50. Scene V.iv
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project
BELOVED FOOL: BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA
[Beren is standing squarely in front of the Thrones, looking rather overwhelmed and shell-shocked but still with a hopeless, manic resolution to carry through to the end. Manwe and Varda are looking at him with a quicksilver-blue glistening of awareness in their eyes, making them alive and disconcertingly unstatue-like. From time to time, meteoric lights flash past in the surrounding Night, and the Constellations of the star-dome pivot very slowly and steadily throughout the scene.]
So, that's pretty much everything.
[he snorts, looking back over his shoulder towards the Stair]
Did you make it take so long so that I'd have to cool down before I got here? 'Cause it only ended up giving me more time to think about what all I wanted to say.
Your last question makes no sense to us, I fear.
I'm just interested in the other ones, really. What about the Doom, first of all?
The Noldor spurned our help, and refused to lend theirs to the World.
I thought they came and helped save it.
Have they saved it, then?
What would have been possible, if they had been patient but a little, and lent their abilities to the effort of restoration, instead of leaving the wreckage of their anger and mad haste to mingle with the ruin of their adversary's deeds? What might have been made, and how much sooner, of Light to halt and subdue Melkor's forces, perchance to follow more swiftly than marchers afoot, and with wisdom to guide and not to learn in pain and obstinacy the lessons of war, and our power to assist in subtle effort, theirs to wield, ours to give, in one union of will and friendship and both made stronger by bitter trial, now kindled anew?
Manwe: [shaking his head]
None shall ever know. That hope and chance they robbed from us, and you, and from themselves, when the Noldor made Feanor's choice their own, and refused generosity even to their own most near. How many elses might the War, that you believe so long, have gone? --more swiftly and perhaps to happier end -- had all, and not only some, of those who left thought better, and returned to lend their strength to the fashioning of these new Lamps, and after?
[behind the Thrones as he speaks there can be seen the orb of the Moon gliding by, not as quickly as the meteoric lights, large as when it rises in the sky but not orange, silver-white and looking like a slightly-flawed pearl, with a faint rainbow-haloing of ice crystals as it passes under the stars on its Westward, downward trajectory out of sight beneath the window-walls of the Hall.]
I get it. You mean you couldn't do anything else. So you're not all powerful, huh?
Varda: [with a narrow Look and sounding a very little bit like Vaire]
You know that perfectly well.
[when the mortal doesn't reply]
--Don't you? Didn't the King's son tell your people so, or did I mishear him?
[her consort reaches over and takes her hand, soothingly, and she stops, shaking her head a little]
There are always options. They are not always preferable.
Maybe you should've let us decide that for ourselves.
I'm afraid you cannot imagine what happens, when Powers contend within these Circles.
I know a lot about war. And the destruction it causes.
As I said, I fear you cannot imagine what I am trying to convey.
Varda: [still slightly edged tone]
Or perhaps he just doesn't think.
Okay, so I let you off for not fixing things after Morgoth broke loose and all, on account of you didn't have the resources to do it or you weren't sure you could do it without making things worse, I'll take your word for that. So -- what did you go and let him out for? I mean, you might not be all-powerful, but at least you're supposed to be wiser than we are. We wouldn't have trusted him again.
You believe yourself wiser than him you name Wisdom, then?
[Beren just glares at him]
You would not have forgiven a kinsman who professed repentance, and demonstrated it in his deeds as well as words, to whom your heart inclined you to welcome, and to hope, and to believe that long reflection on the harmful choices and the better ways had done its healing work, so that the long-remembered, long-cherished love that had once been between you should be renewed at last -- but so Finrod forgave his own, with less earthly warrant and witness, and with the memory of past treason to warn, when for us no such thought of betrayal, of thought uttered counter to heart's true thought, had ever yet been conceived -- or done -- amongst us. We did not know who, or how many he had suborned, until the deed of Darkness was complete.
Past sight is always clearest, but the present may not be clearly illumined by it. We trusted, and were scorned for it, by Melkor -- and by his aptest students of both kindreds.
[there is a bare tinge of anger in her voice, but enough to make Beren straighten up and step back just a little]
But couldn't you -- um -- just know he was lying? Just -- read his mind?
