47. Scene V.i
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project
BELOVED FOOL: BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA
That boldness dareth, that none other might,
to venture past known travels, seeking sight
of sights more proud and dear than word shall say,
resisting that fell arrest that none may stay,
neither for vainglory, nor increase of store,
but only for the cause of faith forsworn
and wrongful sway o'ermastering captive good,
whose tyranny, like Time's oblivious hand, would
crush all makings and their memory as well --
'gainst which should death seem rest from hell
of life's lost fortunes; were not that selfsame rest
a parting wretched, from that which holds most blest--
[as the shades of Eldar and Immortal, and the living Elves, stand in dismayed uncertainty, the Lord of the Halls looks grimly at his colleagues]
Namo: [sounding very tired and fed-up]
Let's take this debate to the proper venue.
[he vanishes at once, his preemptory departure followed in short order by the other four Powers, after somber and disappointed Looks are conferred upon the remaining individuals, who give each other worried Looks in turn -- except for Luthien, staring straight in front of her at where the apparition of the Door had been, and the Youngest Ranger, who drops down to sit on the floor with a massive sigh and a shaken expression, as though overwhelmed by reaction. Huan takes a moment from shadowing Luthien to give him a comforting huff along the back of his neck, since everyone knows that there is nothing more reassuring than having a giant carnivore looming over one with half-bared fangs -- at least, that's the impression conveyed by the Doriathrin Ambassador's dubious glance.]
And so it begins again.
[shaking her head]
It never stops. It's just like before.
[she moves in a sleepwalking manner towards the steps at the foot of the Thrones and sits down on them, looking lost]
He's gone away and left me again, and here I am waiting, trying to keep from flying apart, like smoke on a windy day, and it's dark, and I can't breathe, and no one else can feel it but me. --How many times can I go through this, before there's nothing left of me--?
[the other Elves move to encircle her]
What wilt thou do presently?
[she wraps her arms about her knees and rests her head against them. Huan flops down in front of her and puts his head on her feet.]
Wait. --If I must wait till the end of the world, I'll wait for him.
[Aegnor's expression fills with pain; Angrod puts his hand on his brother's back, and for once Aegnor does not fling offered sympathy away.]
Teler Maid: [anxious]
What will happen? Next, I mean to say.
Luthien: [almost in tears]
How can I tell? Who can say what he's going to do next? If I'd thought he was going to take Horse and go by himself to hell, I'd never have gone to sleep. I don't think I have, since then. If I -- I'd known he would -- would insist on going out to let Carcharoth finish the job, I'd -- I'd -- I don't know, what could I have done, except cage him and I couldn't do that --
[she starts crying, bitterly, as Finrod sits down next to her and puts his arm around her shoulders, letting her lean on him]
Finrod: [sounding as tired and helpless as after the defeat and coup at the council in Nargothrond]
I'm sorry, Luthien. --I know that doesn't help.
What will happen to him, Lord Ingold?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
I don't know either. I'm sorry. I can't See anything concerning Beren. --I wonder if even Lord Manwe can.
[pause -- mild sarcasm]
How strange. None of my relatives are chiding me for blasphemy. Indeed, the times are out of joint--!
[the Steward kneels down on Finrod's other side, looking him in the eyes]
My lord, please -- alas, there is no other way for it, awkward though it shall be, being as we now are -- but I must say this plain in the thought of all. Neither your father nor any of your kin did truly know what befell us in Beleriand, not even in elemental form -- no more than yonder rival lord knew the truth of what his child suffered. Only the merest tracings of it, these past months, have reached them in Tirion and beyond; doubtless in mercy as much as mayhap in carelessness, there being naught that knowing might accomplish, save greater sorrow. And thus it was when first we all did speak, this…late-passed time, and thus it would have been even yet, had not her Highness spoken freely, and disclosed the specifics of our fate.
Ah. That would make sense of it, then.
I was beginning to wonder if the Powers had replaced them all with much nicer and more gentle-voiced substitutes, but I've only ever heard of the Dark Lord doing anything like that.
[Finarfin winces; Nerdanel sighs, while Amarie looks like a very elegant statue; the Ambassador looks ashamedly at his Princess, who lifts her head at the change in conversation.]
What? What did I do?
Nothing. No matter. Just my own family squabbles.
