6. Scene II - part II
You two -- went into Angband and took one of the jewels away. By yourselves.
With Huan's help.
Finrod: [horrified, touching Beren's wrist ]
Is that what happened to you?
No. That was Carcaroth.
But you knocked -- Carcaroth -- out.
But then he woke up.
--I explained that, remember?
I'm still trying to accept the fact that you're really here and not some sort of hallucination born of wishful thinking.
Finrod: [brushing her bangs aside]
What happened to your hair? You look like a wild pony.
Luthien: [laughing and crying together]
Oh, no . . . not you too . . . !
I -- no, I believe it, I simply cannot comprehend this.
[he shakes his head, laughing a little]
Let me endeavor to do so. --We'd heard of your exploit from several sources, but mostly from the newly-arrived -- there are several persons here who came not long after returning to Nargothrond, finding freedom sadly lacking as compared to expectations and recollection -- and I've had no end of trouble convincing the majority here that my older cousin from the Old Country isn't really twelve feet tall with a perpetual battle-aura brighter than the High-King's, let me assure you.
[Luthien gives a short incredulous laugh]
And they all said that you looked like the happiest couple in Middle-earth, and they were so pleased, and we were too, and it seemed as though things were going uphill, what with Sauron routed and no enemy base in that geographical corridor any more, and that was the last we knew, until the staff were all called away suddenly and with a great deal of worry expressed, talking about a sudden influx of casualties from Beleriand all intensely traumatized and no one's given us any meaningful answers since then.
Beren: [hollowly to himself]
--Carcaroth . . .
Luthien: [getting warmer as she goes]
Beren wouldn't go along with it -- too much happiness and he had to wallow in guilt some more and then try to immolate himself, and we tried to stop him, Huan and I, we really did -- but even though we could escape Nargothrond's security and defeat a Dark Lord, we were no match for Beren when it comes to out-and-out granite-hard stubbornness, not about going to Angband, not about refusing to take the peace we could get, not about going off to fight Carcaroth -- again!
[Beren cringes and ducks his head; Finrod grips his arm comfortingly]
I'm sorry. It's been a horrible year.
Did you like Nargothrond? --I mean -- that is, of course, aside from being a prisoner . . . ?
Finrod--! Really, do you think--
[she checks, and then looks sadly at him]
--It was beautiful. It was just as lovely as you said it would be. I wish--
[she breaks off, shaking her head, and reaches out to stroke the side of his face. He gives her a rueful smile]
I wish I'd gotten there in time.
So you could have watched me fade after? --You did.
[he looks at Beren]
You keep saying "Carcaroth" and I don't quite know what you're talking about. Is that a weapon? Or or a person? Or both, like Glaurung?
[Beren answers before Luthien can start to speak]
Beren: [meeting Finrod's eyes for the first time]
[pause -- Finrod stares at him, starting to make sense of it]
[Finrod understands -- his expression changes to utter dismay and he cannot say anything. He reaches over and pulls them both against his shoulders, rocking them for a moment like children, resting his forehead against theirs. When they straighten he commands:]
Tell me everything.
Luthien: [tired and frustrated]
Finrod, it's such a long story, and I've been telling it over and over and over again and--
I promise I'll listen.
[she stops and almost smiles -- he gives her a kiss on the forehead and stands, helping them both get up.]
Let's find someplace more comfortable than the floor, though, if you don't mind.
[glances around -- musing:]
I wonder if benches would qualify as a technical violation . . .
[the others look at each other, wondering what on earth he's talking about. A woman's voice echoes through the door from down the hallway:]
--I shall not speak with him, dost thou not hear me plain? I'll have none of this--
[Casts around frantically, ducks behind Huan. A tall and radiantly blonde woman sweeps in accompanied by Nienna's Apprentice. She could be played excellently by Uma Thurman, on loan from Gattaca. The faint (given the lighting) but definite living color of her and the slight shadow she casts make for a somewhat disquieting effect, as they do for her escort. Her gown is sleeveless, off the shoulder and flowing white, with a wide begemmed sash -- Art-Nouveau Egyptian-classical, like a Mucha-esque Cleopatra.]
My Master asks but that you hear him out -- whether you say anything or not, milady.
I mean absolutely no disrespect to thy Master whatsoever, but thou mayest tell the Lady that if she doth hope to force some manner of reconciliation on us in such wise, it is foredoomed to be in vain. I will not to talk to him, do you hear?
[they see Beren, Luthien, and Huan -- and no one else -- present in the chamber, and cross to them in the absence of any other possible advisors]
Erm . . . excuse me, Your Highness, but you haven't happened to see my teacher -- that would be the Lady Nienna -- about anywhere lately?
