not friends until after our first visit to Doriath.
I think I have overheard that name upon a time or three. There are mountains there, are there not?
There's no mountains in Doriath. I think you're thinking of my country, Dorthonion.
Teler Maid: [frowning]
That sounds not right either. Is that where the horses are?
Youngest Ranger: [knowingly]
Ah, you mean Dor-lomin. That's surrounded by mountains. I've been there.
[The Sea-elf looks over challengingly towards the Steward]
Did you not know that, my lord?
Steward: [after visible hesitation]
--Indeed I did, Maiwe.
Then for what did you not correct me?
There was no need for me to speak. The children had answered you well.
Hah, then, my questions are but fit for children, do you say?
No. Only that the younger were swifter to speak. And that is often true, in many things, but I mean no slight to you or any other.
But I think--
Did you want to hear the rest of it, or do you just want to fight, hm?
[she scowls, but stops her needling for the moment]
All right, then. --We'd gone to the domain of His Majesty's kindred -- though we hadn't acclaimed him as King yet, that happened after, when we set up our own capital at Nargothrond -- and now that we were settled and the border growing ever more secure that all of the Noldor Houses were cooperating--
Teler Maid: [interrupting, grim]
I am still very much angered concerning that.
I know, and if you cut me off one more time to say that again, I am going to start calling you "Rail," Sea-Mew. Trust me, we all know you're not happy with us for making peace with the Feanorians, and neither was the lord of the realm we were about to visit, when he found out either. But you're never going to hear the end of this if you don't stop expressing your feelings on the subject every time it comes up.
Teler Maid: [scowling]
[stopping abruptly, disgruntled; she looks down, letting her hair fall in front of her face]
Teler Maid: [through her teeth]
I would have said you do not like me longer, but I cannot.
To borrow another mortal saying, --no kidding. --Because the northern lands were growing safer, we thought it a good time to go and pay a visit of state to the Lord and Lady of Doriath, and so we went to pay our respects and make offers of such alliance as they might wish, and to see the legendary Thousand Caves and their still more legendary rulers. We rode through the forest -- but that word doesn't mean anything like the same, here -- those trees were older than any that ever were in Valinor, and taller than any but the Two themselves, and so powerful that all of us, even those who love the woods, were daunted entering their shade.
Teler Maid: [disbelieving]
Even me. And then we came to the main gate of Menegroth, where Queen Melian with her nightingales on her shoulders and King Elu Greycloak were waiting as tall and fair as trees themselves to greet their grand-niece and nephews, and--
[before he can answer]
You do not mean kin in the sense that we are kin, but kin?
Captain: [struggling to keep a straight face]
That sounds like something Beren would say. Ah, --yes.
Do not foible with words! What is this, that the rulers of the Old Country are parents' siblings to any of the Noldor, when they must be of the same kindred as him--
[gesturing to the Youngest Ranger]
[she frowns, looking around at them]
--you do not -- surely you mean not -- but how might it happen? -- but--
[pulling herself together]
It can only be that you do mean that my lady's uncle is yet well and free and does rule and they but call him by another name! Am I not right?
What befell Lord Elwe that he came not hence?
Fourth Guard: [mischievously]
That's a long st--
[his immediate neighbors suppress him quickly]
Short version is, he ran into the Lady Melian and that's why she didn't come back either.
Who is she?
Do you recall the stories about the Maia who went missing in the Old Country whilst exploring there?
I remember some such tale. --Not well.
That's her. So there was this incredible reunion--
[as the Steward shakes his head]
--well, I'm not sure what else to call it, Edrahil, what would you recommend?
We used to call them family reunions even if not everybody there had ever met everyone else because of not being born in the same place.
Thank you. --And welcomes, and introductions, and talk, and Themselves brought out the gifts they'd made for their aunt and uncle, and there were thanks, and more talk, and then we were most graciously invited inside, which we'd all been most anxious to see, having heard so much in the way of rumour, and not having believed half of it as to what the Thousand Caves were really like. I'll tell you all about it in detail some other time, Maiwe, since everyone else already knows, and I could spend months and not be anywhere near through.
[Beren makes a quiet exclamation of disappointment]
But you've been there, lad.
Not like you all have. The first time was rushed and all I saw was the throne room and a back staircase and the doors on my way out, and the second time was longer but not all that much and even crazier. And--
[he breaks off]
Teler Maid: [curious]
Beren: [with a touch of reluctance]
Even if I had been there like them, not the way it was, it would have been different. I wouldn't have seen it the way they did, or been treated the same, even if I was welcome. I would have always been a stranger, like at Nargothrond, because I was mortal.
