42. Scene IV.xix - part I
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project
BELOVED FOOL! BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA
[the Hall: the Ten and Beren are teaching the Sea-elf how to play chess, while over on the Hill Finrod is sitting on the grass with an air of assumed nonchalance in the midst a group distinguished by extreme discomfort, where none of the participants are at ease with each other for a spectrum of reasons, ranging from guilt to anger to distaste for witnessing family tension to conversing with the dead/the living, and the peace is extremely fragile--]
For how long didst thou hold sway over the Havens of Balar, then?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
No, I thought I made that clear -- we were allied with the coasts, and maintained the defenses at Brithombar and Eglarest as well as as improving the shipyards in the south, but I never administered those areas. Lord Cirdan and I were friends, but he was never my subject; it would have been absurd for one as inexperienced as I, and a foreigner, to claim dominion over the Sea-elves of Beleriand on the grounds of being their former King's grandson! I gave him counsel, sometimes, as he advised me well in turn.
Indeed, and wert thou not most singularly counselled in the course of thy reign throughout?
[they both glance at the group by the falls, briefly, and Finrod becomes very stern]
I bestowed my trust on those who proved themselves trustworthy, and authority on those who showed themselves fit to wield it. If they are not the most easy-tempered of Elves, what of it? I know you consider them responsible, like everyone else who didn't turn back with you, and a bad influence -- but you really don't grasp what things were like in the Old Country, how much work there was to be done, and how little ready resources to do it with--
[leaning forward, intense]
--and especially what
the Crossing was like. I needed every trustworthy and willing soul I could get. I used my siblings' help when I could -- but they had their own domains to administer and Work to do, and I couldn't go yanking them off that whenever I needed something looked into. And I never did figure out how to be in three places at once. Nor had I your option, of delegating or diverting delicate matters of negotiation and personal conflict to my partner and co-ruler. So I'll thank you, Father, not to speak slightingly of those friends who did stay loyal to me.
[Finarfin looks down, not saying anything in his own defense]
They are rebels, notwithstanding.
Yes. We are.
[she looks away, fiddling with her sash, and he does not pursue the matter -- instead he turns to his elders with an air of innocent curiosity:]
So -- were you engaging in yet another instance of sibling rivalry with us, or was it purely coincidental that we've got the largest families of anyone in Valinor, at least as things stood when we left?
Thy query is past comprehending, child.
Finrod: [to his father]
Of course it could simply be that Grandfather wanted a lot of kids, and you all simply took it for granted as something to strive for, internalizing it without realizing it, and nothing deliberate about it, but--
[to his aunt]
When my cousins and I were
-- not friends, as it after proved, but friendly -- we started wondering, after Cur pointed out the respective ages and we did up a comparison table, and they remarked on how exceptionally pleased you two were when the twins were born, as if something had been definitively settled, that you'd gotten so far ahead that no one else could catch up.
[she gives him a very frosty Look]
Thine other uncle hath also more children than most commonly is custom.
We know. I've asked him, but he just ignores the question.
I suppose it could just be coincidence, but there does seem to be something in the fact that there do seem to be these batches of cousins all right around the same time in our House.
Nay, is it yet more of yon quaint fashion of speech from the Old Country? for surely thou dost not mean to speak of people as were loaves, else cakes--?
Finarfin: [even more quelling]
Finrod -- what, deemst thou, thy mother should say unto such malapert inquiring?
I've no idea. That's why I'm asking, because I haven't any way of knowing whether it's the truth, and since she isn't here and you two are, I'm asking you instead.
Thy manners improvéd not at all in the Old Country.
I must have lost them back there, too.
Majesty, it is not gracious to make light of the matter of unhousing -- not all of us have had the same leisure to grow accustomed to the business, and such jests are most distressing.
[the living Elves look relieved that another shade has raised the issue where they might not.]
Sorry. I meant my wits, as it happens. I hear so many witty remarks made concerning my lack of sanity on, for lack of better phrasing, a daily basis, that it seemed the obvious comparison to me.
So -- were you all having some sort of an artistic competition, then? [the camera leaves them and moves to focus on the chess-lessons, where the Teler Maid is playing against the Captain, who is presently glaring at Beren, who is kneeling down next to the board watching]
Please don't tell me what I should be doing. --Even if you're right. And nobody go quoting stupid sayings about things coming and going around, either.
Teler Maid: [her brows narrowing as she stares at the board]
I do not care much for this game.
[the Youngest Ranger is sitting beside her, advising her on moves]
Youngest Ranger: [encouraging]
You're doing quite well, for a beginner, truly.
That is not my meaning. In this fashion of it, there is no way to win, unless another does die.
Yeah, that's . . . sort of what happens, in war. Which this is based on, I'm afraid.
Teler Maid: [shaking her head]
But might it not happen, that from thinking this so like to war, that one might come to think of other Elves--
[looks at Beren]
--or Men -- as but such small pieces to be set here and there, and in harm's way, and so to be knocked aside without regret, so that the purpose of winning be attained?
[dramatically she flips one of the pawns over with a snap of her fingers to reinforce the point, as if shooting a very large marble]
Erm -- I don't see how. It's but a game, after all.
First Guard: [disturbed but definite about his answer]
No, I'm -- sure, it -- isn't possible that any of us should come to such a point, where the loss of life meant nothing whatsoever -- that would be unthinkable, Maiwe. There would be no difference between us and the Enemy's minions at that point.