Luthien: [rather sharp]
I am afraid I haven't, sir. I have seen precious little of pity as yet from the Powers here -- though much in the way of sentimentality.
Beren: [trying to be fair]
Amarie: [interested now as well as annoyed]
--"Highness"? Shall be a foreigner from the other Shore, belike? For I know all the royals in this land, and she is none of them.
Apprentice: [graciously indicating with his arm]
This is the daughter of the Lady Melian and her consort, King Elu, once called Elwe, brother of the lord of Alqualonde (who is well known to yourself,) -- the Princess Luthien of Doriath in Beleriand.
Amarie: [staring intensely at Luthien]
This, then, shall be the infamous maid herself?
--Infamous? I wouldn't know. Who are you?
I'm just the messenger. As in 'Don't shoot'.
Amarie: [looks her up and down and sniffs]
Thou dost not appear much that hath such havoc late inspired.
[turning her gaze on Beren]
And this is thy human consort. --I should have expected better there as well.
[the detached contempt slips into cold rage]
An I thought it should touch him, that mortal killer, I'd strike him across his villainous countenance, as I'd thee as well --
[back to the cool detachment]
--but such doth merit not even my disregard.
Don't you dare threaten him!
What matter? He hath not substance nor reality in any case.
[Beren raises his brows but says nothing. Behind Huan Finrod grimaces, and reluctantly gets up from his knees to step around the Hound.]
--Amarie. --Is that how you see them? Or only all of us that are dead?
[silence. They stare at each other with extreme intensity -- her shock at the surprise takes a moment to fade]
--What dost thou here?
A friend summoned me. I don't ignore such things. --Especially when it's Huan.
Oh, this is your old girlfriend?
Wretch, what hast thou said of me?
--This is Amarie?
Amarie: [through her teeth]
--And am I thus made sport for a Secondborn barbarian, and a mockery for usurpers as well as renegades?
Do not speak ill of my friend.
[she snorts in disdain]
He is dead, withal.
So am I.
Thou? Thou art merely affected and that right willfully, thou miscreant.
--Affected? --Does that mean something different here?
Not that I've heard.
Now you hear me, you can't insult my cousin that way -- or any other way, I won't have it.
Amarie: [without heat, very matter-of-factly]
Silence, thou shameless recusant. Thou'rt naught but a savage, for all thy shadowed folk name thee princess, and the more so to roam the wildwood in garment of suspect sorcery and thine own hair--!
[Luthien is momentarily speechless. Beren winces, glances at Finrod]
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Oh yeah. -- No cover at all.
What an inopportune time for Huan to run off. He'd be adequate cover for us both.
Hey -- it could be worse.
[Both studiously avoid each other's eyes for a moment. Futile -- each steals a look, and simultaneously bursts into uncontrollable laughter.]
Amarie: [affronted, turning her wrath on them]
What, pray tell, dost so amuse?
[Beren and Finrod try to look serious. Attempt fails utterly.]
Finrod: [leaning on Beren's shoulder, doubled over]
"Dumb Stunts of the Noldor," number I-couldn't-begin-to-guess-which, out of very-likely-infinity--
Beren: [being the Voice of Reason]
It was a good plan, it just needed some tweaking. Huan even said so. It worked fine the second time--
--Would you care to explain what definition of "fine" you're using?
Hey, just because I blew it afterwards doesn't change the fact that the plan worked perfectly.
What were we thinking?
Hey -- you want stupid? You wouldn't think anyone could forget this, would you?
[gesturing with his right wrist]
Carcaroth charges and instead of bracing the end of it against the side of my foot and using my elbow to help stabilize it, I go to level it at him like I still had two hands and he brushes it aside like I was poking him with a cattail instead. How dumb is that?
What about "leave the talking to me, I can handle him," --never mind the fact that we're talking about a being who helped build the world itself, older by comparison to me than I am to you -- no, I'll just take care of him!
No, no, nothing on me. You gotta hear the whole story -- you're not going to believe most of it.
I don't believe most of it anyway. Not even the parts I was present for.
[they lose it again -- Luthien sighs and shakes her head; Amarie is staring in horrified fascination]
What doth so amuse?
And thou dost think naught on't?
I can't laugh about it -- but I won't deny them the right. It's their battle. --Beren doesn't find anything remotely amusing in the parts of my adventures I find funny after the fact.
Beren: [recovering enough to argue]
Yeah, but what about me blowing our cover?