[beside him the Warrior touches his arm in an apologetic gesture]
Youngest Ranger: [troubled]
But your lady could tell you.
Yeah, but she's so mad at them all that it isn't easy to get her to talk about it, because when she does, even when she isn't starting out to yell about them, that's what ends up happening, and everything she does talk about she ends up tearing into like you wouldn't believe.
[running his hand through his hair in a frustrated gesture]
I mean, I know it can't have been all bad for a thousand-whatever years, that she had to love it there or she wouldn't be so hellishly angry at her parents, relatives, and all the court and the entire population of Doriath for treating her that way, but it's like -- I -- I try to remind her about how she was before, when we were together in Neldoreth the first time, and it's like that doesn't even exist for her any more. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't gotten killed, if we'd stayed there. She didn't actually ever say that they deserved having the Wolf break in on them, but -- I could tell -- it was like a thunderhead overhead, it was gonna break out sometime. Maybe she did say it to Melian, quietly, I don't know.
[he shakes his head]
But, you know, with nobody paying attention to her, how was it gonna work if she came back to be Lady there? I guess I didn't think about that so much when I just wanted her to be safe. I don't guess that her father thought about that much either. Just wanting her back, but when she was, it wasn't her. --But Doriath was different too, because of what they did to her.
She just kept saying one thing after another after another, and I think he would have given her his crown if that would have made her happy again, like she was before. But that couldn't happen, because of me. --She doesn't want to hear that from me, either.
Teler Maid: [blinking]
The daughter of the King of Doriath that is my lady Earwen's uncle?
[the Ten nod or murmur assent, though their attention is on Beren]
Beren: [making it be true by sheer force of will]
[he pulls himself together, though his jaw is set rather hard]
Teler Maid: [astounded]
But -- your wife is my King's niece? Lord Olwe's long-lost brother is your lady's father?
What mad story is this?
No, it's the truth.
I think we mean not the same by it. How did you come to find lost Lord Elwe, and what of his family and yours? That is what I did mean.
Oh. --That's really a long, long story. I'm not sure I can explain it at all, let alone well, and they can do it better, but probably, and I'm not joking around this time, guys, you should talk to H-- Finrod about it, because he was around for more of it, he knows everybody, and he studies this kind of stuff. Um, I mean, Lord Ingold to you.
Teler Maid: [sharply]
I know that is also his name. I call him Ingold because that is what we called him mostly. Do you not think that I am ignorant, too!
Sorry. I didn't mean that, either. I just get confused by it still, so I didn't want to confuse you.
I thank you, then. I will do so, when he does come back.
All clear on that, now? We were in Doriath, at the Thousand Caves, which were fully as spectacular as local legend had painted them and more so, somewhat to the -- I guess you'd say chagrin, though mostly awe -- of us all, who'd assumed that tales of how much finer it was than anything we'd set up there were partly local patriotism and partly due to the fact that we still had fairly simple encampments at that date, visiting with King Olwe's brother and his Lady, and their daughter, who's now married to Lord Beren here, but wasn't then, since neither he nor any of his people had been born then.
[to the Youngest Ranger before he has a chance to interrupt]
--Nor you neither, lad, since you weren't born yet either, though I think you said you'd a cousin there.
[the junior officer nods agreement]
Teler Maid: [to the Sindarin Ranger, very seriously]
Was that the one with the giant fish?
Youngest Ranger: [just as (un)seriously]
No, that was Beren's, I think.
--Ahem. Anyway, we were there for a long time, being feasted and furrowed for information and gawked at by everyone who'd not ventured out to meet us before, and everyone who had as well, I think, and if you think you were the object of undue curiosity in Nargothrond, lad, take my word (though it's little consolation) that it can be far worse. Though of course the most attention was upon our lord and his brothers and Lady Galadriel--
Teler Maid: [interrupting]
Who is that?
Ah. Right. That's the name that their sister goes by these days. It was a present from her husband, means the same as her old nickname, though Himself will tell you it means "Tree-girl" instead, just to make her laugh.
Lady Nerwen is married too? To whom?
[the Captain and others look a bit taken aback at how much catching-up there is to do; before they can answer:]
Oh, I know this one. The King's sister's husband is a lord of Tinuviel's kindred named Celeborn -- only I haven't met them, just heard about them -- on her father's side. Er, my wife's father's side, if that wasn't clear.
He is one of us as well?