[he shakes his head, grimacing, and pats her reassuringly on the back. Beyond them the Captain kneels down beside his younger follower]
Are you all right?
[the other nods]
Youngest Ranger: [shakily conceding the point]
Captain: [gently, but definitely a command]
Go off duty for a while.
Are you sure…?
[glancing anxiously at the doorway]
The King's here, and between Himself and the rest of us, that should be enough to keep me out of trouble, even without you.
[embarrassed at this recognition, the junior officer starts muttering about doing his job]
There's nothing we can do now for Beren -- except worry.
Youngest Ranger: [deadpan]
I do that really well, too, sir.
We'll just have to manage without you for a bit. Take your rest -- you've earned it.
[he helps the Sindarin lieutenant to his feet and grips his elbow; the younger Elf manages a wan smile]
Very well done.
[the other is abashed but straightens unconsciously under the burden of praise, and goes over to the level boulders beside the Falls he made, where he stretches out on the rocks, watching the light effects on the water. Among the group of troubled onlookers, his subordinate has turned to the nearer of the two Princes:]
Ranger: [stern correction]
You did, you know -- your Highness.
Angrod: [completely confused]
"Anything." You called him a disgusting parasite. And you said a lot of other stuff, too.
[Angrod looks down guiltily]
Luthien: [through her tears]
Ten years he did your work, trying to keep the Enemy out of the North, starving and cold and with all of his friends dead, and he never thought of giving up or switching sides or calling in your brother's debt. And you cursed him for being defeated. I almost hate you.
[looking up at his brothers]
Considered another way -- you got off easy. So did I. It was fast for you, and we didn't have to watch it happening, but for him, the Bragollach lasted ten bloody years.
[Finarfin clenches his teeth, but says nothing]
Aegnor: [starts to say something, stops]
[enter Fingolfin, approaching measuredly, if not with outright reluctance, this family reunion -- certainly not with enthusiasm. He is accompanied by another shade, this last a very ghostly figure, whose appearance shifts frequently between two guises, every time the camera includes her. Sometimes the High King's companion is a very elegant Elf-lady closely resembling Amarie in her attire, but sometimes her flickering manifestation is that of a heavily-swathed, booted and gloved figure whose ice-pale hair blends into the blowing fur-fringe of her hood. Something about their bearing should indicate that Fingolfin is rather being herded here. The High King stands in front of his nephew with an expression of annoyed affection.]
Fingolfin: [wry reproach]
'Twas ill-done, nephew, to set my son's lady against me.
You sicced Elenwe on him?
How did you convince her to come out of seclusion?
Not me: I was just the messenger.
Aegnor: [glancing in wary surprise at his cousin-by-marriage]
[he can't think of anything that wouldn't be more embarrassing to say, and shuts up]
Amarie: [very acerbic to Elenwe]
Well, my kinswoman -- thou didst make much of thine own will, nor shouldst be swayed by any words of wisdom else duty, nor let thy faithful family claim thy just loyalty, but must forsake thy heritage and home for rebel waywardness -- and lo! thus art thou rewarded, that hast neither consort nor kin, nor any house whatsoever, for thy folly's meed, that didst reproach me for choosing other.
Nay, 'tis true -- but I stand closer to my beloved than thou to thine, for all of that.
[the living Vanyar woman exchanges a quick, unwilling Look with her dead husband, and does not make further retort.]
You've commanded my attention, lad -- what specific task would you have me undertake now?
It doesn't matter now. Go back to your table, uncle, and finish your game in peace -- I could have used your help earlier, but you weren't willing, and now it's moot.
Don't you give up now too--
[she wipes her eyes on a corner of her skirt and tries to pull herself together, but occasional sobs keep breaking through; quietly and unobtrusively the Steward withdraws from the group and goes quickly to the Falls, where he kneels down briefly at the water's edge, exchanging some word with the Youngest Ranger meanwhile.]
I haven't. But what happens now to Beren is out of our hands.
[she gives a short, unsettling laugh, shaking her head, and sniffles again.]
Ambassador: [stern and rather suspicious, to the Valinorean Eldar]
For what should the Doomsman warn against truths, that should harm him more than swords or wolves ever did -- what secrets are held in the West from us beyond, for I who have known the Lady Melian for all my life, can think of none.