You were not killed by your own folk.
And does that not but go to show my sayings' truth, that you were set aside without regret by others, that did not care enough to care of your deaths as if they were their own?!
There was a Curse invoked, Curlew, and a great deal of other currents involved in that turn of affairs.
[at his words she tosses her head and looks over at the Steward]
And what do you say, my learnéd lord? Think you my notion's but folly, as well?
[the Captain winces at her words; the Steward does not answer at once, but instantly stops the strings, making it clear that he's paying attention and thinking about it first]
It is true that of those who rebelled against our lord, were many who favoured the board as a means of honing skills of strategy, beyond mere diversion; but at the same time it is no less true that the game was unknown, to those who first committed the sacrilege of murder against our people.
That is two answers -- which is to say, none at all!
Indeed, in former days I should have said at once -- Absurd, to think that a mere pastime might change the reasoning mind, a mere thing that thought employs itself about, as though the wax might shape the burin that sculpts it equally, though it be soft and bronze or agate hard. But now upon reflection it comes to me that it is true, that what is carved does indeed chafe and shape the tool that works it, for its respective hardness and softness thereof, and perhaps in like fashion the mind should be affected, pendant upon the self's own powers and determination. For does not thought, which shapes speech, and gives birth to the words that the tongue utters, hold precedence and rule over the fleeting sound? And yet --
[absent-mindedly running his hand around the forepillar of the harp]
--having seen how varied speech may be, and how alike, and how unlike, are the ways and manners of thinking that each has that employs a different one, I wonder -- rather, judge it so -- that speech does truly shape the mind that makes it, even as the different densities of stones, and woods, and metals, do change the sculptor's very hand, both in pattern of gesture and by increase of strength. Yet this is but analogy, of course, and nothing definite.
You still have not said yea or nay, but yea and nay.
Isn't that an Elvish thing? I thought it came from being Eldar.
Were I not fearful of giving offense, I should say that it comes of wisdom, which often accompanies years but does not inevitably follow upon them, but which may by the course of time and wide experience allow to overlook a great many things, as from the topmost branches of the tallest trees, and thus reveal that things in truth be other than at first presumed while in their midst, as a distance might be less great than seemed, or greater, or things thought far apart lie close beside, and only such slow and laborious ascent to such a height may grant the view, and also must require as well the courage to look so far and through so lofty a gap.
[raising an eyebrow]
--Or else, at other times, it comes but of mental sloth, that does not care to take the trouble to think on it, or possibly of simple ignorance, that is too proud to grant it.
[his ex gives him a wary look, and then an even more uncertain one to their companions, who are chuckling over this . . . answer]
How did you win, sir? Against His Majesty the High King?
I just assumed you cheated with the Sight.
[nods from several of the Ten]
No, I -- merely played kingstone, where he was playing chess proper.
How could you do that?
I took the offensive to his side, by putting my king into play, and setting all my pieces in guard around as a doubled nernehta. At first he was so thrown by the unprecedent and seeming-madness of such a hazardous ploy, that he could not mount an effective defense -- and then as certain similarities to unpleasant past events became increasingly manifest, aided by the coincidence that hehad drawn black, His Majesty's uncle became increasingly, as you would say, rattled. I nearly felt badly at putting him in check with my remaining knight. But I doubt the stratagem would work again, now that he has had time to study it.
I can see where making him play Morgoth to your Fingolfin might make him a tad upset and careless.
But it is little like to Arda, after all's done, no matter how like your War -- for when one battle's ended, you but lay the pieces down for yet another.
[she gives them a slightly uncertain, challenging look, receiving only affirmation in return: only the Steward disagrees at all]
Steward: [shaking his head]
It is not much like the world Outside -- but it is very like to here.
[he returns to playing, still quietly; beyond, the Royal Guard sent on errand to Fingolfin returns, and approaching the hill, comes up quietly and kneels down discreetly behind his King, tapping him on the shoulder to get his attention.]
Third Guard: [aside to Finrod, in a rather frustrated tone]
Sir, your uncle's being gloomy over things again and wants you to go talk to him yourself. I did tell him you were busy with your father, but he's not in the mood to listen.
[he notices the surprised expressions of the living Eldar and gives Finrod a worried look]
Finrod: [very amused]
You're scandalizing my family with our informality.
[bites his lip, straightening as he kneels, and begins
again -- very formal tone]
--Sire, the High King would have your Majesty attend upon his presence most presently, and requests that His Majesty the King excuse your Majesty's absence for the whiles.
How's that, Sir?
Finrod: [approving nod]
What do you want me to tell him next?
Finrod: [cool glint]
Nothing. He'll be getting my response shortly, and regretting this game. He should know by now that I play to win.
--On the other hand, he won't be able to complain about being bored.
[to the Guard]
[his follower nods and makes his departure with rapidity and relief, heading over to the much more relaxed, if still strained, gathering by the waterfall]
There is ill-will twixt thee and thine uncle?
[Finrod shrugs, shaking his head a little]
Finrod: [a shade wearily]
He's not gotten over the fact that most people here think of him as my uncle, rather than me as the High King's nephew. We try not to make an issue of it; but the fact of the matter is, I held more territory, and more followers, than all the rest of our family combined. --For all the good it did me.