No. If even yours, saving as you permit it, is inviolate to perception, how might not the same be true of my elder, and mightier in his conception than even I? Only suspicion, among some, and doubt that such a long-lasting and profound will to power and destruction might not be so swiftly turned by meditation -- but suspicion is not proof, and may not justly be acted upon. Always had Melkor been the most open and unsubtle of Voices, both in the Timeless Halls and in the World, in addition to his efforts in the Song. We had no reason to guess that it was otherwise.
So why couldn't the One just tell you so that you wouldn't have to guess?
He does. It is not easy even for me to understand His thought, thus enformed as we are within our realm, through the limits placed by the different interfaces and frequencies of -- excuse me, to hear through the borders of the Circles, those messages of counsel from the Timeless Halls, and then to discern what the correct application of them should be.
So why can't you leave and check and come back?
[the Lord of the Winds leans forward, very earnest]
Beren. This is the World.
It is not a game. Our mistakes are real because everything is real, because all of it matters. You want it to be a game, where a judge or parent might step in and declare this cast of the dart unfair, that ill-stepped leap not to count against the score, allow another tune be chosen when the young singer has outreached ability, warn a contestant of impending error, always undoing -- in pretense -- what has been done, for the sake of mercy even more than justice, so that all shall be pleased with the ending of the contest, win or lose. You ask that Arda be no more than a toy, a game, a hobby of Immortals, but unfortunately or not, it is real and we are bound to it forever, as truly as all who breathe within its Circles. We cannot stop playing for a little while.
Beren: [shaking his head]
That isn't what I said.
I am afraid that it is. Be assured, I understand the wish. Often.
[he sighs heavily, leaning back in his Throne]
Well, couldn't you have figured out on your own about not bringing the Elves all the way across the world to here? Then, for one thing, your brother wouldn't have been able to tell them that you were trying to replace them with us and then they wouldn't have had any reason to rebel, or any place to rebel to, right? So there wouldn't ever have been any Kinslaying or anything.
Manwe: [to his wife, in a slightly-wry tone]
Do you remember being that young and optimistic, love?
[she sighs -- then snaps out of it and says matter-of-factly to Beren]
So. When the Hunter from beyond the Sea heard the Children's song, he should not have gone among them, should not have lead them west to a new homeland?
That would follow from what I said, wouldn't it?
He and his kinfolk should not have taught them new lore and art, nor the skills that allowed them to thrive in greater health and strength than they had previously known?
That's what I said. And you're leaving out all the problems it caused the Elves.
We were not speaking of the Firstborn.
[shaking his head fiercely]
You're twisting it all around--
It -- for us -- it was different.
It just was.
He didn't tell us it was perfectly safe -- we knew there was a War going on, and we knew the Enemy was there and out to get us all.
Naturally -- the world had changed, and so that was then the truth in your people's day.
But the Enemy sneaked through and committed murder anyway, and wrecked the land.
Yes. We are most favorably impressed.
? ? ?
Despite all that, your people remained faithful, and did not turn from your foreign lords in anger and outrage at their newly-revealed weakness, but stayed beside them through the bitter dark that has followed, as loyal as the Vanyar to us. Not even Melkor's murder of your father served to turn your heart against the Eldar.
[momentarily speechless, Beren makes a cutting gesture before finding his voice]
You're twisting things around again.
If you would be consistent, you must allow it equally error on the part of your friend and his folk to interfere with the destiny and quality of life of your people, as for us to meddle with the fortunes of his own -- folly, if well meant, and ultimately no less ruinous to those 'twas meant to aid.
Beren: [almost shouting]
Don't say that! He--
[breaks off, upset]
Do you not admit that the problem of the Eldar and the problem of the Edain are one in nature?
[silence. Across the prismatic dome overhead and around, an aurora borealis gradually appears, arcs for a while during the following exchanges, and flickers away]
Because I don't want it to be true.
Look, I know it's dumb and wrong, but I just can't. --Besides, that's not where the problems start. Whether you blame it on the Silmarils themselves or some of the Elves staying behind or whatever, the real issue is the fact that there are monsters and demons and diseases and an evil god running around loose to cause all these troubles. If you made the world, why can't you just change it so that things like that can't happen?
Because to do so would unmake the World.
I don't see that.
Look, your explanations aren't, and I don't have answers for your answers -- but how about something I do understand damn' well? Let me give you the problem on a smaller scale, where maybe we can both agree on it: where is the justice in Tinuviel having to suffer and risk her life and lose her happiness and lose her life because of me? She wasn't Noldor, she didn't choose one way or the other to follow you or not to follow, she didn't rebel against you, and all the same she got caught by the Doom, and if it isn't that you all are mad at Thingol for marrying her mother, and made him ask for a Silmaril to punish him by having her die--
--What a curious notion--
--which wouldn't be fair to her, or anybody else in Doriath either, then surely you could have changed something to make it so that I didn't run into her and none of this every happened. Something. Anything. At least you could have protected her from me.