[The Steward returns, bearing a goblet set with gems and kneels down in front of Luthien, saying to Huan as he does so:]
Mind your ears, my lord.
[to Luthien, as the Hound prudently moves his head a little bit over]
If it please you, my lady -- that which some have termed, "the echo of Ulmo's theme," but even so, more refreshing than merest longing.
[with a forced smile she accepts the cup and takes careful sips, still hiccoughing and blinking; he remains before them on on knee, waiting patiently for her to finish.]
In truth, I fear I ken not what might prove harsher to the spirit, than what already hath been revealéd -- nor endured.
Finrod: [dark irony]
You can't? I wish I had so little imagination. --I can come up with several, without even trying.
[to his uncle]
You really needn't stay behind on our account -- this time either.
[his father's lips tighten, and the two sons of Finwe exchange an awkward, half-wary, half-apologetic look.]
Nay, lad, will you not make introduction between the noble Luthien and we more distant kindred, before any preemptory dismissal?
A little late, isn't it? You could have taken a little time off from staring at the Gates and paid a courtesy call on her family, you know. I know it would been a terrible waste of your time, but at least you could have provided moral support when we had to explain how it was we weren't really Kinslayers. Trying to repair the damage from that took decades, and you know the fact that you were too busy to give any official statements did absolutely nothing to build confidence. I mean, at least Fingon did ap--
[his family and friends are increasingly discomfited through this exchange of acrimony, regardless of who particularly is coming under fire at any given moment]
--Ingold, that's all old history, it doesn't matter now that we're dead-- isn't that what you're always saying?
And you're always saying I'm crazy and too soft for my own good. Shall I take a page out of your book then?
--All I asked for was a small gesture of support today, just for you to lend your presence and weigh in on the side of the Edain -- I wasn't asking for any complex arguments, after all, just the loan of a little bit of that awe and respect your Deed commands even from the Powers, to assist me. --What is wrong with our family that we have to make an issue over ever single little thing?
[the High King of the Noldor (in Beleriand) gives the High King of the Noldor (in Aman) a pained Look before answering his nephew:]
Fingolfin: [heavy patience]
You asked me, Finrod, to come before my wiser kinfolk in this ruined state, and challenge the gods once more by thus abetting you. Please, let us make no mistake of what it was you demanded of me, ere you mock me for making much of it.
So asking the Weaver to please consider the deeds of the Edain in closer detail -- is more difficult than hand-to-hand combat with the Lord of Fetters?
[Fingolfin looks away with a still-more pained expression, and Finarfin's glance towards his elder brother is a little softer and more sympathetic; Nerdanel shakes her head a little, not approvingly.]
Kinsmen, can ye not contain such outbreak of strife yet a little at the least? What of poor Luthien here, that doth mourn amongst us e'en now?
Luthien: [with a careless wave of the cup in her hand]
Oh, go ahead and fight, it doesn't bother me one way or the other.
Elenwe: [slight smile, distantly amused]
'Tis most like to old times, is't not?
And naught learnt since!
Fourth Guard: [aside]
I hate politics.
[he sits down leaning against Huan's flank and begins scratching the Hound's ribs as the latter thumps his tail twice in sympathy; several of his friends also settle down gloomily on the steps or floor nearby]
Elenwe: [cool disbelief]
Amarie, wherefore, deemst thou, thy House would fain have had thee set sights elsewhere than Indis' flowering, fair indeed though they be? Did not our example lesson thee enough, of the perilous vaunting of the House of Fin' --? Or judged thee thy lord might by mere will alone step free of all contention, as mine own did will it, most like his brother -- nay, more so--
[giving Angrod and Aegnor a keen Look]
--in mood and temper than these younglings of his nearest blood, but still and yet they too are Noldor, and the flame of rule doth burn in them no less than in these others.
Lesson me not, that art rebel and unhoused.
Finarfin: [with a touch of sternness]
Daughter, and thou pleasest--
No doubt but we're home again.
Amarie: [extreme frustration]
Nay, stands there none that dost not but presume to harry me, howsobeit here, else under Ezellohar's shade, else to Everwhite's pinnacle?! For what, I perforce wonder, did I bide here loyal, that meet with naught but rebuke, while law-scoff wayward thankless fools do warrant such tenderest concern?
Finrod: [raising an eyebrow]
That was what you stayed for, to be praised, then? And here I thought it was something nobler than that all along.