[Finarfin restrains a grimace]
But tell me, was that not ever truth? Surely thy father's elder was not so blind to see it not?
Yes, but it didn't matter to him then, because he never paid much attention to anything that happened in the south. All his concentration was fixed on Thangorodrim, and everything else was important only in so far as it related to the Leaguer. I might have ruled most of Beleriand, but it never registered saving insofar as it meant that I could guarantee deliveries of weapons and wine and gemstones and seafood and safe passage for all of that and his messengers and troops to the siege.
Whence, then, this sudden and much-belated cognition of such state as did obtain o'er all for nigh well all this Age?
Because -- an awful lot of them are here. And yes, technically we are all of us subject to him -- my people, including my brothers and their people as well, along with the Feanorian dead -- but that doesn't change the fact that an awful lot of them, including occasionally my brothers and some of the Feanorians, come to me first for advice. Which -- as I've tried to tell him -- has some little thing to do with the fact that he's spent much of the past decade moping about and playing endless rounds of chess with whomever he can conscript into it.
I mean -- Grinding Ice! -- what difference does it make any more? First of all, it's completely in the past; secondly, as you said, Aunt 'Danel, nothing really has changed except that he's been forced to notice it. I don't understand why he's so touchy about it now. When I was alive my kingdom came close to encircling Elu's, and he never gave me such a hard time as Uncle Fingolfin is giving me now. Not even when he threw us out.
Yes, but you freely gave him the one thing he did desire, you and your siblings and your following -- respect.
[stops, fights back a grin]
I give my father's brothers all the respect they are due. No less than I gave my grandfather's brother.
And thus His Majesty could but ever give his royal nephew hearing, whether the words were much to his liking or little, nor long stay angry with you, Sire.
[Finrod sighs deeply]
--Too many Kings . . . !
Finarfin: [very measured and slightly-mocking tone]
So, my son, -- art thou King, or not? For first thou dost deny it, and yet thy folk aver it, and thou dost act in such wise ever amidst all, and now, in guardless speech thou eke averrest. Canst thou yet, in full cognizance, and all consideration of these things, deny me thus once more?
[they match stares for a long, intense moment, far too much between them to be said otherwise, and then Finrod sighs, yielding, but not weakening:]
Finrod: [equally-measured, and very proudly]
For so long as my people do hold me such, for so long as any of them stand in need of my protection, and for so long as we abide within these Halls -- I shall be their true lord, as they are true beyond all my deserving, for how can I choose other?
I had deemed no less. --Glad am I in truth to find it so.
[Finrod is not sure what to make of his father's words; Amarie, who has up till now been very quiet and taut, now addresses him,
in an edged, brittle tone.]
Thou -- thou dost not such things, in truth? To strike, with the sword's keenness, thy fellow shades?
Usually, -- worse.
D-- Fire-breathing serpent-monsters. Molten rivers. --Things out of their worst nightmares to haunt them.
Then how mayest hold thyself superior to these thy -- foes?
They ravaged Swanhaven. They haven't regretted it. Now I harry them. --Not unprovoked, I assure you.
[she does not respond, but only stares at him with a strange intensity; he gives his living relatives a defiant look. In the background, the Feanorian contingent returns, strengthened by the addition of a few more bolder souls]
My nephew, didst not assure that yon unquiet dead should ne'er dare to return and trouble ye?
[looking around, he grimaces at her dry words]
Unwarranted optimism -- ever our bane.
[sighing, he gets up and goes over to the incipient conflagration, shaking his head wearily at it all. With unspoken accord, the other four rise and follow to see what happens. The confronted parties are in much the same arrangement as before, with Beren and Huan together remaining reluctantly by the falls, while the two followings face off without yet coming to blows.]
What seems to be the trouble, gentles?
What trouble would you have, sir?
None whatsoever, by my wish. But I fear you bring me some.
No, you and yours brought it on yourselves. Your servant owes my friend a debt of pain, and we are here to see it paid.
You know what my decision on that was -- that judment should be left up to them that rightfully judge here, and I bid you go and make your grievance known to them. Have you not done so?
Hah -- as if they'd truly judge honestly between you and yours, and us! You know what the truth of that is, I'll warrant.
As I know the truth of what I say -- that I know not what judgment the Doomsman would pronounce, but that it be just.
My lord, they will not give you peace, until I yield. Let me--
For the common good, and Beren's--
--No. I do not betray my own.
[the Steward bows his head in obedience, though not relieved by the refusal]
So quickly you yield, Enedrion. I hardly recognize you these days -- I suppose you must have been at some pains to blend in over the years with House Finarfin's "meekness," as I believe you used to call it over dinner at Gatherings in the old Day, considering how much you said it wore upon you.
[he seems somewhat disappointed and surprised that the Ten express no surprise nor dismay whatsoever at this revelation]
Aglon: [frowning thoughtfully]
No, it's the other way 'round, I think: he found his proper level with these, who almost instantly forgot their Noldor heritage -- such as it was -- and "naturalized," I think they put it, when it's plants. None quite as much as the little sister -- but you'd swear they were all Dark-elves themselves, the way they've been running and hiding from trouble, these last few years. Of course, if he'd been truly High-elven, at heart, and not just from birth, he'd not have held back and gotten caught up with these stragglers back in the initial stages of the Departure.
