46. Scene IV.xxi - part II
Aegnor: [grim humor]
[Amarie closes her eyes, shaking her head in disbelief]
Luthien: [noticing the Princes properly for the first time]
You! There you are! I'm furious with you two.
[she strides up to them and starts building up to a fine rage, while her cousins realize that their earlier blasé attitude was misplaced and try to make their protests heard over her declamation and their father exchanges an impressed Look with the Doriathrin lord.]
--I felt sorry for you when Dad punished you, you know -- but now I'm only sorry he ever let you come back! I'm sorry I ever helped feed you, or made you clothes, or sang for you, I'm sorry I healed you after that mistake with the boar, I'm sorry Mom didn't lock you both out of the Labyrinth, I'm sorry you--
Angrod: [raising his voice]
--I didn't do anything--
[suddenly, the Powers appear, Namo and Vaire before their respective thrones, with Aule and his Assistant to one side, Orome and Irmo on the other; there is no flash of light nor other dramatic signal to their entrance. As the Lord and Lady take their seats, the Valinorean Eldar make polite gestures of acknowledgement; the rebels merely stand to attention, which is somewhat ambigious; the Doriathrin Ambassador, watching all reactions, shakes his head knowingly. Rather hesitantly the Teler Maid waves to Irmo, then retreats behind the curtain of her hair. Huan gives a quiet, experimental bark, but stops at once at the Weaver's severe Look. Before any of them speak, Luthien strides up to the dais in a no-quarter manner and begins:]
How could you say such a thing -- or listen to it! -- far less expect me to countenance it?
If you hadn't started shouting at everyone and stormed out of the room in a passion, Luthien, you would have realized that it was merely a suggestion -- just one among all those already brought up -- and not a decision at all: that, in fact, it would have been rejected in short order, being merely a shifting of location, and not in any way a new way of dealing with the problem.
Somebody else say something, because I don't trust myself enough to talk right now.
[before anyone else can, the Sindarin Ranger comes forward from where he is lurking at the back of the group of Finrod's people, looking utterly Doomed, and drops to his knees in front of Namo's Throne, forcing himself to look up]
Holy One -- my Lord Judge -- I beg -- beg leave, to speak--
Why are you on the floor?
? ? ?
Do you see any of your friends kneeling to us? Anyone?
[he shakes his head quickly]
So . . . why are you?
Ought -- oughtn't I -- m--my Lord?
If it makes it easier for you to speak, then yes. It doesn't look like it to me.
[doubtfully the Sindarin warrior gets to his feet and stands straight before the Throne, gripping his bow nervously]
What was it you wanted to say?
Youngest Ranger: [hopelessly resolute despite his stammering]
My Lord, if -- if I am not -- supposed to be here, then -- and yet you -- your Lady -- al--allow me, then -- why can't you make -- another exception -- for him?
Who told you you weren't supposed to be here?
But -- Sir, I -- I'm n--not one of Your people. I -- that is, to say, I did assume--
Are you not Eldar?
Youngest Ranger: [with a small flare of heat]
Not -- as some tell it.
[bowing his head]
--Er -- yes, m--my Lord. But not -- of these islands.
These Halls are meant to shelter such as you. It isn't the same as for a mortal: there's no intrinsic hardship or difficulty with you remaining here. If you're crazy enough to want to be included in the Doom of the Noldor, then obviously you do belong--
Namo: [turning to his wife, confused]
What? That's word-for-word what you yourself said.
True, but -- I didn't say it in front of him.
That makes a difference?
[this gets him a Look]
I don't see why.
[his wife gives the Youngest Ranger an apologetic, embarrassed glance]
Youngest Ranger: [uncertainly]
I -- I don't have to leave,
then, H--Holy Ones?
Not before you're ready, dear.
[speechless, he bows his head and sighs in relief; his commander pats him on the shoulder]
Told you, didn't I?
[the other nods, too overcome to look up yet, unaware of the looks of gratitude and admiration directed towards him by Beren and his companions]
--Don't worry about that either. Trust Himself and look out for ambushes -- same as always.
[at that moment Nienna's student comes in through the doorway in a rush, hurrying up to the Thrones with the scroll clutched in one hand and something oblong and glittering, like a cuneiform tablet made from a prism, in the other, and wearing an extremely worried expression]
Nienna's Apprentice: [looking around at the assembled crowd]
I -- was on my way up to see you, my Lord, and I . . . heard voices raised. Is -- everything all right?
Erm -- sorry.
[with a skittish, worried look towards her and Beren,
he turns back to the Doomsman]
Is there anything I can -- ought -- do about it?
[Namo shakes his head]
Oh. Well. Sorry.
Don't tell me you've found everything on that list already?
[the other shakes his head in turn]
I wanted to ask you, Sir, what if I find some of it -- do you want me to bring it to you right away, I mean, or wait until I've gotten it all together and then bring it to you all at once . . . ?
Namo: [sighing, in a don't-expect-much-and-get-less tone]
When you find something, yes, bring it to me right away.
I thought you were going to say that.