[her expression suggests that it's a good thing her self-control is so strong -- or else he might swiftly find out what damages, if any, a living Elf's will might possibly inflict on a shade…]
Elenwe: [to nobody in particular]
Is any yet that still 'mazeth, that I should mine prefer mine own companioning to such kindred as do share these Halls with me perforce?
All right, brother, you've made your point, everyone here understands what you're trying to convey. --Several times over, in fact.
Aye, 'tis ill thou dost thus to trifle with thy loved one's hearts and fearing.
[Finrod looks up at them, bewildered]
What are you talking about? What point?
That -- volunteer statement of yours.
[the Ten brace themselves, or try to look absent as possible without actually leaving]
Warrior: [replying in undertone]
No, that we could deal with.
I wasn't making any statement.
You -- you weren't just trying to make them listen? Just raising your voice at council, so to speak? You--
[he gives a worried glance towards Luthien, who is apparently oblivious to the discussion, absorbed in contemplating the decoration on the remembered Noldor vessel (which should look like a cross between a Grecian kalyx and the Armagh Chalice.)]
--really meant what you were saying to Lord Namo, you weren't just trying to make them pay attention?
[Finrod gives his nearest relations a long, narrow Look -- there is some reflexive flinching in response]
You doubt me, then?
You don't know me well at all, do you?
[he is looking at Aegnor now]
You don't think that I consider the Followers fully as precious as we, or do you still think that I fear the unknown?
I seem to recall, Finrod, that you particularly admonished me against my rashness during our traverse of the Helcaraxe, and advised me to take better heed to my following, while you and your sister took charge of that passage. Have you given up caution, altogether, then?
I told you lots of things, uncle -- most of which you ignored -- over the past four-and-a-half-centuries. There's a difference between rushing in heedlessly and without preparation in the certainty that willpower and innate superiority shall, together with the justness of one's cause, carry one through despite lack of provisions, equipment, or proper information -- and taking a calculated risk, even when the odds are against one. But that's a somewhat-sophisticated distinction, I grant.
[the onlookers wince]
Fingolfin: [not getting angry, simply incredulous]
You would really venture beyond this Circle, trusting to nothing more than these glimpses of insight which you think a true Vision, then?
Luthien: [with a hiccoughing laugh, not raising her head]
Of course he would. Just as of course Beren would refuse.
Didn't I warn you -- Your Majesty -- that I had seen your Doom awaiting you if things continued as they presently were, and specifically that I'd seen you dead at Morgoth's feet, and didn't you wave me away with the assertion that nobody really knew anything certain from the Sight, that the world was fully of glimpsed possibilities, and that it was more likely to follow if you did take our recommendations than if you didn't attack? You'd think people would perhaps give me a little bit of credit these days, wouldn't you?
[his uncle tolerates the retort with a melancholy expression.]
But surely thou dost not in truth believe that thy mother and father would not have thee to house, and gladly! What meanst thou, to say that naught awaiteth thee without these walls?
Aye, my children, I pledge that ne'er reproach, else blame, else mocking word, shall e'er escape my lips to shadow ye, and dare aver that nor thy mother as well should ever bespeak ye in anger, once we shall have bespoken her firstly.
[silence -- Angrod and Aegnor won't look at him, or answer]
Finrod: [frowning with displeasure]
You're being irrational, you know, Father -- avoiding conflict with me simply because you've found out that my fate was a little more unpleasant than you'd imagined. It wasn't all that much worse than the Ice, you know. -- Certainly a lot shorter.
Thou art passing cold, lacking in all sensibility it seemeth.
Finrod: [still looking only at his father]
No, I'm merely realistic. Sentimentality changes nothing of the facts. What difference do the particulars of Doom make to your judgement of the justice of it? Or the fact that I am your son -- except to indicate a partiality unfitting in a King?
[Finarfin does not answer -- or look away, (though he is blinking rather hard). Fingolfin makes an an abortive gesture of consolation and support towards his little brother, breaking off the attempt with a wry headshake at his own insubstantial status.]
Amarie: [to her spouse]
Out on thee!
I do comprehend full well wherefore the gods importune us so -- but why dost thou so wish the company of yon Shadow-souled mocker, Sire?