That wasn't you, that was me. Besides, we were insane then.
Well, I certainly was. I distinctly remember calling you "Ma" on more than one occasion.
Yes -- and I answered.
[unsteadily they endeavor to regain self-possession]
Beren: [nodding towards Amarie]
Now she's going to think we're completely crazy.
Oh, I'm sure she already does. All of Tirion thinks so, or so I've been informed, and no doubt they think it on the seacoast and in Valmar too. Besides, she told me so when I left: this will merely confirm her opinion irrefutably.
Wouldst thou leave off this affectation that I am not present, while thou dost speak of me, else cease from the same? Or shall that prove too much in the way of civilized manners for thee, Finrod?
Beren: [sobering up]
Would you rather we talk about you when you can't hear and respond, milady? Is that how they do it in civilized society?
Finrod: [to Beren]
For someone who isn't real, you make a lot of sense, you know.
Thank you. --I try.
I shall not be insulted by an -- an Aftercomer.
Finrod: [to Beren]
I thought you asked her a serious question.
Finrod, presumest not to disregard me, nor speak me past as I were but a carven figure!
Finrod: [becoming quite focussed]
But you ordered me not to speak to you -- you made that one of the conditions of ever getting the chance to ask for your forgiveness again. Are you going to hold this against me, start the yen over again, because I'm doing what you're telling me to do now? Amarie, I haven't got the strength for this. I apologized. You got angry. I'm not allowed to apologize, or to seek you out, and now apparently you're angry with me for obeying you. If you're going to play these games with me, then I'll stay here till the end of Arda and work on my songs. There's a wonderful group of musicians here, and the acoustics are excellent. What do you want me to do?
Oh! Thou mocker!
What?!? You set him an impossible task and then you punish him for doing it?
Thou art the one to talk, forsooth. To name a Silmaril for thy dowry --!
Luthien: [rolling her eyes]
Not this again -- That wasn't my idea.
What matters that, when the end's the same? Dost thou know what he endured for thy sake, thou spoilt daughter of the twilight?
Yes, I rather think I do. Better than you, by far. I was the one who discovered them, you know. And helped with the burying.
[raising her voice and pointing to her husband and kinsman]
How could I not?! I took care of Beren afterwards and listened to him talk about it -- when he could talk -- night after night after night, I washed his corpse--
--of course I know! So don't try to put your guilt at not being there on me.
Guilt? I have no guilt. I did not rebel, wherefore I have no reason to reproach myself.
Luthien: [ironic smile]
Yes, well, I'm sure that's your story.
Story? 'Tis but the truth.
Luthien: [more serious]
I don't know. I look at you and I think -- if that were true she'd be far more unhappy and far less angry. It feels like something of an act to me -- keep your temper hot with us, and then you won't have to think about how differently things might have gone if you'd gone with him and help keep control of matters all along.
My parents and elders forbade it.
Luthien: [raising an eyebrow]
--And? Did they lock you up in a tower, too?
--And I honor them, -- as is my filial duty.
[Finrod makes a stifled noise, but is straightfaced by the time she glares at him]
As I honor the gods and do obey them without question.
-Indeed. I suppose you have to stick to your story now.
Again with this talk of stories! Have thy Turned people no knowledge of the truth then, to judge all as falsehoods?
[Luthien gives her an ominous look -- no more quarter to give]
I don't know you. I can't tell if you were truly being principled, or just too afraid of being different, or of being disapproved, or of the dangers even. Don't interrupt me! I do hope that it's the former -- I trust as much, because I know Finrod, and his judgment weighs in your favor. But the way it's all woven together is something only you know, or perhaps only the One. But you made your choice, and Finrod made his, and they were irreconcilable. End of stanza. New verse. He's back, he's said he's sorry, and he's proven it by letting your wishes command him. What is your problem?
My problem is no more than this -- thanks to thy meddling and willfulness, the one I should have wed died an exile and outcast, in the torments of the Enemy so that thou and this vagabond of thine could wed in despite of all graciousness and reason.
Don't blame us for what you should blame yourself for. --At least no one's trying to forcibly split you up and keep you from ever seeing him again for all of eternity!
Er -- just to be clear on matters -- that's Luthien's viewpoint, not mine. I never said any of it was your -- ah, her -- fault.
[to Luthien, sharply]
What was that last bit there?
[the next two exchanges overlap]
They want Beren to leaveand me to stay and I won't have it.
Amarie: [to Finrod]
Do not presume to address me!
