63. Scene V.xvii
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project
BELOVED FOOL: BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA
[Finrod and his people are looking at Luthien with rather aghast looks; Fingolfin is carefully looking elsewhere]
You are joking, right?
[she shakes her head]
Perhaps you heard the name wrong, my Lady?
Luthien: [shaking her head again]
Not unless he doesn't know how to pronounce it himself.
[he and the rest glance in utter bemusement at the Captain]
Are you sure it wasn't a -- a jest at your expense?
Orodreth wasn't doing much joking in those days.
But -- Telumnar!?
Perhaps there has been some misunderstanding, gentles. Are you quite sure that her Highness is speaking of the same individual?
How many arrant fools by the name of Telumnar do we know? --How many are there, after all?
She didn't say he was being an idiot, though -- my Lady, do you recollect well the Elf in question? He wasn't by any chance a thin-browed chap with an annoying habit of smirking knowingly at everything you said, as if he knew more than you but couldn't trouble himself to correct you?
I only met him once or twice at state dinners -- and I think he was at that party of Finduilas', now that I think back on it. Pretty much everyone was acting patronizing and knowing around me, anyway. Sorry.
Your Highness, did he tend to try to keep his profile at a five-sevenths angle to display his best side at all times, when he was talking to you?
[several of the Ten snicker -- and Angrod works very hard at keeping a straight face; Luthien frowns]
Now that you mention it, he did seem to be striking poses most of the time. I thought he was favoring an injury, at first.
[even Aegnor chuckles at that, though the mood quickly turns serious again]
Might safely to presume, then, the youngling did learn but little, else naught, for all his long travel eke travail?
You might indeed.
All right, I've been wanting to ask you this for over a yen, now -- and now you have to tell me the truth, uncle. Did you foist that fellow off on me because you were afraid you'd have a rebellion all of your own if you didn't get him out of your own chain of command?
[everyone looks expectantly at the High King's shade. Long silence.]
[grimacing, glaring in a mock-ferocious way at his nephew]
I also had some hope, that your company and that of your companions would provide him with exemplar and inspiration to improve. --Though, 'tis true, I had come to fear him incorrigible by that time--
Aegnor: [to Angrod]
Hah! Pay up; I told you so.
[their uncle turns the glare on them]
--and so I judged that your greater wisdom, young Ingold, should find the best way to set him where he might work the least damage.
Tis deftly done, is't not?
How my lord his father doth turn aside wrath with subtle guile, for his words they hold them brimful of praises, to make sweet wrath's bitterness -- yet eke mockery, yet nor so venomous that shall aught but sting, as salt water's smart, that doth cut when flattery doth 'gin to cloy.
-- For none other, I vouchsafe, save thee. Yon thornbrake snares of Noldorin subtlety be most unpleasing to my soul, do I win through and smite upon's conscience else turn back in weariest disarray, for defense cometh most naturally unto him.
[Fingolfin looks mortified at this public deconstruction of his rhetoric; his brother and sister-in-law appear both interested and embarrassed for him. To the living Vanya:]
Thy lord, my cousin
yet warm --aye, and dauntless -- doth far surpass all others in such disport.
That, I did mark well.
Ambassador: [to Elenwe]
My lady, do you not find this -- unguarded openness, of our present state distressing?
Nay; how so?
[he is nonplused by her tone and expression of childlike seriousness, & doesn't know what to say; she continues:]
'Tis but the way this world is, e'en as without the rains do fall betimes, nor more sensible to feel distress upon it, than at dew's damp, or droplets' splash -- dost such trouble one, had best make no journeying, lest find thyself unexpected wet.
Finrod: [rueful, to the Doriathrin Lord]
My Vanyar kin have a rather -- different -- approach to life than even we Teler -- much simpler and far more direct. And much less concerned with appearances and public dignity than we Noldor. It can be -- disconcerting, even in life.
Ambassador: [looking thoughtfully at him in turn]
Indeed, I think I have seen such truths as you speak before this time, displayed in Menegroth, your Majesty.
[it is Finrod's turn to be slightly embarrassed]
Though in truth I ne'er did think to see yon solid floor of many fathoms riven o'er wave as 'twere but crumbled bread into wine.
Daughter, daughter, have mercy -- I rue thy losses, and I obey thy bidding now.
Thou dost not so ill at it thyself, good my niece.