[she turns her back on Finrod et al, folding her arms tightly, standing straight as a column. The Sea-Elf and Nerdanel both glance at her, and catch each other's attention inadvertently, exchanging understanding Looks. Elenwe shakes her head, smiling in a tolerant, knowing way which would seriously annoy her fellow Vanya if the latter were aware of it.]
Third Guard: [to his colleague, fervently]
--I share your views on politics.
Finarfin: [weary plea]
Amarie, Amarie -- set thy wrath 'gainst me, and thou must fix upon some target nigh to hand, if for naught else that I do thus presume to counsel thee by this request
Angrod: [to Aegnor, but loudly]
I can't understand why he's going on like that -- she's only saying the same kinds of things he said to us at Araman.
[their father closes his eyes, starting to say something and stops]
Children! You have no understanding of what sorrow and strain it is, to be a parent--
No, and we won't, will we? We have our own troubles, uncle, which your generation seems incapable of grasping. It's much bigger now than just you and Father and Feanor fighting for Grandfather's affection and looking for affirmation from your kids when you couldn't get it from your parents--
Teler Maid: [aside to the Captain, as it starts escalating]
Can you not do something?
Elenwe: [wryly, to Finrod]
Nay, for none save thee, Ingold, in all these halls, had I come--
Fingolfin: [daunting, to his nephews]
Then being so much wiser, you should be as much more merciful upon your elders, should you not?
Teler Maid: [urgent]
I expect I could make it worse. Family fights -- you know how they go--
Angrod: [with a kind of grim satisfaction, to Aegnor]
And the emotional blackmail starts, right on schedule.
[the torc passes between them again.]
Captain: [still aside to the Teler girl]
I say something, they go for me, then he defends me, and -- Probably better not.
[the Sea-elf doesn't answer, but keeps knotting up her braids worriedly, very unhappy at the strife.]
Finarfin: [with a kind of helpless, open appeal to his eldest]
Finrod, my wiseling, dost thou not ken, in thy heart's inmost flame, wherefore I unchilded do grieve most bitterly for my parting words against ye all, that are here eke that yet do remain beyond -- but bitterest of all for that I spake unto thee?
Was I an utterly self-righteous and merciless little twerp at Araman, or was I not?
In truth, even as was I, and no less, saving something the elder.
[Finrod gives his father a doubtful Look, trying to find the hidden edge in the words.]
--Art so proud, mine eldest, that thou shouldst ne'er consent to rest 'neath others' roof, else rule, but deem't prison, howsoever freely given?
Well, Mandos strictly speaking should not be called a prison, since the purpose of a prison is not the good of--
[the Elf-King only stares at his son, waiting for the answer -- he sighs and bows his head a little]
No. I am not quite so proud. It might -- would be -- hard, indeed, but I'd manage it, somehow, if it were not for -- other considerations. But there's nothing for me outside these walls anymore.
Aegnor: [narrow-eyed, voice dripping with sibling irony]
--Aren't you confusing yourself with me?
Finrod: [very serious]
I have nothing of my own to return to. Father's wish to have everyone happily home aside, my presence in Aman is both irrelevant and superfluous.
What are you talking about?
I have nothing to contribute, no useful skills, and none who needs my help Outside.
Luthien: [looking up, tearstained]
What are you talking about? Finrod, you -- you're -- that's one of the daftest things I've ever heard, which is saying a lot.
[checks -- grumpily]
--Of all the things to bring away from Nargothrond, Celegorm's slang wasn't what I'd have picked -- regardless, it's still as silly as everyone here thinks.
Indeed, all Beleriand would contradict you, Majesty. Your skills are undeniable--
--And worthless. Here.
But your mastery of governance and diplomacy--
Debatable. --And hazardous.
[locking stares with his father -- with deliberate emphasis]
I do not rule in Valinor. I will never contend for power with my kindred again.
[the significance this has for all the present members of House Finwe is somewhat missing for the Belerianders]
--and strategy, and warfare--
Finrod: [fighting a smile]
Oh yes. That's going to make me no end popular in the Cities, won't it?
Luthien: [knowingly, to her compatriot]
Trust me, they're weird about it. They're not like us, not even the Noldor, no matter how enthusiastic they are for it -- perhaps all the more for that. It's as if they regarded all wine as suspect because someone once drank too much and lost control.