Now, don't get angry because you're getting what you demanded. I really don't understand your problem at all. Do you love him? If yes, work to a solution. If not, give it up. Let it go -- what does it matter if he suffers or not, if he doesn't mean anything to you any more? Go find a hobby, get on with your life, why don't you.
Such facile japery is but to be expected from one born to the darkness.
Luthien: [maddeningly slow emphasis]
Whether I am a Dark-elf or not has no bearing on my question. Do you love him? Yes or no answer.
Amarie: [just as patronizing]
Plain thou wouldst have it -- yet it hath not such simplicity. Of course I didst love him, but--
Luthien: [cutting her off]
-- No. You've got it all wrong. It's and. Never "but" -- "I love you, and--"
Amarie: [still more patronizing]
I ken not what thou wouldst convey.
"--I love you, and I don't want you to do this." "--I love you, and this is stupid." "--I love you, and I'm going with you." It isn't really that complicated. --Or else you didn't really love him.
I have neither heart nor time for folly.
[looks to where Nienna's Apprentice was standing -- and is quite obviously not now]
--Where has that strange youth betaken himself? He was to guide me to his Master's presence.
I'm not surprised he's made himself scarce, considering how much I'd like to do the same thing myself.
Beren: [looking around]
Huan hasn't come back yet either.
Well, I've always had a high opinion of his intelligence.
I'll not stand here and be insulted by such compare!
Yes, well, why don't you do that then?
Amarie: [as if to a crazy person or a small child]
Walk away, since you won't stand for it.
[Amarie gives a blazing look towards Finrod, who is wearing a suspiciously innocent expression]
And so thou'lt stand by and see me mocked, even? I'll go, then, and find the Lady myself and bring her my plaint, if I must walk these Halls till even.
[she turns abruptly and strides away towards the corridor without another word or backwards look]
Finrod: [raising his voice]
If she would listen to me, I would tell her that it might not work. Distance and direction aren't exactly the same here as they are Outside.
[she still does not look or pause, though there is a visible if controlled reaction in the set of her shoulders and lifted chin. After she is no longer visible from the doorway the place seems a lot larger and dimmer. Finrod gives a sigh half of relief, half of regret, as Luthien moves to him and puts her arm around his shoulders in a consoling gesture.]
That could have gone much worse.
I don't see how.
For a moment there I thought she might try to hit me again.
[rubs his jaw reminiscently]
For someone with no combat training who, quote, disapproves of violence, unquote, she did an excellent job of knocking me part-way across the table before we left.
[pulling himself together -- as if the last few minutes hadn't happened at all:]
You were going to fill in the details omitted from the condensed version, and I was going to find us somewhere to sit. I suppose -- I wonder what the purpose of it is? -- that quaint little informal garden might serve the purpose.
[he takes their hands as though to lead them to the hill, but this is interrupted by the loud entrance of Huan, dashing in as if in pursuit of an animal -- he skids to a stop just short of Finrod and begins to vigorously lavish canine attention on him]
Hey! Hey! Easy! You're gonna knock someone over.
--Are you going to do this every time you see me, old Hound?
[Huan does so, grinning]
Finarfinion. --What are you doing here?
[she approaches from the doorway; Finrod bows.]
Conversing with my cousin and my friends, my Lady.
That had better be all.
[to Luthien -- gently]
What seems to be the difficulty, dear?
[she notices the Hill -- to Finrod:]
What is that?!?
Amazing, isn't it? It seems to be the real thing. I'm sure the grass is longer than it was a little while ago.
Vaire: [almost speechless]
I -- said --
And I haven't. It was already there when I came in.
Tulkas' wife put it there.
[pause -- shaking her head:]
I wonder why.
Would you please come and sit down with us so that we can get this situation taken care of?
Luthien: [lifting her hands]
What part of "not without Beren" is so hard to understand? Should I set it to a melody and sing it instead?
Child, please don't be difficult.
Difficult? Believe me, I haven't even started being difficult.
[she is getting the combat look again]
--Tact, cousin, tact.
I tried that. It hasn't worked at all to date.
[Beren turns her towards him]
Beren: [quietly but earnest]
Tinuviel. --Don't let them make you crazy. We're together now. We can get through this. If they're willing to talk, the situation isn't hopeless. Not all concessions are bad ideas. Go with the Lady -- she said they want to hear you. That's a good thing, right?
You didn't marry a fool, Luthien.
[after a moment she sighs and nods, though her expression is still very hard. Putting her arms around Beren's neck:]
Stay close to him, don't go wandering about on your own, don't let anyone talk you into agreeing to anything, even if it seems harmless this time, --don't even talk to strangers if you can avoid it, and wait here for me. I'm going to sort this nonsense out once and for all.