[she is both surprised and triumphant, and gives the Steward a keen look before asking them]
What is he like?
Serious, fair-minded, thinks things through carefully before acting and then acts decisively, very polite and rules his temper well -- though he does have one, make no mistake. --A lot like their father, in fact, were Lord Finarfin to become a warrior and commander of warriors, I'd hazard.
[he looks at the Steward for confirmation of his assessment; his friend nods agreement.]
Teler Maid: [uncertainly]
They are not here, are they?
--Stars, no. Not everything has gone as wrong as might.
--What did I just hear you say?
[this gets him a very cool Look]
That there are always exceptions, and that nothing can be relied upon to be constant.
Damn, I thought I'd caught you. Good recovery.
Teler Maid: [rubbing her temples]
So -- if it is so that none but my lady's youngest children do remain in the Old Country, which of them does lead? For you said that it was Lord Ingold and Lady Nerwen of the House that were most foremost to arrange the efforts of the March -- then now he is dead does it fall to her last brother, or to her and her lord, to rule your folk in that City you have spoken of to me?
Well, in fact they're not there any longer.
Must I ask and ask and ask, for every least thing?
Captain: [a little tired-sounding]
I'm sorry. I -- was thinking about how much telling this is going to take for all the relatives. It's a bit daunting. A lot daunting, really. --They took off a little while back on their own with some like-minded sorts and struck out over the Blue Mountains to explore and set up on their own and hadn't got back yet when the War hotted up.
You call it a little while. I wouldn't.
I guess it was a while ago, at that.
I have missed a great deal of news.
Yes, you have. So one night there was a grand celebration, partly for the Family, partly because it was the New Moon, and partly just because. And there was every sort of music and dance and diverse arts--
[the Sea-elf looks over at him curiously, sharing the strange look among his neighbors as the Youngest Ranger and the Warrior simultaneously elbow him in the ribs to make him shut up]
That too, but also contests of skill and strength with weapons and other sport -- and the speaking of tales and verses besides, and we were all having the grandest time of it, being at home as it were with all the advantages of being someplace else -- in other words, somebody else looking after all the things that have to be done, plus it's unexpected and charming because it's all strange, but not so very -- and then I noticed that someone wasn't taking part--
--and then I noticedhim go skulking off along to the edges of the crowd, in spite of the fact that Master Daeron was playing then for the Queen herself to dance, and even a stone would not have been so deaf and blind as to turn away from that. So I followed him from the clearing before the Green Throne at Hirilorn's feet -- I'm putting that in for Beren, Maiwe: it's a huge tree beside the City of the Lord and Lady of Doriath, where they hold court, betimes, I'm not trying to confuse you with strange names, all right?
And to my great surprise I saw him go off to the shadows of the wood and stand there glaring at his harp, and brace it in his arms as though he were going to break it, and I deliberated calling to him, but then he changed his mind before my eyes, and went back to the gathering and looked about as though seeking out someone in particular, and then goes up to a villager that to my knowledge had never spoken with any of us before, of a party come from great distance to the celebration, and offers the harp to the stranger as a gift. And then -- still unawares that I was shadowing him -- he left the clearing again and returned to the Thousand Caves, quite unobserved by any other, all being under Queen Melian's spell and the spell of the flute--
--even us, though not quite the same way it happened to you -- and I, being much troubled by what I had seen, followed. He wasn't hard to find -- there was no one else in the place, everyone was out on the greensward enjoying themselves; I found him in the grove the Queen had made, sitting by the fountains looking at the water and not seeing it, so to speak.
"What -- is -- wrong?" I asked him, like that, as forcefully as I might. And he looks up at me, not quite seeing me either, and answers, "I am here, and she is there, and the Ocean is between us." And I said, "Oh," not expecting that at all, and not knowing anything else to say, and he pulls himself together a bit, and returns, "Or were you asking something else entirely, sir?"
[he glances at the Steward, who is sitting with his chin resting on his forearms, looking off with a resigned expression]
What said you?
Nothing. I had, with my usual and quite mundane foresight taken care to provide myself with a pitcher of wine and two cups, and also a few sundry small edibles from the varied spread outside--
Youngest Ranger: [aside at large]
I heard people wondered if a bear had visited the tables.
It was not that much, Lieutenant, and I was merely implementing the lesson you shouldn't have forgotten, that one secures resources as they are available.
I think those rule each other out, actually.
Which was it, then, sir?
Ranger: [aside, but not discreet]
[the Steward gives a quick nod]
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.