7. Scene II - part III
Yeah, I remember, that's the one we used to play in the door-yard on moonless nights. --Boy, did we get in trouble for beating on the "Gates" of "Angband" with sticks when we did the Coming of Fingolfin. Huh.
[he shakes his head in bemusement at it all.]
Hold onto that thought, as you'd say. --When I say "fighting," I mean endless discussions and arguments, the sort that make a council back home look as quick as an exchange of hand-signals. The Old Guard was convinced that If Only They'd Been There, the Battle would never have been lost, and we Young Whelps were obviously incompetent and/or cowards to flee the field.
As you'd expect, that didn't go over well with those who actually were there.
But until we showed up they'd never done anything but talk about it. At nauseating length, I might add.
Then after listening to the debate cycle round twelve or fourteen times, he comes up and says, "Why don't you put your talk to the test and prove that you could have done it better?" Not in those exact words, of course, but you get the picture. And they all shut up for a bit, until they started jeering at him about how it wasn't feasible, and he said, "Well, perhaps not for you, by yourselves," and they said, "What, you could?" and he said nothing, and manifested a quarter-size copy of Glaurung in the middle of the hall. And some lava for him to play in.
After everyone had sorted themselves out, minus those who didn't feel like it just at the moment, and the shouting and the recriminations had died down to a dull roar, he asks, "Well, why didn't you shoot him?" to some of the more obnoxious of the old-timers, and then added, "That's what cousin Fingon did when the Worm was that small," and everything split into an uproar again with the dividing lines not being House Feanor and Everyone Else for once, but Those Who Were There and Those Who Weren't. And the upshot was a challenge to refight it, as much as possible like the real thing, with strict rules governing what could be done and not done, such as having to stay dead if killed, or your horse likewise if mounted, and not being able to make yourself unlimited arrows, but having to glean them off the field, or to mindspeak farther than you could alive. Making sense yet?
No. I think you're saying you somehow pretended to fight the Sudden Flame amongst yourselves in the Halls, like us when we were kids playing Lords of the West versus Morgoth. But I don't understand where the horses are coming from and the arrows and how you can be killed if you're already dead. --Unless you mean you have to stay down like when you get "killed" with a stick that's supposed to be a famous sword.
Second Guard: [encouraging]
That's right. It's exactly the same thing, only instead of pretending we had horses and spears, we -- er --
Steward: [raising his eyebrows]
--Pretended we had horses and spears.
But how would it work? And it doesn't seem like you could convince them, because they would still say, well, yes, but that's you, not Orcs, if you won. And what about the Balrogs and the fire? And anyway if you did make an illusion of lava, it still isn't the same because first of all, it isn't hot if it's an illusion, right? and second, the terrain -- the floor is flat, not hills and stuff, and that makes a huge difference.
We should have had you helping plan it. That would have been fun.
As to your first objection, is it hot -- that depends on how convincing an illusion it is. Which in turn depends equally on how much the artist knows about the subject, and how convincingly then chooses to hold it. Not everyone is willing to think about such things in all their painful details. As to the second -- that's what the debate about the walls concerns. Though it was actually the floor as well as the walls.
Why did King Finrod move the walls? --And the floor?
First Guard: [grinning]
My, he's quick.
--And, by the way, how?
Can't answer the how for you, I'm afraid -- I can't do it myself at all. You'll have to consult these young punks on that matter --
[gestures towards the Youngest Ranger and the Soldier]
--they're the best of us, after His Majesty. I find the stuff far too convincingly solid to convince myself that since one works stone, or anything for that matter, with one's mind equally as much as with one's body, with sufficient concentration and understanding one ought to be able to reshape matter regardless of physical contact. "After all," as he said, "if Lady Vaire can do it, I should be able to."
[silence -- suddenly Beren chuckles, and instantly suppresses it]
Oh yes. Why's a lot easier -- we needed a very large open space to start with -- we didn't do it to full scale, exactly, we had to cheat a little, but it was -- big. And to address that terrain problem you noted.
Goddess of mercy . . . you turned the Halls of Mandos into Ard-galen?!
Not all the Halls, just some.
A little part.