[the Steward does not respond, though his expression reveals the strain -- Finarfin gives him a surprised look]
Is this ever their way and fashion of words unto ye?
Yet thou dost not strike him down for such form of insolence?
Truly, my lord, I -- I seldom, if ever, permit my anger to rule my deeds. --That -- was a most uncommon exception.
I usually take care of any necessary violence, Sir.
Aye, yet -- he derideth not only ye, but my son the same, in his words to thee.
[another quick nod]
That's my jurisdiction as well.
I aver thy former actions seem less worthy of reprehensions -- the both of ye.
[to the Feanorian lords]
Wherefore ye seek naught but to feed this malice that doth overgrow thee like unto mossy greens o'ersliming rocks that do stand in water, deem ye not that it shall be the more fitting employ of spirit and strength to seek an end, or some form of speech or form of service that shall give solace to thine injured mood, young shade, that doth not give to other injury? Nor that it befits thee better, that art his elder both in earthly years alike in death, to urge him peace, belike discovering of thine own wisdom such appeasement even, that shall be acceptable to all who now contend?
Formenos: [shaking his head]
No one can stop you from talking, I suppose -- but I can't imagine what you think you'll accomplish, Finarfin old chap. Your skills as a peacemaker and a leader haven't exactly been shining successes, what? After all, you couldn't even keep your own children in line --though I'm not sure whether that says more about your parenting skills than your -- ahem -- "leadership abilities," eh? Not like your brother at all . . .
[he trails off, raising his eyebrow challengingly -- Finarfin only gives him a level Look, matching him stare for stare, while to the side Finrod's jaw hardens, though he doesn't say anything]
He is King of the Noldor, by right of descent that hath been confirméd full by Taniquetil's Powers -- and by desert, thou rebel, thou thief!
Aglon: [bored tone, not even looking at her]
Go back to your Valmar birdcage and ring your bells, Firstling.
Amarie: [to Finrod]
--And dost thou stand there, my lord, and hear, and do naught?
What do you want me to do, exactly? I thought you were against violence.
It is thine own father he mocketh, nor I alone!
I can tell him to be quiet, but you've seen how much good that does. If I hit him, it's going to escalate, which is what I'm trying to prevent. A bit counter-productive, wouldn't you say?
[she snorts angrily; the Feanorians look on with malicious glee]
After all, it's hardly fair of you to condemn Edrahil for losing his temper at the same sort of thing, and then goad me into it, -- unless you're actually trying to get me to do something to further justify your bad opinions of me--
Amarie: [loudly interrupting him]
[she grits her teeth as if biting down on any further imprecations, looking as coolly unaffected as she can, but there are tears in her eyes]
Aglon: [affecting innocence, gesturing back and forth]
So -- are you two married, or not? I can never get a straight answer about that, and my Lords weren't quite sure either.
[to Amarie first]
It's just as well, considering, that you stayed behind, Firstling -- you do know he was notorious for running off and not finishing things properly before getting distracted with something new. Saved yourself no end of grief, I'm sure--
--It's hardly surprising that nobody in Nargothrond followed you, when you couldn't even convince your own lady to do the same! Of course, that's not really surprising either, considering you never stayed there long enough to unpack your bags. --I wonder if they've even missed you yet?
[without looking around Finrod flings out his arm, blocking the Captain from moving forward; Amarie is white with fury]
We finished the defenses of Barad Nimras, didn't we? And th--
Formenos: [cutting him off]
--Yes, and from what I've heard, that was a signally pointless waste of resources, wasn't it? They didn't strike there, after all.
At least we didn't just hang about on a perpetual shooting vacation enjoying ourselves at other people's expense!
[the Feanorian lords just smile, the baiting succeeding quite well]
Have you anything of substance to impart, milords?
Nerdanel: [sternly chiding]
Ye should stand ashamed, that have not learned aught of mercy else of wisdom for the workings of Doom.
[they don't even look at her, although a few of their following do.]
They are Kinslayers, noble lady, and one expects nothing else of them, if one is wise.
[the Seneschal and Warden give him a glance and then ignore him, as unworthy of attention, while Nerdanel draws herself up to deliver another rebuke.
Do not waste your time and trouble, please -- it will only incur you needless grief, and insult.
[she gives him a a quick approving glance, and continues to rake those who formerly owed her fealty as well with an adamantine glare. Some of them display signs of clear discomfort, despite their affectation of her non-existence.]
Finrod: [disgusted exasperation]
What do you want? I'm not about to let you hurt any of my people, and I'm not going to allow you to start a melee in here. Now you have the choice of letting it stop, now, quietly, and taking it up with the Powers that are here, as I advised -- or of pressing it to open conflict. We are not, --have not -- and will not be the initiators of aggression. We do our best to keep the peace here, even in the face of your determination to break it.
Oh, such pretty, pretty words! What a pity they aren't true. --Or have you forgotten how your vassal there ran me through when I had done nothing to him?
[the Steward lowers his head, but does not turn away or retreat; Finrod is unmoved by the retort, as are the rest of his friends.]
You hit the Sea-Mew.
Teler Maid: [loudly -- very loudly]
[he glances over, startled, and registers her presence]
Aglon: [exasperated, to Finrod]
I did no such thing. I merely moved her aside as she was obstructing me -- all right, perhaps a little too much force, but nothing to hurt her, really.