[the Vanyar shade only shrugs]
Long dwelt I amongst thy folk in Tirion to learn't.
This Telumnar, he is a great fool, I dare to say? For I cannot place him in memory.
Much worse than that. He is one that will never admit he has erred, in any wise. He but changes the matter of his speech, when 'tis shown to him.
Another one! I do hope my Master has judged me complete of patience before he comes along.
[this gets him some rather askance Looks from the presently-dead]
First Guard: [to the Captain]
I still can't believe the Prince gave him your job.
[the senior officer only shakes his head, looking bemused and dismayed at the idea]
Not being in charge of your spies -- that went to Gwin, I'm pretty sure. He and Orodreth were closeted a lot, and there were other hints--
What? Did I say something wrong?
[Finrod and his chief lords are exchanging looks of rueful humour]
I ought to ask how you knew about that, Lady Luthien -- but I'm rather afraid of the answer. It's going to be more mystical demigod perception, isn't it--
[she is shaking her head]
I heard about it from Dad--
[he looks relieved at her words]
--after Mom told him.
But I honestly don't know if she figured it out from watching all you interact, or if she just knew. We were all just used to her knowing everything. It came up once when Galadriel was pushing Mom a bit about how to run a kingdom, and she told her that it depended on being someone worthy of following, so that your followers would be worthy of your trust -- and then told her to follow her oldest brother's example. Dad said something about how important it was to have people you could rely on to both hear and speak for you, to be your senses where you couldn't be yourself, and your voice--
[looking from him to the Steward and back again]
--and Galadriel challenged him if he knew which of you was which, and Mom said obviously, both, it just depended.
This was a private family discussion, it wasn't as though everyone in Doriath knew you were more than just military.
Why do people keep underestimating you, cousin?
Captain: [speaking as if to reassure himself]
Gwindor's a good lad -- heart in the right place, if still a little wet behind the ears.
He isn't all that much younger than we are, you know.
I suppose he isn't, at that. The next generation just seem so much more uncertain of themselves than we were. --Not really surprising, given the hash we made of everything, I suppose--
Speak for yourself.
[Angrod elbows him hard]
[low prolonged growl]
[the Captain stops talking and stares straight ahead; his former colleague leans around and turns her fiercest glare on Finrod's brothers]
My lord, I tell you, I shall most assuredly make report of your unmannerliness to Lady Earwen, when I am alive once again, and let her for to know of every least rude word I did hear of you!
[Aegnor looks suddenly daunted at this, though he does not apologize or meet her angry gaze]
Well, as a matter of fact, Maiwe, that isn't going to be possible. Once you're rehoused, the memory of this place will fade very quickly.
I shall manage it, nonetheless, let you wait, and I vow you shall see!
Luthien: [raising her voice a little, cutting them off]
--In any case, I am certain no one here has done anything approaching the level of stupidity of sending my father a letter announcing that his nephew had been done away with and his daughter about to be wed to a multiple murderer, and advising him not to object if he knew what was good for him.
Oh, yes, that--
[he sighs, shaking his head in disbelief, Finrod leans forward and gives him a puzzled look]
Beren told us, Sir -- oh, that's right, you weren't here then. It was--
--Let me guess. Curufin.
Writing for the both of them. It's funny, because you'd think that would have made them even angrier at me, for having got myself into such a situation, but instead Dad was so furious with House Feanor that he actually started thinking a little better of Beren--
[to her compatriot]
--isn't that right?
[he checks, then goes on with some reluctance at her Look]
That was in part -- in part, not all -- attributable to the fact of the Lord of Dorthonion's mortality, and your consequent eventual freedom from any such bad match.
[he flinches under her glare, but this looking-away brings him into contact with Nerdanel]
I do apologize, my lady.
[she makes a dismissive gesture with her hand, unable or unwilling to speak just then]
Anyhow, he decided he was going to solve the problem at least partially, by sending Celegorm West, and rescuing me, so that I wouldn't ever have to see him again. That got another fight going between him and Mom, over the morality of offensive warfare and the problem that killing Kinslayers makes you one just as much yourself, but he went ahead and got an invasion force together without her approval.
[Finrod and his followers look at each other, completely horrified]
The Greycloak invaded Nargothrond?
Don't be silly -- we'd have heard about it firsthand before now.
[but he still looks shaken too]
Luthien: [grim pleasure]
I'm glad somebody takes the possibility seriously.