[with a bit of a flourish he hands over the crystal tablet, which the Lord of the Halls takes, raising an eyebrow, and glances at -- as he does so it vanishes with a flash; which part at least seems not unexpected]
What would you have done if I hadn't?
Apologized for disturbing you. --And given it to you anyway.
Namo: [nodding approval]
[as his sister's pupil starts to leave again he gestures with his mug towards Aule's Assistant]
Why don't you take him
along with you? Two minds researching it ought to be twice as fast.
[the two lesser Powers look at each other with equal enthusiasm, or lack thereof.]
But -- my lord Judge, I was contributing to the discussion of--
Namo: [cutting him off]
No, actually, you weren't. That's why we're here now.
Assistant: [appealing to the Smith]
My lord . . . ?
I'm sure you'll be able to make quick work of whatever Namo needs doing.
But of course, Sir.
[as he accompanies his disguised fellow-Maia, he can be heard complaining all the way to the door]
--You don't really mean to walk down all those stairs, do you?
Oh no -- run. Remember? "Fast."
I'm sure we could put in some sort of camshaft-driven lift, powered by water--
[the Lady of the Halls leaps to her feet as they go out the archway]
Vaire: [ominous (and making everyone else, Power or not, jump a bit)]
Don't worry, Vaire -- the lad's as responsible as he is creative. He won't go tearing holes in the place without asking.
[as if only waiting for all attention to turn to him, as it does now, Finrod Felagund steps forward with a pleasant, lethal smile familiar to all who were at the last Counsel in Nargothrond . . .]
Look here, my Lady, my Lords, you're demonstrating quite admirably that the art of endless debate has not fallen into neglect during the years of our absence abroad -- and trust me, I've become something of a connoisseur of counsels -- but I'm afraid that it's slipped your notice how counterproductive such ceaseless discourse and infinite recursions of every possible outcome and all the niceties of distinction are, when at the same time you complain of how much time you're being compelled to waste upon this matter.
[confiding, as between professionals]
One technique I used for keeping debate to a manageable length was setting strict time limits for each subject -- of course, everyone found ways around it, but they wouldn't be Noldor if they didn't. If you want, I can recommend some people who could help design a device for the purpose -- would in fact be delighted to do so. Or -- we could just stop ignoring the important things and wasting time on trivial side issues and resolve my friends' situation instead. --Unless you really have nothing better to do and are merely complaining for the form of it. I've known that to happen, too.
[Namo's expression is very wry, while the Weaver narrows her brows at Finrod, who refuses to be daunted; as the Lord of Dreams turns away hastily covering a "cough," the Hunter and the Smith share significant Looks:]
Can't you do something about him?
Aule: [sighs, shaking his head]
Unfortunately not. He hasn't been under my jurisdiction for the better part of the Age.
Who is answerable for him, then?
Can't you guess? Who's conspicuous by his absence these days?
Though if I didn't have direct information to the contrary, I'd be tempted to guess it was your brother-in-law.
[Orome chuckles harshly at that; Huan wags his tail happily]
Who's -- his -- brother-in-law? I can't remember. . .
Orome: [cutting over her]
--Patron of brainless enthusiasts.
[Beren looks angry on their behalf, but Finrod only smiles.]
--The patron of loyal friends, my Lord.
Namo: [ignoring the repartee]
So what's your solution?
First of all, I think that instead of talking about the Lord of Dorthonion, you ought to talk to him; that rather than discussing mortals, you ought to learn about them by listening to one. Then, perhaps, you'll have a slightly better understanding of what is really best for him.
He didn't have anything to say to me, earlier.
Most of us find it difficult to speak at first, until some healing has taken place, or the shock at least has worn off. Surely you don't expect the Secondborn to be any different?
[the Doomsman quirks an eyebrow at his adversary]
I . . . have had some experience dealing with mortals, yes. As I stated, he hasn't had anything he wished to tell me, beyond what was already said, before now.
Has that changed? Or is he leading you into a situation you'd rather not be in but don't know how to refuse?
No. I mean -- yes. I mean -- no, not--
[breaks off, looking at the floor]
It's -- no good. I can't do this.
Don't you believe in what you'd say?
Beren: [with an impatient shake of his head]
I can't -- I can't calm down enough to -- say it properly. I'm -- I'm -- damn' close to not being able to remember anything but the Old Speech.
Finrod: [perfectly calm]
Then say it in Taliska, and I'll figure it out again and translate for you. --Though I expect Lord Namo will understand your thoughts no matter how you organize them.
Your confidence in me is overwhelming, Finrod.
--Yes, of course. You don't even need to use anything as clumsy as language, but most people find it easier to do so.
[the mortal bites his lip, nods, braces his shoulders, tries again -- and shakes his head]
Whatever I say is going to sound dumb by comparison.
[Finrod starts to say something reassuring, but is cut off:]
Indeed, my lord, your diction is lamentably rustic, rivalled in its uncouthness only by the atrociousness of your accent, and with no more hope of ever being polished than a cross-grained mass of splintered branches -- but in despite of that, the substance of your words is clear, and indeed refreshingly so. Or, to restate, -- you are a foreigner, and your fashion of expressing yourself barbarous: make of that what you will.