A good bit of it was illusion too -- Thangorodrim, for instance, was just the gates and a shell for the lower portion, since no one actually got inside it.
Good grief! -- and they let you get away with it?
For a while. Eventually they noticed and we had to stop. Which might not have happened if certain people hadn't gone and complained bloody murder about it. It really did have to do with the walls, though.
--And the fact that killing each other, even thus in seeming only, offended the Powers' sense of fitting behaviour within these walls.
I'm not sure that what the King said to her was the most tactful thing to say, either. Even if it was true.
Do I really want to know what it was?
His Majesty was somewhat aggrieved due to the fact that walls had been being reconfigured for some time prior to the reenactment, as part of his experiments, and that he assumed the Lady of the Halls was quite aware of it all along, it not occurring to any of us that she should not be.
There was that business with the missing gallery, too, Sir.
[Beren gives him a cautious look]
Lady Vaire ordered us to remove all traces of alterations throughout the Halls. One of the galleries which was removed was apparently one which she herself had shaped as part of an expansion plan. I say "apparently", because it isn't certain: King Felagund maintains that the one which was his attempt at duplicating it was on the opposite side of the corridor, and that her Ladyship has gotten confused about which was which. None of the rest of us is certain. --They argue about this from time to time, to no certain resolution.
. . .
Look, this is tiresome, standing around. Why don't we make use of the hill that Nessa's kindly left for us and make ourselves comfortable.
Steward: [looking up at the ceiling and shaking his head]
You would think that a pile of dirt and weeds looked comfortable.
Weeds! Those are flowers, Edrahil -- can't you tell the difference? And by comparison to a stone floor -- most definitely, wouldn't you agree?
Steward: [ignoring him]
It seems to be rapidly becoming overgrown with wild roses. Not cultivars, and therefore weeds. And very likely with their natural thorns, and thus not comfortable.
Beren: [trying to interrupt]
Youngest Ranger: [smiling wryly]
Don't waste the effort, Beren.
[he puts an arm over Beren's shoulders and leads the way]
We'll just have to make sure we take the grassy bits and leave the thorns for Lord Edrahil so he'll have something to complain about.
Steward: [to the world at large]
--Young people these days.
Beren: [as everyone settles down on the Hill]
So . . . who played us?
We didn't actually do our bit, because it wasn't important in terms of the overall outcome.
--That is to say, all that happened in terms of the Bragollach was that we never made it to the real front with any reinforcements, so Serech was irrelevant in that sense.
Oh . . . okay. So what did you do?
Headed various units under the the King's command.
Who was he? --The High King?
No, his uncle was quite happy to take part.
Er . . . I meant the current High King.
Oh. No, he took the most difficult part. They didn't actually refight the Duel, since it would have been a draw most likely, but the exercise ended when Fingolfin made it to the Gates. --What's wrong?
You mean -- he --
[breaks off, wide-eyed]
Of course. No one else has studied the War in such depth and in such a technical way, interviewing survivors -- and veterans -- of as many parts of the field as possible. Who better to play the Arranger of Battles?
Beren: [suspiciously bland tone]
Somehow I don't think that would have been seen as appropriate either.
I don't think it helped, no. The resentment over the Bragollach had mostly died down, though, before the Feanorians started things back up again.
Why? I mean, other than being House Feanor, what's the reason?
Isn't that reason enough?
Steward: [to the Captain]
There would be considerably less hostilities did you refrain from provoking them.
Captain: [superior tone]
I have never yet drawn first.
No, but you needn't respond every time.
Captain: [snorts indignantly]
What, I should stand there and let them hack at me without defending myself?
I meant the verbal provocation that invariably results in them drawing upon you.
If they refuse to accept that they are totally outclassed and persist in challenging either with wits or weapons, I see no reason to spare them a lesson. Better they harry me than the King. For everyone -- I'm actually being kind to them, you see.
I'm guessing I really don't want to know the story, but -- why are they going after him? You'd think they'd be ashamed to.
Partly a simmering resentment over the fact that none of them are as good as he--
--the remainder, resentment over his being proven right on a matter of speculative discussion.