They really didn't think -- what, that your father would react with devastating decisiveness upon receiving such a missive, or that he would be capable of carrying out such attempt?
[Luthien raises her hands helplessly]
I don't know. Both, I guess.
It worked out strangely enough, because just as they were getting ready to go -- Dad and Mablung and Beleg and all our warriors -- they got word of another Enemy incursion along the frontier, and went to deal with that instead, and then by the time that was done with, Huan and I were already long gone from Nargothrond, and then after he found that out he decided it was useless to try to hunt me down again, after the first time had gone so poorly, and to try for a diplomatic appeal to Lord Maedhros against his younger siblings, who after all are nominally under his authority and were moving back in with him.
[she looks over at the Ambassador, rather sadly]
--Of course, I wasn't there for any of this, and only heard about it after the fact, so if I'm getting any of it wrong, you ought to correct me.
[he shakes his head, his expression somber.]
Your Highness, how did King Elu discover that you'd flown again?
Beleg sneaked in and listened to the gossip about it all.
[the Captain puts his head down on his knees with a groan]
Sir, this is Cuthalion we're talking about, not some random stranger.
Finrod: [same tone]
Nor would he have tripped the wardings, not being a minion of the Dark Lord.
Teler Maid: [to the Captain, concerned]
What troubles you?
[he only shakes his head, not looking up]
Aye, wherefore this ado of thine?
[looking up, grimacing]
My people let an intruder just traipse through the Guarded Plain and glean all the private business of the City from their conversing, and then leave, without ever so much as noticing a blade of grass out of place throughout. I trained them better than that -- I thought. And with Captain Telumnar in charge of defenses, everything falls apart in a matter of months! It doesn't sound like Lord Gwindor was getting any better cooperation, either.
You're forgetting another factor, as you judge them -- and yourself -- too harshly.
Sorrow. You cannot justly expect them to be as keen and alert as otherwise, when most assuredly the same grief, dismay, uncertainty and guilt afflicted them as ruled in the City proper, as we have heard recounted, soon and late, by our shadowy and sometimes guest. They had not you, and that shall have been no light matter, with all the rest of it.
[checks, with a bitter expression]
No. I can't say that. Though I think they chose wrong, if then they had stayed faithful it's not unlikely they would have partook of our doom, too, and--
[he looks across where the Youngest Ranger is dreaming by the water, and then at his Noldor follower and the rest of the Ten, grimly]
--I couldn't have borne more, and yet I still think their misery both just and insufficient, and I can't sort it out in my own heart, and I'd like to scruff them and shake them all until their eyes rattle for being idiots, the more stupidity I hear about.
[Finrod gives him a very understanding Look, nodding in agreement; Angrod stares pointedly at his nearest sibling, who stares obstinately into the distance.]
But you can't do anything to affect what happens there now.
I know. --I know. [he rests his forehead on his arms, closing his eyes]
[the Hound licks the side of his face without getting any response. The Elf of Alqualonde regards her friend with a concerned expression.]
Your City was your ship, your waverunner, for you.
[he nods without looking up]
Then no words--
[she gives the disguised Maia a Look]
--shall e'er truly serve to take the hurt of the loss of your Work from you. [she rests her hand on his bowed head and then on his nearer hand, oblivious to the impressed surprise shared by the Ten and Nienna's student who have been witness to her self-centered neediness, at this her first gesture of outreach to another. The Captain straightens and grips her fingers before making a sweeping gesture of dismissal which also conveys a distinct element of relinquishment.]
The fate of Nargothrond -- so far as it ever was -- is out of my hands now. I know that. The regret -- that doesn't end.
[he leans back against the Lord of Dogs, his expression resigned but sad, indifferent to the varied looks of concern, understanding, or displeasure directed his way]
I'm sure Orodreth will have figured it out by now and appointed someone more competent and less convinced of it, and found Telumnar an appointment with a grander-sounding title and no leverage to go with it.
Invading. My City. --Those bloody fools!
First Guard: [frowning, to his companions]
I'm surprised Beren mentioned nothing of this when he talked about the letter.
Beren -- was a little preoccupied in Menegroth, then, and I'm not sure how much of an impression it made on him at that point, particularly since it hadn't happened. There were other aspects of that episode which affected him more, unfortunately--
[a touch sarcastic]
--such as the fact that we'd missed a detachment of Enemy fighters by only a few -- score -- leagues of rough terrain and I'd not known about it at all.