[everyone except the Nargothrond contingent look shocked at this ruthless diagnosis, but the subject of it just raises his eyebrows]
Sorry about that, I wasn't meaning to waste your time.
Namo: [dismissive wave of his hand]
Oh, that was hardly anything, by comparison.
I bet. Anyway, I just really wanted to say one thing, and that's not just to you, Sir, but to all of you.
[he looks at the Powers, frowning at each one in turn.]
--I just want to know, when
is somebody gonna say, "Thank you" --?
Maybe for fighting against one of your renegades without any help or anything, and doing actually a damn' good job of it, considering, that he had more power and more people than any of us did, and not just me but all my ancestors too, as far back as we can remember? Isn't that worth, oh, maybe at least a "Good job," huh?
Correct me if I have misunderstood the information that's been given me, but was not your family tasked to guard the southern border of Melkor's territory and prevent his followers from committing crimes in that area? Was that not the price of those lands which your people were given?
[after a moment Beren nods, conceding the point]
And was not the particular mandate of the House of Beor to guard your tribe against predation? You were their lords, were you not?
[resigned, Beren nods again]
[the Lord of the Halls gives Finrod a Look which daunts even him]
Do you want him to speak for himself, or not? You cannot have it both ways.
[the King bows his head, abashed. To Beren:]
But I didn't have to. I could have gone off someplace safer. Or I could have made peace with the Lord of Fetters, and ruled as his vassal instead.
If it is one's duty to protect the innocent -- a specific duty, beyond that common to all Good folk -- and it both given and accepted, then what is due to such a one who neglects that duty? Blame, or indifference?
Do you really think that refraining from blameworthy actions is enough to warrant praise?
[his jaw tightens and he raises his head a little, defiantly]
What about the Silmaril? Is getting one of them away from the Dark Lord just nothing, then? 'Cause that wasn't ever part of my family's job description.
Yes, but you didn't return it to Yavanna, so your actions scarcely can be counted as any different from Feanor's, with the exception of an additional -- but equally self-centered -- motive for them.
[Luthien starts to object, but the Lord of the Halls is ahead of her]
Namo: [shaking his head]
No, you've got to be fair: bringing it back to your wife was not an option that was open to him, so he cannot be criticized for not having done nor attempted to do so.
No, but he can be criticized for being stupid and greedy enough to try to take all three of them -- and losing the one he had in the process.
[the Hunter glares at him, and Beren gives him back an incredulous, mocking grin]
You're kidding, right?
[shaking his head]
You think I shouldn't have tried to break them out of there? Seriously? 'Cause that's what it means, what you're saying, if you really blame me for trying.
Orome: [extreme sarcasm]
So you think that making it possible for Melkor to get one of his Servants -- and not just any minion, mind you -- through Melian's blockade after all this time, when nothing else could have, deserves congratulations? I don't get it.
Oh, come on, my Lord! By the Devouring Dark, that makes as much sense as blaming him for the Gloomweaver's venom -- to wit, none at all.
[Orome glowers at his former follower, who isn't daunted, while Finarfin shakes his head and Finrod gestures for quiet]
Vaire: [not amused in the least]
--Would you kindly endeavor to control your language while in my house? If you must speak of the Void and -- that person -- at least do so without honorifics, child!
[slightly ashamed, he ducks his head at the Weaver's anger; her husband retreats behind his teacup hiding his expression -- surely not smiling . . .]
[short, but piercing, bark]
[the Captain grabs his collar and pulls him down as though he were a noisy horse, rubbing his nose]
--Guys, it's okay.
[to the Hunter]
That was an accident. There wasn't any way to know that would happen.
[as the two warriors stand glaring at each other, Finrod looks from the mortal to the deity and back, frowning thoughtfully]
Yeah? You couldn't have
figured out that hanging around any longer than necessary was a bad idea? But no, you had to try to grab all of them, you couldn't be content with what any normal human being would have considered more than enough either of treasure or of glory, and as a result you blasted it all to hell-and-gone. And now you want us to thank you as if you'd actually succeeded instead? You idiot. --Why couldn't you just be happy with what you had?!
Don't you understand?
[he looks at them all, shaking his head a little, lifting his hand and gesturing in place of words]
[still more earnestly]
They sing. I -- couldn't leave them there. Do you know what that place is like? It's -- like being inside a cloud of smoke only instead of smoke, it's hatred. They -- they don't want to be there, in the Dark, they're not supposed to be locked up, no more than you'd do that to a wild bird. How could I not try? If -- if I'd left them prisoner there, not even tried to save them, when I could have -- how could I ever have faced my mother when my time came? How could I face my people? I had to try to free them.
[his voice breaks, but he keeps on]
--And yeah, -- I failed.
[in the silence that follows he wipes impatiently at his eyes, but does not look away, and the Hunter continues to lock stares with him until the Lord of the Halls summons his attention]
Can you truly say, young Man, that your intentions in attempting the other two stones were entirely disinterested?
That means -- done without concern for personal ends or gain.
I know what "disinterested" means. I'm thinking how to answer.