[this bothers the Valinoreans and to a degree the returned Noldor as well, but only one responds with other than visible discomfort]Amarie: [looking over her shoulder]
Fie, such benighted thoughtlessness that recketh naught of the deep abhorrent wrong of bloodshed proveth ye e'en as I have said, O Princess of Shadows!
[Huan makes an unhappy grumbling noise without moving, to which the Steward sighing nods agreement]
The Night was first…and it was ours first. If you've forgotten your birthright, I'm not ashamed to claim it still.
[this time around, for whatever reason, Amarie decides not to continue the insult contest further]
You're going to get a crick in your neck, Amarie, talking like that.
Luthien: [looking at him earnestly]
But anyway, you've got all kinds of talents that don't have anything to do with running kingdoms or sieges. You can translate any language, you--
In an essentially monolingual society--
[his comrades look resigned -- to them this is not a new lament]
You're a musician -- an artist -- a scientist--
--A dilettante, where the world has had four centuries and more to study uninterrupted whatsoever should be desired. Why do you think there are jokes about it? I could never steal the time away from my real work enough to master any skill, so indulged them all, and never finished one. Here -- in whatever art you name, I shall be but an unskilled dabbler, a trifler, with no greatness compared to those who remained. There is no need for anything I could bring to Aman.
Luthien: [frowning, slowly]
I think you're wrong.
[he blinks at her blunt dismissal, rather taken aback by the brevity and to-the-point nature. Someone makes a sound of suppressed laughter from the ranks behind him, but it's lost in the sound of a canine sneeze.]
Nerdanel: [giving her nephew an unimpressed Look]
Hast not considered what measure these thy maundering dismal certitudes shall impress on thy fellow Dead, to so at one sweep lay waste unto all dreams and thoughts of homecoming, with yon depiction of no place where place doth 'wait them to be found in heart?
[she gestures dramatically to the nearest shade, who happens to be Fingolfin's daughter-in-law]
Nay, I have no concern that doth remain or thus or so, only I do bide the coming-hither of my love.
[the living Eldar shudder a bit at that, if discreetly, and even some of her fellow shades find her complacency a bit unnerving.]
What of your friends and followers, then? Have you no concern for their hopes, lad, to set such strictures on them as well?
Finrod: [taut -- this has touched a nerve]
In this I do not command them. Nor do I speak for them.
[from where he is kneeling in attendance, the Steward half-turns to address the sons of Finwe, quick and dead]
For myself -- I had rather be serving a houseless Elf than to be King of all the living. --And I do speak for us all.
Angrod: [terse, his arms folded]
One would think that a true friend would rather try to dissuade another from such self-destructive behaviour.
First Guard: [aside, unhappy]
We would have. --Tried.
Finrod: [low, but stern]
Angrod -- enough.
[troubled but now more-or-less docile, Angrod subsides. Generally, but looking at Amarie's set back]
--All that emptiness I foresee awaiting me, would yet be balanced -- more than balanced, as when an ingot of gold is laid in the pan counter-weighted by an ingot of tin, and crashes in its turn -- by one welcome.
[Amarie turns quickly to face him, white-hot with fury]
Amarie: [with a cutting gesture]
Let thou not blame me -- nor let any others likewise -- for thy will, that thou wilt abide here! 'Tis thy pleasure -- as ever -- that thou dost fulfill!
My pleasure? Hardly.
[he looks at his father and uncle before continuing with savage emphasis, equally to all of them]
Those were our people that hour in chaos and ill-led. You didn't need me. They did.
[to Amarie, sweetly]
And you still don't need me, it's clear -- so what does it matter what I make of my death from here on?
[to them all again]
I won't subject myself to humiliation simply to ease the consciences of my kinfolk -- nor play the smiling fool Outside to ease your minds. As I have returned, I am -- and you don't like it much. Well -- that's just too bad, I'm afraid.
[Luthien gives her father's servant a piercing Look; there is a moment of pained equilibrium amid all those present of the House of Finwe, the prelude to the hurling of more recriminations, or self-recrimination, or both -- which are prevented by the actions of one on the periphery of the conflict, stepping in to restrain things (or actually, turning where he waits at the feet of the Princess and setting one hand on his sovereign's knee in a gesture not simply demanding of attentiveness but also evocative of fealty-giving]
Steward: [level and forceful]
My lord, your words are most ungracious, whatever the justification.