[addressing Nerdanel, who has given up even pretending to draw]
At least Celegorm was genuinely motivated -- at least in part -- by a desire to keep me safe in comfort and civilization, as he saw it--
--at least at that point.
For my part, that none of mine own folk e'er did aid thee, nor aught but suffer thee to stay benighted and imprisoned meanwhiles, the while they did indulge upon false gaiety, doth trouble my heart full measure with all the rest of't.
Indeed, it amazes me beyond words' power to describe, that among all our kindred there, not one had conscience nor courage to speak truth and stand beside you in this, Highness. Even in House Feanor's entourage, there should have been more than a few who did not lack the clarity of thought and strength of will to hold firm against wrongdoing!
[the Feanorian shade darts a quick, nervous glance at the dead High King]
Luthien: [with a fatalistic shrug]
They weren't very happy about it ultimately either. A lot of Curufin's picked guards took to hiding where I couldn't see them from the door when it was their turn to guard me, after I took to haranguing them about their guest-duty and familial obligations.
[narrowing her brows]
The bit they hated the most, besides my songs, was the riddle Beren taught me, that one about the cuckoo.
[Aegnor and Angrod exchange silent Looks]
What is a -- a cuckoo?
It's what we call a bell-bird, here.
[half to himself]
They wouldn't like
that, would they . . .
How does it go, this mortal wit, my Princess?
[she lifts her head defiantly, though he was not being sarcastic just then]
--Myself in that day was given up for dead,
fatherless, motherless. I had no life then,
no friend nor elder to turn to. Then came another.
She guarded me well, giving me garments
and strong protection, held me and cherished
as dearly as her own. Even so in her shelter
I soon grew high-hearted among strangers,
striving ever as my spirit must, though but a guest.
Yet still she sheltered me, until I grew stronger
to set my sights wider. She suffered the loss
of her own sons and daughters for that deed.
[there are mixed reactions -- those of Aman do not understand all the connotations, while those hailing from Beleriand get it, but the Ten look more vindictively pleased, while Finrod's kinsmen angry-grim, and the Warden of Aglon insulted and resentful]
How means yon riddle a bell-bird?
In the woods back home, the cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of unsuspecting thrushes and warblers when the parents are foraging, and then go off, leaving their nestlings to hatch and be reared by the other birds.
Teler Maid: [outraged]
Why, that is most unfair, and cheating, indeed!
[the Feanorian lord sneers at her naivete]
Gets worse -- they're not content to skive off the parents and take some of the other chicks' share, they go further and fling out the real young ones, so that they can get all the food and care for themselves. Then after they've destroyed their hosts' family, they fly off and do the same thing themselves to some other victim.
That's disgusting. [pause]
And it does fit, in a peculiar sort of way.
[Finarfin takes his sister-in-law's hand in a gesture intended to comfort, if not effective]
Yes, but it didn't work.
Not the way you intended, but certainly it had some influence after, or else our cousins would still be in power there. Probably in authority, too, if not legitimate, since it sounds as though they had designs against Orodreth, if Celegorm was talking about making himself King over all southern Beleriand. Undoubtedly your exhortations were very much in everyone's hearts when the counter-coup took place.
But is that really a good thing? What with you being dead, mightn't it be more practical to have a strong leadership, at least, regardless of the justice of it, simply for the common good? Because of the War?
[a distinct chill settles upon all present, except Finrod himself, who reaches out and takes firm hold of both her hands]
A King and his Steward who didn't know enough not to antagonize -- further -- their largest and longest-ruling neighbor, whose support covers a broad ethnic base and whose territorial integrity alone has not been compromised during the recent defeats? To put it bluntly -- and insulting nobody present -- Celegorm has less political awareness, I'm afraid, than does Lord Huan, who hasn't any obligations of diplomacy nor would any reasonably expect him, as pack leader, to have. Close contact with those our cousins over an extended time made it increasingly clear to me why Maedhros chose to sequester them prudently a long ways from civilized society, where they weren't likely to antagonize any other Elves outside their own followings.
[his siblings bridle at this, but check when they see he is teasing them, with a slight twinkle in his expression as he gives them a sidelong Look]
Aegnor: [very gruff]
It isn't funny.
Parts of it are, nonetheless.
[turning back to Luthien]
--Had our kinsmen remained in charge, your father would have invaded Nargothrond, would he not?