I can't say it was totally without thought of any glory that I kept going -- to be the one who finally succeeded where all the kings of the earth hadn't been able to pull it off, -- instead of the guy who barely got one and lost it instantly afterwards, like actually happened. Any more than revenge, the promise I made to Da's spirit over his cairn. I just don't know. There wasn't any question of thinking about it at all. If you'd ever seen them, you'd understand--
Beren: [laughing at himself]
--That's right. Sorry. --Maybe they wouldn't have driven out everything else from your mind, since you all already seen -- saw them, before. Maybe I should have just cut our losses and run once the first one came off. Or maybe I shouldn't have hurried so bad and the knife wouldn't have slipped and got broke. Maybe it is all my fault, in spite of what my friends think, and not just the fact that Tinuviel got mixed up in--
Beren, do not start apologizing to me again. I'd rather hear my parents scolding, actually.
[he nods, and resumes without further digression]
Could you have taken one and said, "Well, that's all I need, so what if all my friends got killed because of them, so what if these are what all the fighting was about, what all my family got killed for, what the whole bloody War and the Dark and everything was about, all of that wasted lives and destruction, but hey -- I got what I came for, so let some other poor slob do the rest of it." I mean, it ain't like Tinuviel risked her life or anything to get us this far, or, oh, like knives that can cut through godforged iron aren't lying around at every blacksmith's shop, it wasn't that hard to get through noman's-land unspotted, like it took some kind of miracle to make it work, right--?
Amarie: [to the Captain, wry]
Thou hadst right -- 'tis not possible to mistake.
But hey, I don't know, maybe you all could--
Sarcasm doesn't help--
Orome: [cutting him off, barely-suppressed fury]
--You little punk. Do you have any idea--
--Yeah, I think so -- I've only been doing your job since I was tall enough to pick up a stick and not put someone's eye out with it by accident, that's what I was born to do, that's what I was trained to do, and that's what I did better than any one Man in Dorthonion except Da, so don't try to tell me that I don't know what it involves, or what failure costs, or how I think adventure's a game but it ain't all -- all banners and glory and the rest.
Orome: [through clenched teeth]
I didn't say that.
[Namo gives him a Look]
Whatever your intentions, the fact remains that the consequences -- taken as reason demands we must, as a whole -- were nothing but disaster on every hand--
[too late he catches himself, as there is a collective flinch all around: Beren raises his wrist, smiling as he glances at it in a very vulpine way, and looks at the Powers coolly.]
Yeah, I kind of noticed that.
Young Man, a little courtesy never hurt anyone.
I'll take your word for it, Ma'am.
[before any further escalation, the Judge of the Dead raises his hand for silence]
None here disputes your deeds, nor will challenge the truth of your valour, nor the intent of your efforts.
[Beren looks at him, at first skeptically, then somewhat at a loss as he recognizes the factual sincerity of the statement.]
Besides recognition, what else do you demand from us?
And now we are right back where we started.
[he rubs his temples wearily; Finrod steps forward again on Beren's right]
Let them have what was taken from them, at least.
You want us to rehouse your friend and your kinswoman and give them both a home here in Aman.
And then what? I tried to explain this to your cousin already, but none of you listen very well. You of all people should know that, far better than she -- how swiftly Time passes on this Shore: what is a year in Tirion or on the Shining Plains? You spend twenty on the curve of a gate, or the bridge of a song -- and what is a score to the Secondborn? Three score years fly by like the days of the Sun to you Outside, and you know what they will bring to him, and then what? We cannot keep him bound here in an endless cycle of waning and rehousing. Would you make Luthien watch him fade while all else thrives, and have that passing all the bitterer to her for it, and this same parting once again, for him? Wouldn't a clean break be better than that?
At least it would be more than nothing, which is what they've had.
[Aegnor gives a long, shuddering sigh, but does not speak or leave the Hall or otherwise disrupt things.]
But would it be any better?
Giving him life here in Aman will not change the fact that she has immortality, and he does not.
Then give him mine, for I've no use for it.
[utter silence -- because Finrod's relatives and friends are too aghast and taken aback to say anything to this]
What you are is not a thing apart from you yourself. You know this. Could you give your name away to some one else -- wait, that's not the best example--
Finrod: [talking over him]
Actually, mortals do -- usually once they're done with them, and--
Namo: [interrupting in turn]
I said it wasn't a good example. But it's not the same in any case: there's no exchange, is there? No loss?
Your nature is not something you can give away, like . . . like a ring. Think about it: how could you cease to be yourselves? And don't say "possession," either. You are not the matter of your selves, or else we wouldn't be having this conversation, and that's one reason why it doesn't work properly, apart from the right and wrong of it. What is it that makes you Elf, and not Man?
Less than than we thought -- not that we are Quendi, for mortals speak and hear even as we; nor that they perish, for so indeed do we.
[facing the Thrones, he misses his relatives' reaction completely]
Truly? You understand then what it is to be born a stranger under the Stars, to be forever doomed to departure? You understand, as a human would, mortality?
I understand it better, at least, having been -- Exile.
As he understands better than any who is not Eldar, except perhaps Melian herself, what it is to be of the earth, to be such as you. You can recognize what is the same, in each other, because you are aware of the limits of those differences. Is that not it?