[she kisses him briefly and reassuringly]
But -- these are your mother's people, in a way, really -- they wouldn't do anything to us, would they? They're kind of family, aren't they?
Beren. --Listen to what you just said.
Beren: [smiles wryly]
Luthien: [to Huan]
Will you stay here and help look after Beren?
Beren: [looking at the ceiling]
I tried that once.
[Huan wags his tail twice]
Don't worry, we'll take care of him.
[she starts to follow, then turns back and gives Beren a quick intense kiss, and then darts to hug Finrod again before reluctantly accompanying Vaire. The Weaver gives Finrod a frown, seeming about to say something, but changes her mind. The three of them are left alone. There is a brief silence, during which Huan melts away into the shadows again; while the other two look at each other uncertainly in a renewal of shyness.]
How are you -- honestly?
It's not as bad as it has been.
[Finrod sighs, unsurprised]
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to depress you--
Finrod: [very emphatically]
Beren. Do not, I beg you most fervently, if you have any compassion whatsoever, apologize for having been killed. --Unless it really is your wish to leave me still more depressed.
Finrod: [forced briskness]
Where's Huan? He seems to have gone off again.
Beren: [shaking his head]
That's what I said. It's like you said, back when -- Huan's his own dog, and no mistake.
And he's our dog, too.
He's always right, even when I've disagreed with him, so he's probably doing something to help me again, even though he shouldn't.
Why shouldn't he?
Because I don't deserve it.
Beren: [changing subject]
Sir -- how are you? Are -- are you well? Are you -- treated well? I can't really tell anything about what it's like here -- it's too big, or something and it's just sort of strange and blurry -- and I can't tell much about the people, there's been some shouting, but no one's shoved any spears or other pointed objects in my face yet or threatened to chain me up, so so far I'm not complaining.
No. No chains, here. It's -- very peaceful. A trifle dull, perhaps, but -- not unpleasant. Not for me, at least. Plenty of time to think, which some people find trying, but I don't mind it. And no responsibilities, which is an immense relief. I'd not expected that . . . I had no idea how much I was attempting to keep under control these last few decades, until I no longer had to do so.
Finrod: [raising his hand abruptly]
No apologies for that, either.
[this leaves Beren with nothing to say for the moment]
I really don't understand why you've had so much awful luck. It can't be explained merely by your own actions. There does seem to be something to that saying, "Circumstances conspired against them."
[giving him an uncertain glance]
You know something? I just realized -- we're related now. By marriage at least.
[Finrod looks taken aback]
Finrod: [sounding dismayed]
Oh. You're right. I'd forgotten about that as well. Oh dear.
You don't deserve that on top of everything that's already happened. There's been far too much chaos and madness in your life already.
Finrod: [changing subject himself]
So that's what the Loom looks like when it's off. --Hm.
[he looks at it with a considering expression]
I wonder if . . .
Um -- not to sound critical or anything, but -- I always thought there was actual string involved, somehow.
So did I.
[Beren looks surprised]
--What? I hadn't seen it either.
I never tried to mislead your family --
No, no -- I wasn't saying you did -- it could have been us, too, messing things up, or even just me not paying attention.
Finrod: [just as earnest]
Please, don't denigrate yourself. I was saying, I didn't misrepresent deliberately -- but there were many, many things which I didn't understand, or of which I have amuch better understanding now. Some of my explanations were in retrospect too facile, oversimplified, or at least open to misunderstanding. Especially about things having to do with the Halls. And I'm lecturing again, aren't I?
It's all right -- I don't mind.
[nods towards the Loom]
She made it do something, right before you two came in, but I don't know how she did it.
[Finrod gives him a quick look]
You say that as though you're expecting me to start tinkering with it.
You mean you're not?
[they share a somewhat hesitant grin; Finrod moves as though about to put a hand on Beren's shoulder, but doesn't quite know if he ought -- the awkwardness of their reunion is cut short by a familiar voice from the doorway:]
There you are, Sir.
[Beren instinctively moves behind Finrod, trying to vanish as the Captain comes up]
--Are we supposed to be back here? I'm sorry, I still haven't been able to establish exactly what's all the ruckus--
[Finrod steps back, saying nothing]
--Beren?!? [he grabs Beren, dragging him practically off his feet into a bear-hug -- setting him down, catches his shoulders and gives him a little shake, staring at him, then hugs him again]
Sweet Cuivienen, lad -- we thought we'd lost you forever.