[Luthien nods grimly]
And that wouldn't have been a good thing.
Luthien: [almost whispering]
[the Sea-elf has been frowning to herself in concentration, and finally speaks out again]
Why make your bell-birds yonder such fell murder, when they need not kill to feed themselves, where 'tis fodder free-growing for all the birds of the wood?
It's the Marring, Sea-Mew. Everything fights itself to some extent, in Middle-earth, needful or not. And they'd rather not work for what they need, when others will do it for them.
Teler Maid: [wrapping her arms around her knees and leaning her chin on them]
Like our ships.
Amarie: [very sadly]
Luthien, none of this is your fault. No more than it's Beren's -- you happened to wander into the way of our Doom, just as he did, and you're no more to be blamed for what followed on that than you are for falling in love in the first place. You wouldn't blame the Sea-Mew here, any more than your uncle my grandfather, for the fact that those vessels were coveted and appropriated by our cousins? The uncoerced behaviour of other persons in or out of Nargothrond is not attributable to your own.
I know that. But--
--I heard a great deal of the opposite of that, in and out of Nargothrond.
Soldier: [somewhat shyly]
[as she turns to look directly at him he loses his hesitancy]
--could you perchance tell us of our own kin and other friends we left behind back home?
I mean -- as best I can -- but I'm afraid it might not be very well at all. I -- met some of your nearest there, more than I know, probably, but -- they didn't all identify themselves as such, and those who did--
[getting quieter and more unhappy]
--tended to blame all of you as much as they did us.
[the Apprentice straightens where he is sitting, watching with a somewhat detached interest, as might be expected of a friendly onlooker at a family reunion, and his expression grows graver]
Soldier: [shaking his head]
I wouldn't expect any different, given what I left to, and the same for nigh us all, I think--
[his friends also nod, their expressions bittersweet as his]
--but still it's home, and hearth, and memory of better days, better than naught--
[Luthien nods in answer, reaching out her hands towards the Ten]
Luthien: [a little choked up]
Give me their names and manners, and I'll do my best to give report of them--
Apprentice: [in a worried, responsible tone]
I don't think that's really a good idea.
[she turns sharply to gaze at him]
Well -- because -- you're supposed to be leaving the conflicts of the past behind here. It's--
Luthien: [cutting him off]
Isn't it about healing?
Apprentice: [defensive, responsible, and increasingly harried]
Yes and reopening old wounds and resentments won't assist that, now will it?
Finrod: [talking right over her]
I don't see anyone putting a stop to our asking -- or even giving stringent warnings against it.
Finrod: [going on regardless]
In fact, I've never heard of anyone being forbidden to send their dead relatives messages -- even if they don't often get answered -- so by extension it doesn't seem as though there'd be any problem with us asking after our living ones--
--there's no one else here to--
Finrod: [still talking over him]
-- as much as we want. No one told me I couldn't send an apology to my lady, after all -- except for her, that is--
[Amarie clenches fists and teeth on a retort]
No, it's just you, you get exceptions made for you all the time--
No. I merely do things nobody else does, and then the Powers that are here have to come up with some way to deal with them. --You should try it some time.
Luthien: [slightly manic tone and expression]
Fingolfin: [pained exasperation]
Might we please leave the rest of our family out of this?
[his nephews don't notice]
And actually that isn't true, because people who don't stop pestering their dead relations are told off to give them peace and quiet to decide in, and stop hounding them with pleas meanwhile.
But that's only temporary--
Fingolfin: [raising his voice loudly for the first time]
--Grinding Ice!! Will you boys leave your grandfather's memory in peace?!
Sorry, Father -- Uncle -- Aunt 'Danel.
[Aegnor bows his head in stiff apology, while their elders share Looks of mild exasperation]
You see, my brother, they're not irreverent because they are dead, but because death of itself suffices not to diminish overconfidence, unmindfulness, obstinacy, pride, or--
[glancing from his nephews to pass with a slow cool gaze over their followers]
--a twisted sense of what is deemed humorous.
I beg your pardon, Sire, but surely you're not referring to any of the present company?
Aegnor: [aside, exasperated]
Is there no end to your stupid jokes?
Fingolfin: [equally wickedly bland]
But of course not, friends.
[the Apprentice shakes his head helplessly, and settles down again leaning his chin on his hand as he gives up trying to excercise any control -- while behind him the orb of the palantir flashes again, quite unnoticed.]
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