[Finrod is silent. Beren turns to face him directly.]
He's right. We simply are different. And it can't be otherwise.
Finrod: [absolute intensity]
But it doesn't matter.
I know. But even if I was somehow immortal -- forget about how if you did give it up I couldn't live with myself knowing you'd given up everything for me, or what everybody else would say about it -- I couldn't be at home here. No more than I was in Nargothrond. All my born days, I was human, if a strange one: can the pattern of my life be unwoven and made into something else? I should always be remembering Ladros, and a roof that was ancient to me, and voices I'll never hear again. And if somehow I was made to forget, so as to be happy here, like one newborn, -- what would there be of me? Would I still love Tinuviel, and she that one, who didn't know her real name? It can't work.
[he looks down, shaking his head, gesturing as he struggles for words]
The place where I was born is dead now, my family destroyed, even my own language is dying or dead, because there is no people left to sing the old songs or make the old jokes we couldn't ever translate into yours.
[Finrod is weeping silently]
Don't -- don't.
[putting his hand on Finrod's shoulder]
You did your best. No Man ever had a better friend. You tried--
Finrod: [harshly, refusing consolation]
Are you ready to go on, then, Beren?
[he turns back and looks at the Judge in silence; Luthien raises her hand in anguished protest]
For myself -- I would say yes. For myself.
[Luthien makes a small hurt sound, but Finrod gives Beren a keen, comprehending look, and touches her arm reassuringly as the mortal continues]
But I am not -- just -- my own self: I belong to another. And that part of me cannot leave. If it weren't so . . . perhaps this -- nothing like this would have happened, but maybe not. You say this world isn't my home, but -- it's the only home I've ever known. The taste of it, earth and air and water, all wakened under the Sun's bright fire, clear and gold as honey from the comb, or crisp and shiny as mica under the frozen Stars, and the Moon's light like a pail of milk splashed over all -- what else am I, apart from them, still though I'm no more than the echo of those days of my life?
[shaking his head]
It might have been as hard for me to leave it, as it was for me to leave Dorthonion, lingering past all reason, when a sane Man would have fled long since -- not waited until winter was on before, or till there was no way out but through a little slice of Hell, first. Even knowing better all my life, I -- might have fought to stay, among the trees and stones and streams that had welcomed me, the memory of a lost hunter in the forest, or maybe the forest's memory of a stranger, until the world and Neldoreth was no more.
[he looks at Luthien then, finally, and reaches his hand to her -- she takes it, clinging to him protectively]
But then we met. And I am hers now, and I can't change that, no more than I can stop being myself. I left my homeland, for all I was harried out, of my own free will -- but it took a demon's jaws to drive me from her side, and only the word from her lips to await her here, that I left -- or else I should have stayed no matter what, as I lived four houseless years in the heather, the ghost of the land's true lord, until my land was no more. But my lady is immortal, and I won't forsake her. I can't.
[they stand looking at the Lord and Lady of the Hall without uncertainty or defiance, only resoluteness]
A certain fine rude poetry his speech encompasseth -- and a finer lesson, that might we well have taken to heart, ere the Night fell.
[Amarie is looking steadily if somewhat tearfully at Finrod, who turns his head and returns the look defensively -- only to lower his head first under her gaze.]
Vaire: [most reasonable]
Then, if you love her, do you not want what's best for her? Do you not want her to experience bliss here with her real family?
Beren, -- remember what I said.
[he gives a quick half-smile, and doesn't answer]
Vaire: [extremely exasperated]
Luthien, hasn't any of this conversation sunk in? I find it hard to believe that you're really that dense, given your parentage -- but the alternative is that you're being willfully obstinate in refusing to admit the truth, and that would mean so much self-delusion that I would rather not credit it.
[as the Lady of the Halls is speaking (and the recipient of her lecture returns a mutinous glare) her spouse taps hopefully on the palantir, frowning at it as if sheer willpower might make it come to light with a summons]
After all, we're only telling you what your cousin's tragedy has amply demonstrated about the impossibility of Elven-human relationships -- as we have been repeatedly informed of ever since his arrival.
[as Luthien, and others, turn to stare at Aegnor, she goes on rather acridly]
He -- and his sibling -- have taken up quite a disproportionate amount of my husband's time, and his sister's, complaining about it, as if there were no one else here whose problems warranted consideration.
[Aegnor looks thoroughly embarrassed, though still angry and resentful.]
All we want is for you both to have what is best and most appropriate for you.
[Luthien releases Beren's hand, lifting both of her own in furious appeal]
It isn't fair. We had no time together.
[the Lord of the Halls straightens and levels an attentive Look at her, belying former apparent distraction]
He is mortal, and receives a brief allocation here, and eternity beyond the confines of these Circles. You are Eldar, and receive a full portion -- in many more dimensions than mortals as well as in Time -- in Arda, and it balances out. Unfortunately--
Actually, I have a problem with that, too.
Do you also have something to ask? Or did you only want to express your dissatisfaction?
[Luthien is affronted, but Beren takes this in the direct spirit it was asked]
Beren: [pointing to the Youngest Ranger and the Teler Maid in turn]
What about people like him? Or her? They didn't do anything wrong, they never listened to the Dark Lord or told you off or disobeyed you.