Any fate you would find a better, than for you to find the daughter of Melian, and she to follow you?
[the blue-black night sky slowly takes on an angry reddish hue, as rising flames lick up from along several points on the horizon, and thereby define edges of forest margin and steep hillsides in the dark. (Note: the effect of this and the animations which succeed it is an IMAX theatre, only not photographic, but an Impressionist painting done in stained-glass -- brilliant, jewel-like colors lit from within, but no black outlines.)]
[To one side of the Thrones, where the images run between them and Beren, misshapen shadowy figures bearing torches spill out from the darkness into a rough circle; dark tents and standards with skulls (real and painted) and images of ravens and wolves' heads are revealed by the flickering light. Typical barbarian-warlord/evil-sorcerer's encampment. From the nearest tent emerges an ominous tall armoured, cloaked figure, (typical barbarian-warlord/evil-sorcerer) who stands expectantly in the midst of his minions as the crowd parts to allow a new group to enter]
In this ending, you do not arrive in Doriath.
[the newcomers are a squad of enormous wolves, several with riders, one of them a pale blue-gray, and not ridden. One of the riders does not do so voluntarily, being draped over the Warg's back, bound hand and foot (and arm and knee, for good measure) until the nearest Orc pulls him off and drops him face down on the ground. Their commander walks over slowly, standing there for a moment before booting the prisoner over onto his back. Even without sound, the gloating still comes through, followed by some predictably-imprudent defiance, judging from the way the guards start hauling their mortal captive upright. The camera swings to focus on Beren and the Valar, so that we don't actually see what happens next, only the burning hillsides on the other walls, while Beren keeps watching apparently completely unfazed by it]
Beren: [utterly blasé]
Huh. Guess I did get him that time after all.
Such a fate does not daunt you?
[he turns back to face the Thrones]
It's only what I expected.
And for all your efforts to avoid it, you find it preferable to that which was?
If that had happened -- she would still be alive. And Huan. And Finrod, and the noblest lords of Nargothrond. And a whole bunch of other people in Doriath. No one I loved would have died because of me.
It is too late for that, at this stanza. Those who trusted in your ability to defy our rival and to defend them, against all reason, and left their hiding places and rekindled the flame of defiance against Melkor, and were ground into the ashes of their holdings -- are they no one, then? You survived that disastrous rising, but what of those who believed, and were taught the error of their faith by the Lord of Wolves?
That -- it -- it wasn't--
[he breaks off. In a choked tone]
You're not being fair.
What is in error? That your remnant people died? Or that they did so the sooner, because of your provocation? Or that you loved them?
Beren: [grinding out the words]
All right. I made mistakes too. That can't be the only way.
[the fiery glow changes to a calmer light -- the sun is rising over a green valley, over which in the background loom shining mountain peaks; on one of these can be seen the spires of a slightly-alien-looking but mostly traditional castle. Far off there is still a dark smudge on the horizon even as the sky rapidly becomes blue. In the foreground is a fairly-Viking-looking village, with carved painted pillars and gables on the houses, and fields all around either plowed or full of livestock. Lots of horses. A stream runs through the middle of the vale. Deer drink at it; broad-winged hawks circle overhead.]
Yet another ending, to your story, then--
[up the road to the village comes a rider on a gorgeous steed, cantering to one of the farmhouses, from which charge several tow-headed children of different heights and both sexes, but all equally enthusiastic enough to make it a good thing the picture is without sound; they are followed almost instantly by two tall women with braided hair, one gold, the other silver, who join in the mobbing of the returned horseman -- whose clothes, even in the impressionistic rendering, certainly are not a mismatched collection of rags. As the traveler, gesturing back towards the distant tower, is welcomed home by three generations of family, and his children pile onto the horse heading towards a barn, while wife and mother lead him into the house, Beren turns a stricken countenance to the Lord and Lady.]
Is this real? Is that what would have happened, if I'd gone instead of staying?
We cannot tell. It could have been.
Is this the story that would content you, the ending rightfully yours, of which your Doom has cheated you?