[letting him go, but still keeping an arm around his shoulders, --to Finrod:]
Sir, it's Beren--
[--then laughs at himself]
I know. As, apparently, do most of the greater and lesser Powers in this place.
You mean all this trouble's over him?
Yes, for once it's actually not us.
Captain: [troubled look]
Only -- this means--
[looking at Finrod:]
--how long has it been, Sir?
Not long enough.
About half a year. A little more.
Captain: [very grim]
A -- lot of things.
[he is barely managing to control his emotions]
Beren -- and what of your lady--?
[he cannot continue]
My cousin's pulling strings with the Powers to keep Beren from being sent Beyond. They, of course, think that they are convincing her to act in their best interests by letting him go. Which of them has the correct understanding of the situation has yet to be determined -- it's all very much in flux. I'm still catching up with the background, but the present difficulty seems clear enough.
Finrod: [edged smile]
If I have any say in it, yes. We'll need -- oh, good.
[The Steward enters a second after he finishes speaking, and has nearly crossed the floor to them before he does a double take at the third member of the trio. After a moment's blank stare at Beren, he looks to the other two and then, seemingly accepting without further question, lets his gaze travel back to the Man.]
My lord Barahirion.
[he bows, very correctly]
[he moves forward, from under the Captain's hand, and then halts, looking helplessly at the other Elf-lord]
I confess myself at a loss for words.
--Sir, I'm so sorry -- I--
Please -- do not distress yourself upon my account.
--I saw your bones.
That is all in the past.
[noticing, frowns -- in a different tone]
[Before he can finish asking the question, the entrance of the rest of the Ten, noisily accompanied by Huan, interrupts him.]
Milords, look who's playing sheepdog -- Beren!?!
[At once Beren is surrounded by them and mobbed enthusiastically by eight Elven- warriors' shades, all trying to slap him on the back, fling their arms around his shoulders, ruffle his hair and embrace him like a long-lost sibling. He is completely overcome and gives up even trying to speak, simply accepting their welcome. Finrod looks on, wearing a rather rueful smile.]
Captain: [gently amused]
Now then, now then, take turns, don't throttle the Beoring all at once.
[they spread out, abashed, but still fiercely possessive, dividing demonstrations of affection between Beren and Huan.]
I suppose that means it's all right if we do it singly, then -- Beren, what happened to your hand?
It's a long story.
[Beren gives a wry grimace, not quite a smile]
Second Guard: [concerned]
Why are you still here? Are you in trouble again?
[the Soldier is looking around with interest at the Hall and its decoration, or lack thereof]
Soldier: [to the elder of the two subordinate Rangers]
Well, that answers that. It's as boring here as it is everywhere else. They really like it that way -- it isn't for some therapeutic reason. Pay up.
[the Ranger sighs and hands over a brooch, manifesting it as he does]
I like the little ridge though, -- even if it doesn't really seem to fit with the rest of the decor.
She made that.
Who? Lady Vaire?
No. Her -- um, the Lady of Summer, the Bride.
Oh, yes, that makes sense. The roses especially -- they look like her style.
--Nessa was here?
And Lord Astaldo -- he -- he was--
They're a bit much to take, either one of them.
Yeah, but -- actually, he was really nice. They both were. Just -- a little --
I know. They're wonderful people, but very little sense of restraint. If you ever go to one of their parties, don't ever let Tulkas talk you into a drinking contest. --Or Nessa, for that matter.
That girl who works for them, who is she, -- Measse, that's it -- did a pretty good job of drinking you under the table back in the day, sir.
Captain: [mock indignation]
And how would you know but by hearsay, eh? You were long since past consciousness, as I recall.
Beren: [eyes widening]
That's not the -- the same Measse you ask that you'll come home at the end of a fight?
Youngest Ranger: [whispering]
I'm not used to this either.
All right then, everyone! Catch up later -- we have work to do.
[he gestures for the Steward and the Captain to draw near, while the rest hang about, beginning to drift off and sightsee around the staff area of the Halls.]
I want all of you to stay here and guard Beren -- I've promised Luthien I'd look after him for her. Will you make sure nothing happens to him while I go and see a few people who might be helpful?
You know you've no need to ask that.
Finrod: [quick smile]
I know. --But it's more polite that way.
Ah, Sir, -- what could happen to him here?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
I've neither idea nor the wish to find out.
Captain: [with a meaningful look]
All of us, Sire?
I'd feel better that way.
Are you certain that's wise, my lord?
I can take care of myself. There's no trouble here that I can't handle very well on my own.
Captain: [raising an eyebrow]
Shouldn't that be, --none that you haven't handled as of yet?