[to the Sea-elf]
Maiwe, how old are you? When you were alive, not counting ever since, I mean.
[she frowns a little]
But you do not think of the same thing when we speak of Time as I.
[the First Guard leans over and whispers something to her, and her expression clears.]
Four twelves less -- two. --But nearer one.
You're almost forty-seven!? I thought you were maybe fifteen and that was why you got treated like a kid. But you're not that much younger than Ma -- would be -- you could have grown children and grandkids, if you were mortal, by now--
[she looks a little dubious, as if he might be making up another preposterous story, and looks to the others for confirmation]
Orome: [with a grim smile, very sarcastic]
Perhaps a little more thought along these lines would show where the problems with your marital situation lie, what do you think?
[Beren gives him a dark Look]
Don't go changing the subject -- I'm gonna get distracted, and that's not the point of what I'm trying to say, and you know it.
Amarie: [aside, amazed]
--Doth ever this Man conduct himself thus, respecting of no Power?
Only when people like my Dad or Sauron try to push him around.
Beren: [frowning still more]
--Nobody calls Tinuviel young, anyway.
[she rolls her eyes sardonically while he returns to the topic]
--They didn't get any more time than mortals, and they didn't get bliss, and not even all the Noldor deserved what happened to them, and I 'm not talking about my friends, they know what I mean whether they agree or not, but what about them?
[pointing at the Princes]
--because they weren't Kinslayers, and yeah, they broke the rules, and they knew it, but does that mean that that whatever horrible things happened to them are all right and proper, because that doesn't sound like it to me, like the time Uncle Brego had to solve a dispute between Gildor--
[aside to Finrod and his following]
--Gildor of Ladros, obviously, not the Gildor you said he was named after who went with the Princess and her husband -- and his neighbors over a set of good iron chisels that got borrowed without asking -- actually, without permission, after asking and getting a no when his neighbor was away -- and then in retaliation the owner busted down and burnt the gate he made with 'em and the herd got loose and one of his best milkers got into a swamp and drowned, and my uncle was so furious with Gildor because he expected better from his own household than dumb stuff like that that he wanted to say it was just fair -- but if it would've been anyone else he wouldn't have, see?
I fear talk of young Inglorion did distract my thought from talk of the rivalries of strangers.
Amarie: [giving the Princes a hard Look]
For my part, amazement, that after all that's passed he doth speak favouringly of twain that hath given unto him no kindness that I did discern.
[Angrod and Aegnor try to appear as oblivious bystanders, not very successfully]
I see you understand the tension between determining levels of accountability, based on individual competence. --I'm not surehow this relates to your situation.
Beren: [shaking his head]
I'm not just talking about us. I'm talking about everybody. I want to know how it's fair to punish all the Noldor for what some of them did, and to keep on punishing them, when some of what you're blaming them for has gotta be your fault.
[the only people present who do not express any dismay or surprise whatsoever at this bold declaration are the Lord of the Halls and the Lord of Dogs -- and Beren's wife.]
Steward: [quiet but urgent to Finrod]
My lord, -- can you not do something?
[Finrod sadly shakes his head, yet there is something of pride and approval in his expression as he looks on]
Well, yeah -- you put a Curse on them, that would make it your fault, right? I mean, I hate to admit this, but even Curufin and his brother aren't completely responsible, are they, if you made it so that the Noldor are Doomed to betray each other? And plus you let them do it -- leave, I mean -- so if you didn't want them to, why didn't you just stop them instead?
Namo: [narrowing his eyes]
So. You think that because I Foresaw and foretold the inevitable consequences of their choice, the results are my responsibility?
[Beren nods, frowning]
Really? Then let me ask you this: when your -- niece? cousin?
[he manifests the glittering tablet for a moment and glances at it before putting it "away" and continuing]
--cousin, kept on climbing up that birch tree beside where you were, what, "pegging out a deerhide"--? and you told her not to do that, as she was going to fall and break her ankle, and you weren't going to stop what you were doing and carry her back to the hall, and that was in fact what happened, -- was that your fault?
--That was a long time ago. That was -- that was before the Bragollach.
Did you in fact, "put a hex" on her, as she later told her parents, or in any other way cause the tree to dislodge her or her to lose her grip, or to land so as to break her ankle?
No -- birches aren't any good for climbing, mostly, and there was rocks all around, and I told her it was going to happen because I done -- I did -- the same thing myself at that age. I didn't make it happen.
Even the fact that you correctly named the specific injury doesn't change that?
Could have been her arm or her collarbone, too.
But you did not cause it, despite your foretelling.
[he shakes his head]
But you did not prevent it, either.
Beren: [shaking his head]
Like I told Bara, she wasn't listening, and she wasn't a baby any more, and I couldn't get her down safely by force, and like she kept telling me, I wasn't her Da after all--!
There was, in fact, no way for you to stop her from willfully going into a dangerous situation, either lawfully or without causing greater harm. But your decision to keep working, instead of taking her home at once, was in your control, was it not? Why did you do so, if not from vindictiveness at her disrespect towards you?