Namely, the debate over whether or not -- as House Feanor affects to hold, or did -- the wordsof the Ban were metaphorical, or literal, as our lord argued. The claim that we were never going to be allowed out of here and "long" was a euphemism for "never" -- which was used as the justification for much resentment and obduracy -- being quite thoroughly disproven by the amnesty granted Himself. For a while there it got completely out of hand, but after the last rout I think they've given it up, at least for a while. Sooner or later some idiot's going to --
Wait -- wait a second. You're telling me that he doesn't have to stay here?
I don't understand.
First Guard: [wry grin]
Not that long.
[shaking his head in frustration]
His Majesty has personal reasons for not accepting.
No, actually, not at all. That was part of the haggling-over-terms that gave Lord Namo such headaches.
I would not call it "haggling" --
Really? Then what would you call it?
[the Steward gives him a cool Look]
Haggling, I say, as per the grounds for the offer being equally applicable to all of us.
Essentially, the argument went as follows: seeing that our lord was guiltless in the matter of the Kinslaying, and had departed Aman out of a sense of responsibility towards the rest of us, not for his own ambitions, and in consideration of his generosity and valor in Beleriand -- and it is possible, though these are mere deductions based on certain unguarded remarks, there was also a certain measure of pressure by parental forces -- there should be no real reason to continue to hold him here, and that mitigation of sentence was in order. To this King Finrod countered that we were no less free of guilt where Alqualonde was concerned, and that if he were to be released early on this count, and the deeds and sufferings that had transpired on the further shore, -- then we too should be granted the same. --Or he would not accept it.
Sounds like haggling to me.
Steward: [as if he hadn't spoken]
Pursuant to which there was considerable debate, amongst the Powers, and while we awaited the final decision, word came in reply to the King's messenger that Lady Amarie refused to accept his apology and forbade him to contact her again for a full Great Year.
At that point Himself says, "Never mind about me," just when he'd won his concessions -- the wording of it was a tremendous battle, since he wouldn't apologize for thoughts he never held nor for actions he considered justified, either -- and that miffed the Lord and Lady no end.
Did they withdraw the offer?
Of course not.
But you're still here.
Would you have taken it?
A yen isn't very long to us, Beren.
[comprehending, Beren looks away, intensely embarrassed]
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that--
Fourth Guard: [comfortingly]
It's all right, everyone thinks we're raving lunatics.
I can't believe I asked that--
Beren. We know you wouldn't have taken it under the circumstances. We know you don't think we'd leave him. Stop worrying over such an insignificant thing.
[Beren starts to protest some more, then gives in.]
So you could just walk out of here -- or however it works -- but you don't. That must really irritate everybody.
We're taking bets on whether we're going to be the first in history to be evicted from the Halls.
It would fit with the cyclical notion of history repeating itself, and the wish has been expressed loudly more than a few times that it was allowable.
Youngest Ranger: [correcting]
I think he was trying to ask why they'd want to throw us out at all.
Oh. Well, they were really, really put out with us introducing the concept of dueling in the first place. Battle reenactment is so far beyond that that the Lord and Lady were completely speechless when they found out.
I believe it is the failure to leave off that is the issue now, not the past.
Only it isn't our fault, Sir.
Another debatable point, that.
So what's going on? I don't really understand.
The resentment over our status keeps tending to spill over into outright aggression. Naturally we're not going to allow them to attack us -- or the King -- without a fight. And it goes on from there.
Complicated by the fact that His Majesty refuses to allow his behaviour to be curtailed by threat of offense.
So the rest of the Elves here are angry because you could go if you wanted, and they can't.
A small but active minority, almost exclusively composed of partisans of House Feanor.
Most people aren't ready. Not even the Feanorians --
--especially not the Feanorians--
--and they know it. But there's a lot of resentment left over from Beleriand as well.
That seems all backwards.
It does, doesn't it?
So that's why they might attack him if they see him in the Halls?
Now you have to remember that Finrod Felagund is also and as much a scion of the House of Finwe as any of the more egregious members of the family, and that means that on some level he enjoys competition -- especially against his relatives, and their representatives -- as much as anyone else. Possibly more. Most particularly when nothing critical is depending on the outcome. This means that he can't just lose gracefully and take the challenge out of it -- no, he's got to beat them in new and more spectacular ways each time, which in turn simply incites them to new levels of aggression. The last time they set upon him with an entire company of horse.