[Beren, with a worried expression, puts his hand on Finrod's arm]
Sir, I don't want you to get in any trouble because of me.
It won't be because of you.
But if you're trying to find help for me and Luthien, then it would be. I don't want to owe you any more, Sir. I -- I couldn't live with that.
I mean . . .
Beren, you're not in my debt: I owed your father my life.
But my father didn't get killed saving your life!
Finrod: [getting exasperated]
You know that's irrelevant. Do you think that the lives of your companions were worth less than your own or your families? No. You don't. And neither do I. Lots of people did get killed at Serech. You're the last Beoring, you get to collect on it, like it or not.
Captain: [rolling his eyes]
Not this again!
[the Soldier has still been standing nearby, listening with concern]
Soldier: [aside, to the Captain]
What's going on, Sir?
It's the "Endless Battle." You know -- The Argument.
No, I don't know. What about?
That's right -- you were first, that was after your time. They're arguing over whose fault it is more.
Not what you're thinking, lad -- the other way round.
Where are they up to?
Going over the mountains west, as opposed to what we actually did and what might or might not have happened in various hypothetical situations which did not, obviously, occur.
Damn. They're just getting started, then.
What are we up to now? Anyone remember the tally?
I lost count after twelve-score.
--But why are they arguing?
What, they need a reason to claim responsibility for every earthly mishap? Remember who you're talking about: "I ought to have Seen and single-handedly prevented the Kinslaying," on the one hand, against, "If only I'd been killed at Aeluin everything in the world would be fine."
It was at four hundred eighty, and eleven, when I was taken. Or one, depending on whether you subscribe to the view that it's all actually one long Argument with breaks. I was counting every time they repeated an exchange as a new engagement.
There were times when I could have killed the both of them myself, or myself, just to get away from it.
It was worse when they stopped, though.
[sighs and nods of agreement from the final veterans]
But you asked me my opinion about that and I agreed it was risky--
Finrod: [cutting him off]
You know you didn't feel competent to contradict me, because of your youth, regardless of the fact that in terms of actual field experience of recent date--
Steward: [looking up at the vaulting, fervently]
Dear sweet Lady, make them stop!
That doesn't work here either, sir. I don't think anything can.
Youngest Ranger: [muttering]
--That's because they're both swarn.
Beren, I'm the eldest, I was in command, I should have known better--
Great Mother of Spiders, no, no, NO!!! I am not listening to this for another hundred-forty-three years, can you imagine?!
Most unfortunately -- yes.
But I shouldn't have just--
That's it, no more, I've had it --
Hey! You two! Would you stop it? We already know how this goes, we don't need to hear it again!
"--It's my fault, I shouldn't have involved anyone else in the first place."
"--No, it was my decision to get involved, not yours."
"--But you had to help me, you didn't have a choice."
"--You only had authority over me because I gave it you to begin with. Besides, I was in charge of the entire operation, therefore any and all responsibility is solely mine."
"--There wouldn't have been any operation if I hadn't started it all, so it is really my fault."
--Did I cover everything?
You forgot "But your entire civilization was collateral damage in our war--"
--and "but we wouldn't have had a civilization without you--"
But otherwise I think you touched upon all the salient points with admirable succinctness. I couldn't have done it better.
You did the voices very well, too, sir.
[absolute silence. Finrod and Beren look at each other, guiltily. Both of them start to say something, several times, and can't.]
--Holy Stars. It actually worked.
Of course, if you absolutely insist, we could always test out the Ered Wethrin hypothesis the way we did with the Bragollach.
Ahem. I think -- I should go and see -- about doing -- what it was I was going to do. Now. --Excuse me.
[he turns and leaves abruptly]
--Did we go too far?
Beren: [shaking head]
No, he just couldn't keep a straight face much longer and we already got our ears ripped good by Amarie for inappropriate behavior once this . . . well, already.
[The mention of Amarie's name brings varied and strong reactions]
She's here? --What happened?
We're doomed. She's absolutely ruthless.
Was there an accident?
There aren't accidents here.
Do you mean "here" here, or "here" as in Aman?
Aman "here." Besides, she's Vanyar, what would she need to learn here?
The Lady Amarie? You're sure?
Er, tall, blonde, and answering to the name of "Amarie" --?
Hard to think who else it would be. --Don't worry, even if she is here, I imagine she's still against violence.
[the Steward gives him an annoyed Look]
--Not that that can't be conveniently forgotten. Again.
Not -- here like us. Just -- here.