Because if I stopped then it would've dried all wrong and been spoiled, and I'd already bargained it to somebody, and you don't let any of your take go to waste, not if you want to have any luck on the trail ever again. --If one of the other little kids was around I would've sent one of them up the hill to get help, but the only reason she was out at the skinning rack was that she didn't want to play with Rian, so there wasn't anybody around that I could send. It wasn't like it made any difference, really: I splinted it up tight and made her sit still with her foot up . . . and after I was done I carried her back and they said I done a good job and made her sit still with her foot up.
[scowling at the recollection]
After I got yelled at for letting her get hurt, until Aunt An' stepped in and scolded the grownups for blaming another kid when it was their job to keep the little ones out of mischief, and not mine really.
You know what that brat did, banged her head against mine the whole way home, until I finally said I wouldn't ever take her fishing again if she didn't stop it, all because she was mad at me. --Kids. --And yeah, I get the point of what you're trying to make me see, but I don't think it works because if it was really serious, if she'd been bleeding, if the bone was sticking out or she hit her head or something, I would have had to take her home right away and take the loss of the hide and just deal with it. "Told you so" wouldn't cut it.
Namo: [gesturing with his mug]
No analogy is perfect.
This one's not even close. I mean, you were supposed to protect them, right?
[the Warrior winces visibly, as do others of Beren's companions; Nerdanel laughs a little, with a knowing expression on her face: deja vu, perhaps.]
And you didn't, and the Dark Lord took over, and we didn't rebel, and the Sindar didn't, and that didn't help us any, on account of how the Enemy was out to get us all even before we existed, so it wasn't like it was our fault for getting involved with the Noldor, either, and what else could we do? It wasn't like we even knew they -- some of 'em -- had done hamsoken--
Taliska for illegal entry and mayhem.
--Breaking into a home and committing violence--
[the cousins exchange suspicious, rather jealously-territorial Looks]
Right, so what's fair about us being caught in all of that, and nothing for all our pains except a "that was what you should have been doing, fighting the Enemy, there isn't any other legitimate option"--?
[he gives Amarie a frown at this last]
I mean, we don't get help, we don't get gratitude, all we get is chaos that we didn't make.
Ambassador: [not quite aside]
[the Hunter addresses Beren in the tones of one explaining something to a very small child, or while at the cutting edge of patience]
The Teler chose to split up and some of them chose to remain Overseas. Others of the Eldar chose not to join us at all. That was their right. By exercising that right, they also chose the consequences. We can't help that. --Or do you think I should have forced them to come along whether they wanted to or not? Not sure how I could have done that, given how stubborn and resourceful the Firstborn are -- or wait! I know -- I could have destroyed their minds and set permanent states of Command on them the way Melkor does. Then none of this would have happened!
[Vaire rolls her eyes; Huan starts a continuous snarling growl; and Aule gives the Hunter a troubled glance]
Might we please have some civility around here?
Can you do that, Tav'?
Beats me. Never tried it.
Oh yeah? I never heard about you coming around looking for us. I heard it was the other way around -- that we were looking for you guys, on our own, 'cause we heard about you from some of those people you don't care about because they chose not to come with you, those Dark-elves, that Turned, and we found our own way over the mountains, and--
Don't blame your friends' snobbery on me, boy--
Just because they waste their time and energy coming up with class distinctions instead of--
Vaire: [cutting him off, gently chiding]
Tav', I know they've disappointed you, but really--
Orome: [growling at Beren]
--Self-righteous little git, too good to hunt for yourself now--
[Huan starts bark again, and is valiantly shushed by several of the Ten]
Hey! I'm trying to ask something!
[the Steward covers his face with his hands; Aegnor stares at the mortal with something of awe.]
--Lord Mandos, didn't you say it was my turn to talk?
[raising his eyebrows, Namo gives him a nod over his mug]
All right, then. Anyway. We heard about you from them first -- and then from him--
[pointing to Finrod]
--even if he was a rebel and Doomed, he still told us the truth about you. At least, I used to think it was the truth--
[raising his voice as he goes on]
--that the gods were good, that you weren't like Morgoth, who just wanted to enslave us and kill everybody he couldn't control -- and not only that -- that you were better. That you cared. That you made the world for disinterested reasons and you tried to protect it, and us, against the Enemy and that you were responsible for all the good stuff and not for the bad, and that we owed you gratitude for that, but I'm not sure about that any more, and you know what, I'm wondering if maybe Feanor wasn't right -- not that about making the Elves all your thralls, but about not having a clue and not doing a thing to protect them and maybe leaving everyone who wouldn't follow you behind where it wasn't safe was your way of dealing with us instead, until we Men are out of the universe and out of your way. What about that?
Namo: [aside, resigned]
I hate being right all the time.