What happened then?
Well, put it this way -- none of them are Maiar.
--And don't they realize that now!
Lady Vaire was quite put out with Himself for traumatizing them so badly, but Lady Nia pointed out that they had made tremendous strides in terms of progress towards humility and self-knowledge, so that harangue didn't last long. It did cause the imposition of an absolute crackdown on him rearranging the structures of the place, but there are ways around that.
But what happened?
They cheat, he uses corresponding power. Thirty-to-one and cavalry to boot most definitely being cheating, he forwent restraint and used some of the Dagor Bragollach illusions on them -- only they weren't all illusions: some of the rifts and ridges were quite real -- as the horses weren't he had no compunction whatsoever about employing the technique and even though the napalm was illusory, when you've just been thrown into a twelve-foot crater you didn't believe was there, you're not inclined to test the actuality of such things.
Third Guard: [gleeful]
The most insulting part was when he showed up to meet his uncle without the slightest mention of having been waylaid, and no sign of it at all -- they never even got near him -- and the upper-level House Feanor folk who were waiting to see him set down didn't know what to do -- they couldn't exactly ask, "Oh, did our warriors miss you in the Halls somehow?"
So he's here because he doesn't have to deal with Amarie not forgiving him in here, and you're here because he's here, and nobody actually wants you in here, and the other Noldor aren't sure whether to hate you because you can leave, or because you don't. Even though they don't really want to leave, either.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Some people think trying to hit us is the appropriate response.
Beren: [shaking his head]
If I was alive I would say this needs a drink to make any sense out of.
If you think that would help--
[He takes the flask from his belt and starts to offer it to Beren, but pauses to unstopper it first before handing it to him]
Beren: [staring at the canteen in his hand]
Er -- a drink . . .?
But what is it?
A passable recollection of miruvor.
But you just gave it to me.
I thought you wanted a drink. Sorry if I misunderstood
But how can it be real? If it's your memory, not mine, then how come it didn't disappear when you handed it to me?
Because I don't want it to?
How do we know it's the same for me as it is for you?
We don't -- but . . . we don't know that when we're corporate either, do we? I could have experienced the taste of it differently then.
[Beren shakes his head, baffled]
Beren: [increasingly manic]
Is it an illusion? But what does illusion mean here? If we don't have have any bodies, then isn't everything an illusion? Is that how it works?
Do you remember the last night we dared risk lighting a fire, and you "made the mistake" -- I think that was what you said -- of asking --What color was? and if color was in things, how could it be changed by light? And after when he'd finished the preliminary explanation, you said something like, "If it was really that complicated nobody would be able to see" --?
--Did I ever apologize for laughing? I didn't mean to make you feel foolish.
Well, it's rather like that. I could try to explain it, but I'm not sure it wouldn't just make it worse.
Edrahil, do you want to take a shot at explaining the notion of the "persistence of ideas" --?
Beren: [getting stressed out again]
Why can I even see you? Or anything? Or feel things?
Captain: [forceful tone]
Beren, it's all right. You needn't if it troubles you.
[collects the canteen back from him]
No. I shouldn't be able to. I'm not real, I don't have a body, so things shouldn't seem real to me either.
[gripping his wrist with his remaining hand, pulling at his sleeve]
--What am I? What is this? How can I sense myself when I don't exist?
But your body isn't what senses things. Not without you at home to perceive them. So why shouldn't you be aware, regardless?
[Beren is seriously thrown by this and hunches over with his head almost to his knees, on the verge of an anxiety attack]
Youngest Ranger: [to the Steward]
It would have been better if you'd tried, Sir.
[Huan crowds in and starts nudging Beren with his muzzle, until the latter straightens up, so that he can rest his head on Beren's knees.]
He wants you to scratch his nose. --Huan thinks you're real. And you're not going to deny him existence, are you?
[Beren shakes his head, not looking up. The Captain puts a hand on his shoulder.]