[she snorts angrily, giving him a glare to which he is quite oblivious]
Obstructing you -- and from what?
? ? ?
[Finrod sighs, and looks at the Youngest Ranger]
Youngest Ranger: [clearly, if with reluctant expression]
From trying to strike me, gentles.
--Who had struck me without warning and most unsportsmanlike -- with not even a proper weapon!
--And, as I understand it, to forestall you from harming the Lord of Dorthonion. --A Man unarmed, crippled, occupied in peaceful pursuits, and offering you no cause for violence. Not to mention a valiant enemy of our common Enemy.
[pause, in which everyone looks over at Beren where he is standing unhappily holding onto Huan's neck]
He provoked me.
[derisive noises and loud jeers from the Ten & Huan -- Finrod gestures them quiet]
Truthfully? I admit that Beren's social skills are not always employed, but tell me -- who spoke first?
Finarfinion, you can't really expect us to take such insolence from one of these yearsick Followers, behaving as though he were one of us, our equal -- nay, our better -- and not a thief, come of a breed of thieves, overrunning and taking all that's ours by right.
Indeed -- if he'd shown me respect, as would be appropriate for someone who owed everything to our sacrifices in the Leaguer, I'd not have lost my temper with your Man servant there. Instead he behaved with less civility than the rest of your people usually do -- which I admit is a difficult thing to manage!
Don't listen to them--
It isn't true, Beren, don't pay attention.
Still dost hold fast to this thy jealousy, that art not even earth enough to hold to aught of earth, but like a shadow hast but swept 'cross the lands, until thy time of Doom hath swallowed thee as the night ever swalloweth all such transitory shadows? Wilt thou ever grasp at that which thou canst not bear off, even as thy true Master doth ever seek to clutch all within's own ever-increasing hunger?
Teler Maid: [disdainful]
We might have preferred the Twilight -- but only to better see the holy Stars, and not to hide our deeds!
Indeed, gentle maiden, they are but Orcs that can endure the Sun, as your words imply -- for so they have most clearly shown themselves to be.
Small your sort's gratitude ever was, but it seems to have vanished altogether, Dark-elf.
What gratitude is owed, for a deed unintended, sir? You did not have any thought of our welfare when you assaulted Morgoth, nor beleaguered him -- it was but a consequence, and quite as fortunate for your interests as for those whose Beleriand rightly was!
[the Lord Seneschal ignores him]
Aglon: [caustic, to Finrod]
I want satisfaction, Your Majesty.
Finrod: [looking at him as though he were a beetle]
And I want you and your people out of here, or at least quiet, if you insist upon staying.
And that's unfortunate, since you can't enforce your will here any more than you could in Nargothrond.
I don't recommend you test that premise.
Aglon: [smiling a knowing smile]
No, you wouldn't -- since the Powers won't let you actually do anything any more. And, of course, like a dutiful little slave you promised to obey them -- sorry, child, not thrall.
I gave my word because the Weaver was so upset, and it was a small thing for me, to give her peace of mind.
Oh, that's right -- you're just too nice for your own good. No wonder you lost every battle and contest you engaged in -- but considering you've but a quarter Noldor blood, it's perhaps more impressive that you ventured so far from home and even made the effort -- some sort of pity prize in order, I should say!
Finrod: [raising an eyebrow]
The roads might have been different -- but haven't they led us both to the same prophesied place?
. . .
Formenos: [graciously, to his confederate]
At least your Doom meant something, saving our kinsfolk in the Battle of Sudden Flame.
[Finarfin moves forward -- remembers -- checks, and turns to the Captain]
Finarfin: [low and fierce]
Smite him, friend -- and my blessing for it..
Gladly, my lord -- were I allowed.
Is't within chance's bounds, that any should have seen yon Doom unfold, borne witness to all its direst workings, and seen the truth of't borne out, that all such unblessed efforts end in misery and ruin -- and yet offend thus blasphemously, and most unsorrowing yet mock at it!?!
Formenos: [to Aglon and his supporters]
It's amazing how those who have caged themselves will continue to insist they're free, and better off for being slaves, than those who have escaped. No prisons like those of the mind, don't you agree? We might be held here against our will -- but at least we have our own free wills!
[as his friends smilingly agree, a strange woman's voice echoes loudly through the Hall:]
--Whenever are you going to learn -- Father?
[all turn to look at the new arrival, who is standing just at the edge of the dispute -- on the inner side of the Hall; clearly she didn't just come in through the door. Her appearance is striking: it's impossible to tell which Kindred this shade belongs to (hard even to tell what gender) as the disorder of her hair and ragged mismatch of her clothing makes Beren look well-groomed, and her expression makes Luthien at her most frazzled seem calm and sane. She stalks forward, stiff and awkward, as though not used to people, or to welcome, and everyone else draws back a little from this hollow-eyed, ferocious-looking madwoman -- with the notable exception of Finrod's following. Ideally Natasha McElhone from Ronin would portray her.]
I never thought to hear myself say this, but -- I am ashamed that I am of any connection to you all.
[her voice is harsh, and her way of talking sharp and erratic like her movements. The Feanorians stare at her, stunned, most of them without recognition -- the Seneschal of Formenos stares at her in shock, completely speechless]
Not a word? After having been so glib in your own defense for so long!