I don't know. All I know is that she didn't want to be here and she kind of laid down the law to the guy who brought her here that she wasn't interested in talking to Finrod and then spent a long time yelling at him anyway. The King, not the other guy. --And us. And then she was losing to Tinuviel so she went off in a huff to complain to whoever it was who sent for her. If anyone said who it was I missed it.
Ah. That's interesting.
--No! You cheat.
Employing the Sight is not cheating if all other parties are well aware that one possesses it. Besides, it's neither guaranteed nor infallible.
Then how come you always win, sir?
[several of the Ten exchange significant Looks]
Okay, why are you worried about people ambushing him? Who would do that, and why? --And how?
It's a long story -- not quite so long as Noldolante, however -- but I suppose that technically we did start it, at the very beginning--
--Not just technically--
--by pounding the hell out of a Feanorian or two followed by lessons in Why Pell-work Is Not Enough Nor Will You Encounter The Rules Of Formal Combat In The Wild, followed in turn by -- the worst cut of all -- apologies.
But why were you guys beating up Feanor's partisans? Or was there a reason?
There's always a reason. Even if it's just the appellation "House Feanor."
Oh, there was an unpleasant fellow who likes to hang about the High King and act as though he's a notable at court again -- one of quite a few, but this chap has the gift for getting on one's nerves like you wouldn't believe. He was one of their top Elves back when Maedhros was still High King, and he never stops letting people know how he was the Second Casualty in the War. Apparently we're all supposed to accept his assumption that Grey and Green losses don't count.
Why he's so proud of being too dumb to figure out it was an ambush in advance -- particularly since they were planning on it themselves, and surely an evil god with centuries' practice at deceit and betrayal ought to be able to think of such a thing himself -- and of not succeeding in covering his lord's retreat and thus making his death count for something, I have yet to figure out. But there you have it. At any rate, we hadn't been here very long -- no idea what that would be in the Outside, I'm afraid, but it didn't seem very long -- when he turned up while our lord was relating our misadventures to his uncle and made so bold as to provide unasked-for commentary. He found the story most diverting.
Beren: [lethally cold]
He was making fun of the King? --And you all?
I warned him not to make light of what he didn't understand, as Himself was being too dignified to pay attention to such offensive behavior. I did so, in no uncertain terms. --He laughed again.
Then what happened?
He discovered that the imagined experience of being picked up by the collar and slammed repeatedly against a stone wall was nearly as unpleasant as the actuality.
Then we laughed.
Then he complained bitterly to the High King, who found it tiresome, until it was suggested -- I'm sure you can guess by whom -- that he issue a challenge and endeavor to satisfy his honor in the traditional way. After some balking about whether or not such a thing would be possible, and this being decisively demonstrated -- again by the King -- he did so.
I was still quite angry. --He should have known that His Majesty wasn't making the suggestion out of a pure disinterested sense of fair play -- but if he hadn't the brains to be wary of taking any free advice from someone he'd just been insulting, that's hardly our responsibility, now.
It was very funny.
Since then the situation has somewhat escalated, as might have been expected, though perhaps not to the scale that has from time to time been reached.
That's why you are in -- in trouble all the time? You're fighting with the guys from House Feanor?
Well, it isn't all the time.
And we certainly aren't the only ones.
Replace "fighting with" with "polishing the floor with" and you'll be closer.
I still think we'd have been all right if we had left the walls alone.
No, because someone would still have complained until the rafters rang due to the fact that every single time time we kicked their sorry hindquarters back to Himring, except for the one time we did "Under Stars" and tossed them into the sea.
That, I think, was the unforgivable insult.
Yes, well, you saying afterwards that Dagor-nuin-Giliad was a case history in basic strategy and every recruit these days studied the tactical errors made by Feanor before learning how to manage a spear and a horse at the same time didn't exactly help.
It's no more than the truth.
It was more the tone of voice. Besides, it's just as true that we've beat them roundly on every occasion. Hence the sneak attacks and the complaints.
But if we hadn't moved the walls, Lady Vaire wouldn't have gotten involved.
I do not recommend wagering anything on that unproveable possibility.
I'm sorry, but -- this isn't making any sense.
It's a long story.
As long as the Return of the Noldor?
[from this point, with that routine, in spite of recurring guilt attacks, any lingering reserve on Beren's part is gone -- he settles back into their old familiar cameraderie]
Okay, so what happened? --Is happening? Whichever.
Ever since the Dagor Bragollach, various parties here have been fighting over how it might have gone differently. The most obstreperous of the lot were those who went West at the "Glorious Battle", because they had the experience of winning easily at the "Battle-under-Stars", the first one fought after the Return.