You were going to tell us what happened, and why you're here.
It really is a long story.
And we've got plenty of time.
[Beren makes a mostly unintelligible reply in which the word "stupid" is about all that can be heard]
Beren? Beren, look at me. You don't have to understand being a ghost any more than one's got to understand being alive. I don't know much about mortal ghosts -- you're the only one of us to ever have met one, before now -- but if my own experience is anything to judge by, you remember yourself and the way you experienced Middle-earth in your lifetime too clearly to let that go. Does that make sense at all?
[Beren half-nods, half-shrugs]
There are people who choose to drift around here in an oblivious haze, completely caught up in their own pasts -- and then there are those, no less self-obsessed, who most definitely and definedly interact with everyone else, much to everyone else's regret. Some haven't recovered from the distress of being killed, and can't or won't pull themselves together, and there's nothing that anyone can do for them until they decide they want to communicate with the rest of society and make the effort. There are people who simply refuse to be seen. We find it unspeakably tedious, and there's no one here we've killed whom we're trying to avoid. Do you have reasons to interact with the world at large? Are you stubborn enough to try? Both rhetorical questions, of course.
[leans a bit closer]
And you certainly needn't feel ashamed of showing fear in this company, or looking a fool, or coming undone.
Beren: [low voice]
When I first got here I couldn't remember much of anything. I couldn't see. I didn't even remember my name until Huan found me. All I knew was I had to stay until she came.
Beren, you're not supposed to be dead. Of course you'll--
I'm mortal, of course I'm supposed to die--
Well, Himself has been having certain complicated discussions with the Powers that are in charge here, most particularly with Lady Nia, about that very matter.
[the rest of the Ten look troubled, and Beren gives him a blank expression, and he drops the subject]
Regardless, you're not meant to be violently evicted. If you hadn't been killed, if you'd somehow survived -- I'm making an assumption here, that it wasn't peaceful or natural, but am I wrong?
[Beren shakes his head]
--then you'd still be unconscious, weakened and confused for a prolonged amount of time. I've seen Men wounded throughout the course of the Leaguer, and aside from the prolonged part, it never seemed much different from ourselves, the wandering in bad dreams and disorientation and various lingering effects after a severe injury. Am I not right? That your mind also feels the impact of a deep wound?
[Beren looks away, with a shudder, and after a second gives a very quick nod]
Everything from the time they found me and rescued me to the time when I got shot is pretty hazy.
That isn't a long story at all.
Who shot you?
Curufin. No, I meant, that part wasn't very interesting. I kept waiting for it to end and me to wake up, because it didn't seem like it could be real. --That happened when the sons of Feanor caught up with us.
I thought they were going to Himring?
But wait, they were in Nargothrond. Did you go back, then?
You remember about that. What's-her-name told us, about how the Prince threw them out so hard they bounced--
--a little late, but better late than never--
--and didn't let them get lynched in the backlash.
What is her name, anyway?
No one knows. She still refuses to say, and her friends respect that decision. She was born in Formenos, and none of us knew her in the old days.
But it doesn't matter any more!
To her it still matters very much.
-- Though maybe he should have if they started going after Beren for revenge. Is that what happened?
Kind of. They tried to kidnap Tinuviel again.
The Ten: [outraged, nearly simultaneously:]
Beren: [correcting himself]
It was more a target of opportunity thing, they weren't looking for us, I don't think. We were right about halfway across Dimbar when they caught up with us.
Couldn't you have hidden? There's a fair amount of cover through there.
We were -- I was kind of distracted. The bastards almost ran us down and Curufin pulls over and yanksher up before we could get out of their way and flings her across his saddlebow like he's going to ride off with her. I -- I jumped on him and tried to pull him off the horse, and instead I ended up bringing all four of us crashing down, and Tinuviel got thrown clear of the horse, and Curufin was kind of stunned too, and I tried to rip his head off until she came round and whistled me off him. It's a wonder neither one of us got gutted or lost a leg from the Ancrist. --Apparently Celegorm was about to run me through as well, but Huan got in between us and held him at bay. I didn't even notice that.