[she folds her arms, wound up taut as a crossbow, staring at those whose primary self-identification is as Noldor, and waits for someone to respond, smiling without humor at their leader.]
Who are you?
One of those who consented, who stood by while you were killed. By my ill-fortune I was not drowned in the storm, the ship I rode on made the dark voyage to Losgar, and I lived to earn my Doom honestly.
[Beren shoulders through and comes around to face her, Huan at his side guarding him]
But how come you're here?
Ex-Thrall: [genuine surprise]
You recall me?
Of course I remember you. You gave me half your scarf.
[someone in the crowd makes a noise, quickly cut off, and he looks up. Earnestly:]
Don't laugh. From someone who hasn't got much, that's a kingly gift.
[to the Ex-Thrall again]
Didn't you go home? --I didn't know you could talk.
Ex-Thrall: [bitter laugh]
What was there for me to say? My deeds were sufficient. I went to the City.
[she shakes her head]
Something went to the City, at least, and ate and bathed and walked in rooms that did not stink of decay and stared at every light like a witless moth. Until Sun-return, when there was no gift-singing there or joy, nor any way to hide from the truth: that I too, was an empty shell and nothing more, and that there would never be light again for any of us under that stone -- and I lay down upon my couch, and left.
[he tries to put his hand on her shoulder, but she shrugs off any attempt at comfort]
I did not speak to any here until I heard your name, and knew that someone else that might comprehend what I might say was here, and came forth from the shadows to ask -- and stayed to tell instead.
[she flashes a glance over towards the Steward, who bows slightly in her direction, his expression lightening a little, though still grim and stressed]
I have found no other company here one-half so congenial, though 'tis thought I am aloof and care not for any.
No, -- I think most of us know you're severely agoraphobic and would be present more if you could manage it.
[She closes her eyes and smiles a faint, brief, genuine smile, while some of the Ten look a little penitent. Emphatic:]
--You don't have to talk about it.
[at once she lifts her head again, defiantly, shaking her head. The Seneschal of Formenos takes a step closer to her, and opens his mouth to say something -- but she gives a terrible scream of rage and pain, drowning him out]
Do not say it! I have no name! She that had that name died long ago -- would you hear how? -- and only I am left. --Kinslayer. Murderer. Bloodguilty coward. --Yes! Murderer thrice over, and more.
Formenos: [in helpless protest, shaking his head over and over]
No -- you were never a warrior--
I never wielded a sword. --I did not need to. Others always killed for me. First you -- all of you -- and then the servants of my Master, so that I never might stain my hands with death -- only my heart!
But you got away safely -- we died to guard the evacuation--
[he is just as horrorstricken as his friend]
No. There were wounded who were unable to continue; I was endeavoring to heal them enough to carry on, when we were overtaken.
[looking at her father]
After you were killed, as the War crept on, I vowed to honor you by saving as many of our folk as might be from the fighting, and became a Healer, as it's done in the Old Country -- but I went beyond, and rode forth with the companies along the Northern Front, as very few other maids dared, or dared trouble their kindred's hearts by daring to do. --But was I not your daughter?
How could I be any
less brave, nor any less concerned, than you who died in effort to end the War before it truly began? --I never did believe that our lord had gone to the parley in anything but good faith, because I'd have had to think that of you, too. Not while I was alive.
[he opens his mouth, but doesn't say anything, and she keeps going, addressing them all equally:]
When the War broke out and broke our lines, and all the rest of it, and those of us who survived the initial assault on Aglon knew it wasn't possible to hold it, and we thought to pull back to Himlad and join our forces with the garrison there, and keep that, at least, firm against the invaders -- but you know all about that, you've argued it over for a decade now. But it wasn't possible, instead we were joined by a cavalcade from Himlad, where the Enemy had got round, and pushed past round Himring through the March as well, so that our lords were forced to lead us west with Prince Orodreth's company, down the Old Road where even orcs would not dare to follow, using their combined powers to keep off the Gloomweaver's spawn. But I never got so far.
[looking at the Warden of Aglon]
Your younger brother was badly wounded, by an axe-cut. --And others, as well, but -- you understand.
He -- he's not a slave now too--?
[she smiles, a sinister, sinister smile, shaking her head]
No. I'll get to that. I stayed back, with some others, trying with all our might and main to patch our friends -- and loved ones -- sufficiently for them to keep on, but in vain. The smokes confused us, and we ended up captives, like so many others, harried back across the lands we had once held as ours, that now were reclaimed by their true Master. Two years I served in hell, two years -- but Time isn't the same there, as it wasn't the same here, after the Sun came.
[shaking her head]
It's always dark, there, always the same, and her seasons don't bring renewal or strength or plenty or peace by turns. Two years I struggled to stay alive, to avoid the notice, and the lash, of his fell Commanders, and their underlings -- and to stay others, wielding my skills in the domain of Death, for those burnt or broken in machinery, and doing it in defiance, though I knew it was tolerated as a useful thing, by our Lord and His people. Every little was an unimaginable gain, in that place that is Him, where the very air corrodes the lungs that breathe it, and the walls throb with His anger when you fall against them.