[simultaneously to Finrod]
This is your fault--
[Finrod lifts his head proudly, giving them a stern Look, not denying responsibility in any way, audible or not]
No it isn't his fault, and I'm not scared, you can do whatever you damn' well please to me, because if you can't answer me except by clobbering me that just goes to show that I'm right and you're not really any better than Morgoth--
[he scowls defiantly at them, while Vaire stares up at the ceiling and Aule shakes his head, grimacing; Orome folds his arms angrily and turns half-away; the Lord of Dreams only sighs, looking wounded]
--and I'm not saying this just because you all wanted to fling me back into that nightmare world or out into who-knows-what, for all I know that's just as much the end permanently for us as you all think the end of the world will be for the Eldar -- mostly--
[with a quick, apologetic glance at Finrod, he goes on, increasingly indignant:]
But I'm asking because of my people, because I am their lord, and I'm the only one left to ask -- my father and mother served you, through them--
[pointing to the Finarfinions and their supporters]
--and so did my Grandda, and my cousins, and their Da, and all my aunts and uncles and grandparents all the way back to Beor, and we lived, and died, to keep your kinsman under control, in an effort that it turns out was Doomed from the start, and my parents got split up trying to do both of our tasks at the same time, and poor Eilinel disappeared and got used to destroy her true-love even after she was dead, and Gorlim was tortured into betraying Da, and you can't tell me that either one of them deserved that because it isn't true and you can't tell me that eternity makes it okay because that's a piece of tin covered with foil and bits of glass, that's something shiny that looks nice so long as you don't look at it too close or poke at it too hard, butthat doesn't make what happened to them all right!!
[he stops, shaking with emotion, daring any of the Powers to say something]
You said you had a question. What is it?
[for a moment Beren is too thrown to respond -- then he pulls himself together, his eyes blazing, and asks it:]
Beren: [gesturing fiercely]
Where is the justice in it? --Is there any, or is the whole thing just a stupid muddle, and us stupider still for trying to do right by it? I want ANSWERS, dammit!!
[growing angrier by the word]
What's fair about it? You got an answer? --And if you don't -- WHO DOES?
[long silence -- and the Lord of the Halls sets down his cup with a bang and slowly rises from his Throne, with a terrifying expression of anger, so that the dark thunderhead-like aura that gathers about him, dimming the glow of the sconces, is almost unnecessary]
Namo: [stifled growl of fury]
You dare ask me that? You DARE to ask that -- of me?
[Beren is speechless -- but returns a defiant nod. The Doomsman stands there equally speechless with rage, and then grinds out the words:]
[with that he vanishes, leaving confusion and consternation behind -- the Weaver gives Beren a most reproachful look]
Child, did you have to do that, really?
[abashed, the mortal bows his head, but his posture is as stubborn as before]
[he turns to her, and she smiles, anxious -- terrified, rather -- but without disappointment or condemnation]
[before he can say anything else the Lord of the Halls has returned, still glowering, but without quite the storm of anger surrounding him as before as he stands on the dais before his high seat:]
Namo: [without preamble]
Beren Barahirion, self-called the Empty Handed: you have demanded to know the reason for suffering, for injustice, for the workings of Fate--
[he raises his hand, pointing to the floor behind them, between the grassy hill and the waterfall, and in the same way that the garden gate appeared for Finrod earlier, a portal manifests out of the dimness -- but this one is both far taller, reaching all the way to the ceiling, and far realler -- there is nothing ghostly or suggestive of illusion about this massive, though narrow, carven stone doorway.]
If you will it, then go ask your question of my Lord and Lady, and learn from them the same truths that were given to me, when I asked it, many Ages ago as you would understand it, and again, when this Age began. Go through that door, and receive your answers -- if you dare.
[Beren stares at it, wide-eyed, and then looks back at the Thrones. Behind him, the Captain seizes Finrod by the arm.]
Captain: [desperately imploring]
Sir, you've got to stop him--
Finrod: [shaking his head]
[frowning, Beren gives the Powers a critical, measuring look, and lifts his chin]
You say that like it's a trap. What's going to happen, if I do?
I don't know. That's why I'm asking you this -- do you choose it?
Because once a thing is done, it is too late to undo it. Are you truly willing to endure the consequences? It is not yet too late to turn back.
[Beren looks at him steadily]
If you find knowledge of things beyond mortal ken to be too great a burden for any Man -- remember this, and that you chose to ask, before you blame the answerer, and that you did so against all advice and counsel.
Beren: [quietly, without any bravado]
Namo: [with a sigh]
You will go forward, then.
[the Doomsman bows his head in answer, and the portal swings open, revealing a black, starlit sky and a staircase of wide, shallow steps ascending from the doorway, seemingly of black stone or perhaps glass, reflecting starlight on their edges. Beren stands frozen, looking at the opening -- and then makes a small movement towards it. Luthien catches at him desperately]
[she shakes his shoulders, making him turn to her]
It is a trap. If you go -- out -- you'll never be able to come back--
[Huan comes close and puts his head against Beren's face, like a worried horse, but does nothing else]
Beren: [stroking the Hound's muzzle]
I have to.
[he looks at Luthien, trying to reassure her]
I will come home to you. I promise.
[she doesn't say anything, staring fixedly at him]
I always have.
[he puts his hand on her cheek, very gently, and kisses her, before turning quickly and striding through the dark gateway without looking back. The postern closes, seamlessly, and dissolves into nothingness, leaving all the rest standing there in silence.]
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.