Beren: [softly, shaking his head]
[he is distraught and nearly in tears]
Varda: [faintly curious]
You would not hesitate to change your past for an earlier and more painful death -- yet you are of divided mind regarding a change that might have granted a full and happy life according to your people's measure. Do you not think that a strange thing?
I -- I--
[he lifts his hand helplessly]
I wouldn't have known Tinuviel then. I wouldn't ever have known -- what else the world could be.
I know that doesn't make any sense. Everything else that way is the same. Nobody else gets hurt. But if I had just died fighting, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't think that was the best that it could be -- I wouldn't have missed anything. It -- it seems worse, to have lived without ever realizing what more there was.
[he bites his lip, and shakes his head again, half-laughing, half-crying]
I guess it would have been better if I was never born at all.
[he nods, his expression grim]
You know, then, better than the One, who should exist in Arda?
I didn't say that.
Did you not?
--Only for me. Because of what happened because of me.
But there are so many other possibilities. What if you had died to guard your companions on their way to join your kin of Hador? What if you had gone at once to Nargothrond with news of your father's death, instead of remaining to wage war alone? Or if Elwe's daughter had never found you in the forest -- how many long years in peace would you have stayed? Each one a different story. Would all those truly have been so much worse than not having lived at all? What of the lives you did save, the fugitives you did guard who escaped to other lands?
[Beren scowls, but doesn't answer]
You would ordain the world according to your certainty. But have you no consideration for the way that Luthien would rather have things Be? Would her ideal Song have no mortal note of yours?
It would still be better for her if she hadn't met me.
[the Starqueen just Looks at him]
So you, too, number yourself among those who are wiser than she, and how her life should be ordered for her, will she, nil she.
Beren: [still stubborn, but quieter]
It would have been better if things hadn't happened the way they did. --Unless you think it's a good thing she's dead.
Many things would be better, if matters had fallen out other than they did.
Have you thought at all what other deeds done in the world might have changed things? Or do you believe that your hands alone shape the fate of Arda?
Hand. You're behind on things.
--I don't believe I'm doing this. I'm mouthing off to the High King and Queen of all the earth, like a bratty eight-year-old, and I can't help it, and any Man or Elf would have slammed me one by now or stopped talking to me, and gods forbid Ma would've heard me talking to anyone like this -- only they're not--
It's not just me. About me. Or us. It's everybody. Whatever happens, in war or not, people suffer and die. Even here. Because the world is all just wrong.
[the Powers look at each other for a silent moment before turning their shimmering gaze back on the mortal spirit]
How, then, would you have ordained the world?
As are we.
[he looks at them, exasperated, but they're a lot more patient than he is]
Beren: [sarcastic, playing along, but getting caught up in it]
Oh sure, you want me to solve all the problems in the universe. How to end suffering and warfare. Hm.
[thinking out loud]
Well, let's see…for starters, no Morgoth.
He cannot be destroyed. Even were we to battle him again -- which itself would ruin as much or more as he has done, and serve his purposes even as we attempted to counter them -- we cannot end him. His spirit is as eternal as ours, and may only be restrained by our strength, but never slain, though his shape may be harmed according to the laws of earth and flesh.
I mean just -- never make him, so he can't think of things to do to the world. That would eliminate them before they ever happened, right?
Melkor did not compel any of those who followed him to do so. Lied to them, yes; suggested potentialities to them that otherwise had never crossed their minds; intimidated those who wished to resist him. But if he could have forced any to join him regardless of will, would he not have done so to me, first of all?
You? Why you?
[the High King of Arda covers his face with his hands, while his Queen tilts her head and Looks at the mortal with as much amusement as a body shaped of starlight and midnight can convey]
Why Luthien the Nightingale? --Why Arien of the Burning Heart? And many, many more, most never given names in your speech.
[as it starts to add up, Beren looks from her to her consort in growing surprise, then at the floor with an expression of chagrin.]
--Because there are those who cannot bear the thought that beauty should be free, that joy should take cause from any source but themselves, that another will should be strong and use that strength for any other purpose but at their pleasure.
[with a touch of sharpness creeping in]
I am not a collectible either. Nor will I ever be a slave -- still less, then, a tool for another's ambitions.
If my elder had not chosen to subject all voices to his own, and silence all who would not sing his tune -- still would those who gladly made themselves his captains and spies been free to choose to do the same, though weaker their voices and smaller the discords than he causes.