But you're free now -- it's over--
--Never. I left there, in the company of many other slaves, for the south, a group given, selected by what miserable fate I do not know, to the victorious Commander who had just overthrown one of the last few bastions of Elvish resistance, and was working on consolidating the entire north from the Pass to the River. He needed workers to arm his troops, and serve them, and to repair the damages done to the fortress in its taking. And so we came to Tol Sirion, who had not thought ever to leave Angband again
[she gives Finrod a significant Look]
It was . . . different there. For one, it was more depressing: Angband might be built in part by Eldar hands, but not originally, and nothing of its design says so. For another, there's no such thing as anonymity: you can't hide amid the herd, be just another number, keeping your self to yourself, so long as you keep your head down and stay lucky, in a place that small. I found that out very shortly, when I was summoned -- well, that's technically true, though most likely not what you'd first think of, for the word "summoned" -- to the presence of our new Doomsman, the Necromancer, from whom it was whispered that not even death might set one free, though we Light-elves, and most lately captured, could hardly credit such superstition.
Ranger: [automatically starting to correct]
[but is interrupted himself by the Youngest Ranger -- his junior in age, but superior in rank, silences him with a hand over his mouth and a Look; the Noldorin warrior is apologetic and shamefaced, but the Feanorian lady doesn't seem to notice the disturbance]
The dread Lord of that Island gave me to understand that he understood very well, that there were many among the thralls who were not equal to their set tasks, whose strength had failed, or was failing, and who were covered for by their friends and dearest ones. I denied it; he laughed. "You heal them," he scoffed, "you know it even better than I. So long as you get them back to work, it's all the better for my purposes. But when it comes to feeding useless drones -- no more, I say. What I want, is for you to take note of such, and inform me who is incapable, as you find them so."
[she looks at the lawful Eldar grouped together]
Not even pretense, now, when setting Elf against Elf -- raw and unvarnished, his mastering of treason. I said nothing -- he mistook me. Or so I thought. "In return for your services, I can assure you of far better treatment, not only for yourself, but for those you -- minister to," he pledged, offering improved medical care as the payback -- for the survivors, that is.
It made sense, when he explained it: his staff had to eat, not just the Orcs and the Wargs, but also his couriers as well. They needed fresh blood, but it was always risky for them to hunt, the chance of being caught on the ground, and by culling -- his word -- the slaves for those who were going to depart soon anyway, this meant less danger of messenger, and message, being lost; and of course the rest of the body would be eaten by his other minions, if it were not too wasted. A proposition triply beneficial -- to him, to me, and to the majority of us. And I refused.
[she smiles grimly, and pauses]
You've not been here eight years--?!
Haven't you been paying attention? No, he had me tossed in a closet for a week -- I think it was a week, at least -- not wide enough to lie down in or high enough to stand in, pitch dark -- it had been a chimney-breast once, but was blocked off for more useful purposes; he didn't trouble much with keeping a cheerful atmosphere going throughout the place. But I held fast, and did not yield in the least, not even in imagining -- I sang against him, songs of Valinor, until physically unable, and still I thought resistance at him, and finally they hauled me out of there and brought me into the Terrible One's presence. And then, I thought I'd won -- that either he'd send me back to my labours, or harder ones, or kill me then and there. No such luck.
[she looks sidelong at the Ten through veiled lashes, her expression more sneering than ever]
Finrod: [very serious]
Is this going to do you any good?
What does that matter?
[to her father]
Oh, but I was defiant, I was strong -- I hadn't let them break me, and I would not be broken. No matter what. And he didn't say anything, not a word, just smiled at me, while I stood there shaking from hunger and cramped muscles, weeping in the torchlight, and telling myself, and him, in my mind that it was purely physical reaction, and meaningless, and believed it. Some of his minions carried in a block of iron, by the rings set in its sides -- it was huge, the size of a wall-stone, too massive to be moved by any one's strength, not even one of us. I stared at it, trying to think what new torture it could be for -- I couldn't see any moving parts, except for the circular handles -- but I didn't show them my fear. I would not. And then they chained me to one of the rings, and I laughed inside to think that all this terror had been for but another beating -- that there was nothings o effective as the fearful mind for defeating itself, and all that was needed was true Eldar spirit, to withstand the vaunted Power of the Terrible One. I actually pitied the Grey Kindred at that moment, for all their terror of him and his kind, poor weaklings without the resistance of our people.
[she gives a quick glance towards the Youngest Ranger]
I was such a fool.
[to the Lord Warden of Aglon]
--I told you there was more to your brother's story. They dragged him in -- and what a reunion that was, when I hadn't known he was there -- or even still alive -- or he the same of me. His defiance, and challenges, and brave words in my behalf -- they would have made your heart blaze with pride, I'm sure, as they did mine. It never occurred to us -- to me, at least, and I'm sure to him as well -- that we were nothing new, nothing the Enemy and his followers hadn't seen a hundred times before -- our courage, or ignorance. We were so sure that the Dark was weaker than our love, that nothing could defeat us, even though they killed us -- even though they made hideous sport of us first.
I don't know what Sauron wanted from him. I don't know that he wanted anything, and would have killed him whatever he chose. I've always assumed that -- that he died simply because of me -- but perhaps that's but my arrogance as well. I don't know, now.