[Finrod looks at him with some affront, but his friend is undaunted, and the King's glare softens, some of the defiance and hauteur going out of his shoulders, though he does not look away from his chief counselor]
I should set a better example than I am given. And you--
Things are not well with you at all, are they?
[the other cannot help but look up at his ex, who is watching him somberly (despite absently standing like a heron again)]
I fear it is as you say.
[the Teler girl lets her hair fall forward over her face -- but doesn't vanish]
Finrod: [shaking his head]
And I am consumed by my own troubles, forgetful of yours -- Edrahil, please take thought for yourself, and trust that I'll take heed for my obligations hereunto.
In death no less than was my habit living, I find my peace best in the mastery of my duties.
[his King looks away for a moment, then back with a rueful smile]
Then let this be the task I give to you: that you stay by me for the present, for my spirit's comfort. No errands for now -- let me lean upon you a little while longer, at least.
[meaningfully, though only the Ten understand what he's talking about]
I promise it will not be as dead weight, this time.
Steward: [with a faint smile]
Even that, until the Lord of Beor comes.
Finrod: [looking at him with great intensity]
You trust he will return, then?
I have no doubt of the Beoring's intransigence.
Then I'll share that hope too, whether you name it so or not. Sit here at my side for a while, and we'll wait together, if it please you, my friend.
[he grips the other's wrist in a lingering clasp, before turning to his Sindarin kinswoman with an expression of focus and resolve; the Steward settles down on the next level, his own expression the politely-distant look of someone trying to stay attentive and not get lost in private regrets, leaning back against Finrod's knees with an Age-old familiarity devoid of presumption. From time to time his King reaches forward to set a hand on his shoulder in a gesture of reassurance -- but for which of them? Huan, convinced that someone that close has a duty to scratch his nose, starts nudging his arm until the desired attention is gained.]
Finrod: [to Luthien]
You know, you promised you'd tell me the whole story when we had a moment, and it rather seems as though an opportune moment has presented itself. I'd like to hear it straight out finally, in order, with all the gaps filled in, and not by rumours.
Luthien: [with a watery smile]
You're just trying to cheer me up and take my mind off worrying for Beren.
[he smiles back sadly, squeezing her hand]
That as well.
Luthien: [dry laughter]
As long as it isn't just that. I've had enough of that to last me for ever!
[those of the Ten who have not settled down on the steps of the dais do so now along with the Sea-elf, with all indications of interest. Finrod's relatives all look at each other awkwardly -- Nerdanel breaks the silence]
Nephew, what would ye have us about, while the twain of ye rehearse her tale, or wilt thou but say it mattereth not a whit to thee yet again?
[he looks slightly embarrassed]
I'm sorry, Aunt 'Danel. I'm not entirely sure what is going on, and it is certainly not within my authority nor power to dismiss you, or command the staff to send you home. If you want to listen, by all means feel free to stay.
Nerdanel: [raising one eyebrow]
At least thou hast recalled thy manners to thee; 'tis better than--
[looking narrowly at his siblings]
I -- yes, it does come to the same thing. But I am at a loss, and it's very odd for me to have people going from railing at me to asking me what they ought to be doing.
[his brothers visibly bite back comment]
Finarfin: [bland innocence]
So many these late-passing years a King, and art not yet used…?
[his eldest just gives him an expressionless Look, which could hide anything from cold contempt to anger to an extreme effort not to share in the joke…]
Finrod: [matter-of-fact, gesturing around them]
We could make chairs, but it might not be prudent, and you'd probably get all twitchy. So I'm afraid all that I can offer you are these steps and the floor.
'Tis level, and passing clean.
[she kneels down gracefully on the stone and waits, perfectly at home now, dividing her attention watching Luthien and friends and her own kindred, as the latter with much more social awkwardness, if not physical, find places not too close to any of each other, but still close enough to attend the tale-telling.]
Luthien: [wiping her eyes once more]
Where do you want me to start?
[with a tiny laugh]
At least I won't have to keep defending my sanity to you --!
[the crowded tableau looks rather like a shallow version of the Spanish Steps, minus the sunlight, the baroque scrollwork, and the cheerful atmosphere (though Nerdanel's sketch-pad and stylus would fit right in on a Roman plaza), as Luthien starts to recount how all this got started for a more-sympathetic cousin this time…]