Even we. Even in us the lure of domination might rise, did we not take our first and greatest joy in being, not in having.
--Even I might have refused
to allow any other light save my Work to shine upon the world, commanded that no rival stars be made from earth by cunning hands, or when the Darkness came, declared that so 'twas meant to be, and never should any other brightness defile the sky to hide my art, forbidden my fellow Voices to call forth the Two whose light obscures them, and fought them if they refused to obey me -- and given my love the choice between my will, and my love. Even I might fall, did I not ever strive against jealousy and falsehood in my heart. --Even I.
Banishing a Voice unheard cannot prevent discord from rising in another's Song.
But can't you make them be good? Without Morgoth you're the most powerful, right? So why can't you just change it?
I don't know, I'm not a god. --Just stop them from being able to do anything harmful.
Have you the power to do harm?
I'm dead now.
We are aware of that. Can one not choose to work to good or to ill even in fetters, when no bodily power save the mind's ability to affirm, or deny, to forgive, speak love or hate, defy -- is all that remains?
Have you not yet such power within your mastery?
Housed or not, whence comes that power?
From me. Deciding what to say or do.
Shall we take it from you? Leave but an image of yourself, that cannot speak any thought that does not first come from mine, or work any wish that does not come from hers? What is left of Beren, when we have done so? Of any person, mortal, deathless, or divine?
Is -- is that what you're gonna do to me?
[the Powers shake their heads]
Why not? I've caused you enough trouble, I bet.
No one has that right. --None.
Beren: [smiling sardonically]
Not even me. I get it.
Nor even, entirely, the power. To destroy is not to govern; to slay, not to rule. Do not the Enemy's own servants even rebel so far as they are able?
Okay, then…let's tackle this a different way. Defensive, not offensive.
How's this? I wouldn't have anything that could be hurt or destroyed. And nothing that could do harm or be used to destroy things. Nothing caused by Morgoth, or tainted by him.
[looking up at them with his head on one side, cockily]
I think that should do it.
[he shakes his head]
Manwe: [unison, sadly]
Behold the world of your Song--
[in the windows the village disappears from the valley and the castle from the mountainside. Followed, in turn, by the soaring birds and deer, and then the vegetation, leaving only bare earth, rock, and water under an empty sky]
No. That isn't what I said.
Nothing mortal is left -- nor Eldarin, for to live and to know is to be able to suffer.
But even now, there are still those things which may be harmed, and those which were caused by my elder.
[the stream vanishes, and the mountains sink down into the earth, leaving an empty plain under the sun, which fades slowly, not setting, right from the middle of the sky. As the horizon reddens and darkens:]
Nor will the moon rise to take her place, for neither Anor nor Isil would have come to be, were it not for the deaths of the Two. Is this lightless world, too dead for Death to work any further harm upon, better than the other?
The Stars weren't made by the Enemy. They can't destroy anything.
[in the deepening gloom, points of light reappear, gradually returning almost to their real splendour]
But they were made for our fellow Children, and to warn Melkor against doing harm to the world. So they, too, were partly caused by him.
Still -- not made by him, and -- they can't be hurt. They're just lights.
But even my works will not last forever, and in time they too will reach the end of their lifespan, and the Heavens will fail, and then there will be nothing left but the changeless Dark.
[in the windows the Stars slowly go out, leaving only blackness -- the only lights now are from the three spirits conversing there]
And we, too, are banished from your Song -- for we have been harmed with Ea, and we must suffer in this All-that-is of ours.
[he does not answer]
Two times already you have denied the Void. Will you now, at the last, reject the World?
[pause -- Beren looks silently at the wall of unending Night, and then at the Starmaker, for an equally long moment, and then slowly bows his head]
Beren: [almost whispering]
Varda: [with a shading of approval in her remote voice]
We hoped you would not.
Manwe: [equal approbation]
[the star-dome returns as it was, blue-white, blue-black, silver-iridescent, shimering over them.]
Beren: [bitter smile]
[he looks at them again, at last; softly:]
What should I do?
We do not know.
[he bows his head again, shaking it]
[he turns as if in a daze, or concussed, and begins walking wearily towards the Stair.]
What will you do?
I don't know.
[at the door he looks back, speaking over his shoulder:]
The Stars -- they were very beautiful…Thank you for making them. --And for the Eagles.
[He turns again and steps through the Door, and vanishes. The King and Queen look at each other sadly and clasp hands between their thrones.]
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.