[pulling herself together, in her sarcastic tone again]
So there we were, both cuffed to this block in the middle of the floor, not enough length to the chains to reach across it nor around it and hold hands -- but by leaning over it as far as one could stretch, we managed to touch another way -- I must have looked as frightful and orc-like as he did, but that didn't matter. The soldiers applauded and made all sorts of comments, but we didn't care about that either. There was just us, and the Dark didn't matter. Then -- something growled above us, and we broke apart so fast I split my lip on his teeth -- or mine, couldn't tell -- and tried to get away, crawling back as far as the chains would allow.
Not -- not a Balrog?
[his daughter shakes her head, smiling a little]
No. A Werewolf. The big silvery one, the captain of his elite guard. Oh yes. You've seen Wolves before, seen his minions out and about, fought them, fled them, killed them -- they're not so terrible, truly, no more than the Orcs, isn't that so? Stronger, swifter, a little more canny, in strange ways, harder to understand -- but not like the Fiery Ones, the commanding demons of our Iron God. Wargs can be answered with a spear, a sword, an arrow or a word on the wind to bear your scent elsewhere or blind them to you --Nothing like Balrogs, right?
[she looks at her former comrades and relatives with a self-mocking sneer, while they avoid her eyes]
That depends. On where you are in relation to 'em, and if they know you're there or not.
[she doesn't turn towards him, but the slight lift of her chin acknowledges his words, while she continues to stare at her parent]
Handcuffed on the floor, waiting for an execution order, looking at those dripping fangs, those glowing eyes -- it was, for me, at least. No fire left, not even embers of that blaze that was so bright -- both of us like grubs, dug up from their roots, writhing in the cold air -- no voice left to speak defiance, nor love, now. This was his place, and his power, and no other song is possible in his presence, far less than our common Master though the Terrible One might be. He strode through my shields as though they were not even there, and I realized that nothing had been hidden from him, all along, and that there is no hope.
[though she does not, others cannot help but glance at the Nargothronders -- who look sorry for her, but not particularly fazed, Finrod least of all, as the former Healer continues:]
"You know what I want," he told me. "If you will not serve me, you are no use to me as you are. Shall I reduce you to your component parts, and make use of them separately?" I was still, and did not answer -- the Wolf breathing down my neck, that should have been warm, but I was in a winter gale, ice all over me. "Which will it be?" he asked my soul again, and smiled at us. "Whose flesh will feed my servants -- yours, or another's?"
[smiling through her teeth:]
I didn't say anything -- I didn't have to. It was that easy.
[the Lord Warden shakes his head in helpless protest --then looks around suddenly with a wild expression as if he might see his brother here, too]
I hid my face, and didn't watch. While it was still going on -- but mostly over -- they unchained me and let me get dressed again, and I walked out of there, and did not--
[her father interrupts her, involuntarily, with a spastic gesture of his hand]
[he cannot go on, but she tosses her head scornfully, snorting]
Of course. You don't feed people to the Wolves with their clothes on.
--What, you don't laugh? You don't find the idea at all amusing now?
--I did not look back. Not then. Not after. Not ever -- until the dark that we crawled in ripped open and the Night came pouring into our cells, our prison-rooms -- our tombs; and we remembered. We remembered -- things we had never known. Not truly. Not how precious they were, until we lost them -- destroyed them -- threw them away. All that time that I silently handed over my fellow prisoners for destruction, naming them as too weak to work, and telling myself that it was mercy, that they should die sooner, and kinder to be eaten quickly, than slowly by the Dark and the malice of our Master -- lying to myself, even as they thanked me for healing them and caring for them, while I gave them over in my stead, and none of them ever knew -- I had to do, it for my own survival, and I could not regret it, because if I ever looked back -- I could not go on.
[shaking her head without stopping]
Only -- that High-elven lady whom you knew in Beleriand did not survive. She too died in that hour, eaten just as surely as the other, and what walked away without regret is all that remains.
[with a mocking smile]
Will you call me your jewel, your songbird, your beautiful one now? Will you embrace me and call me your star, your sweeting, your treasure, now, Father?
[she stares at him, daring him to reject her, but hoping against hope that he will not. With a cry of anguish he turns, clutching at his temples, and remains standing hunched over as if mortally wounded, his head bowed and eyes closed. She laughs wildly:]
I knew it -- I knew it! You too cannot bear the thought of me, murderess, Kinslayer, weakling -- thrall--
[she reaches out her hands to the Lord Warden of Aglon, who is looking at her with an agonized expression, filled with embarrassment as much as horror]
And you, my friend -- all of you that were my friends, whose lives and limbs I saved, those many years of the Leaguer, whose hands held mine in dance and peace, even as for comfort when you lay wounded -- will you disown me too?
[they look away from her in shame, some of them lifting hands in protest, or in appeal for her pity, and she falls on her knees, bent over, weeping, but still defiant and challenging: as the Ten move closer to try to lift her up or console her she flings their hands away from her, and shouts at the Feanorians:]
--Only these -- who alone have the right to scorn me, of all you ghosts and vainglorious shadows, who faced the test and did not fail it -- only they've not fled from me in horror! O robbers, brigands, thieves who struck down the helpless when they tried to resist us -- and yet even you have not fallen so low that you don't see the poisoned aura about me, and shrink from it--!
[she starts rocking back and forth, her arms clenched around her chest, trying not to cry out loud, gasping]
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.