That was not one of my more rational moments, all right. Huan probably wouldn't have let them take Tinuviel, or get very far, but I didn't even think of that. I just wanted to kill the spawn-of-Morgoth with my bare hands.
I know. She told me I was acting like an Orc too, by implication.
[the Ten look at each other]
We were just thinking it was a shame she made you stop. At least I was.
[nods all around]
You brought down a cavalry charger and defeated the Feanorion, unarmed?
Tulkas said he helped. Or something. It certainly didn't feel like something I was doing by myself.
I was really angry. It -- it kind of all came together when he laughed. It was the same as at the Council after they won. If there had been a rock handy I could have pounded his face off with it, but choking him until his tongue was hanging out was almost as good.
Couldn't you have cut his throat with his own knife?
I didn't even think about weapons. It wouldn't have been half as satisfying, anyway. I wanted him to suffer, and then some. And to know it was me that was killing him.
I'm surprised she made you break off.
She said we were doing Morgoth's work for him by fighting. And even retroactive Kinslaying is still Kinslaying. --I just sometimes wish I had been too caught up in the moment to hear her until I'd finished crushing his windpipe. Especially after I got shot.
But that wasn't what killed you?
No, that was a long time after. Er -- you know what I mean. I took that bastard's stuff -- I figured he owed me replacements, since it was their fault I lost my gear -- which didn't actually do me any any good at the time, because I wasn't going to kill them and there wasn't any way it was feasible to put on his mail safely there -- and I also figured he should pay something to her, so I took his horse, too, and we were leading it away towards the forest, when--
Just a second, Beren -- have I got this right? --You confiscated Curufin's arms and armour, and his horse?
Yeah. And his saddlebags. I left him the clothes on his back, but that was all.
But he shot you?
I'm afraid I wasn't exactly careful of his hair or his face yanking off his hauberk and padding, either. I kind of accidentally stepped on him a couple times, too. Which was satisfying in the short term but probably contributed to things.
No, I meant, with what?
Oh. He doubled up with Celegorm -- they were still heading through Dungortheb, I guess to their brothers' place out East, though I thought it was crazy, doing that with no armour instead of the long way around.
[he pauses and looks pensive]
You all right?
What? --Yeah. Yeah, I was just thinking if it would have been possible without armour for me. Answer's no. But then I didn't have someone else for a bodyguard, or a horse. And they weren't going through the mountains, just down the Old Road.
You were going to explain how you happened to get shot.
Right. So anyway, before they ride on, Celegorm puts a curse on us, tells us it would be better to starve to death in the wilds than make them angry, and wherever we go it wouldn't do us any good, because I'd never succeed in holding onto anything I managed to get -- either the Silmaril or Tinuviel. Which didn't take long to come true.
But you wanted to know about him shooting me. His brother. --Me, not his brother.
[he looks tired and frustrated with himself]
--We know what you mean.
[Beren nods in thanks]
All right, so we're walking away towards the forest, and Huan's coming with us -- he was following along, kind of reassuring the horse on the other side, and Curufin grabs his brother's bow and pulls on us, and I guess Huan must have heard that or something, 'cause he spins around and jumps in between and bites the arrow out of the air the way you can grab a javelin if you're in the right place, but the bastard's got another one nocked and ready to loose and he does that before Huan could charge them, and -- he was aiming both times at Tinuviel. --Not at me.
Only he was, and he knew it. So I stepped in front of her, and that's how I got shot.
I figured if the Curse was going to come true, it wouldn't be the way he thought.
Where were you struck?
[Beren gestures towards his upper left chest, just under his collarbone]
[He gets up with Beren and marks the level of Beren's wound on himself with his hand -- about the middle of his sternum. He looks very grim, and sounds more so.]
We're almost the same height. --That wasn't an accident or a scare-shot.
[the Ten exchange looks of increasing anger and comprehension. Furious:]
He was shooting to kill her.
Yeah, well, he didn't -- that was left for me.
Captain: [taking him by the shoulders]
Beren. Whatever possible mischance or mischances might have ambushed you out of the Void -- I will never believe that you did anything -- even by accident -- to harm Luthien. Call me a naive fool, if you like, but I don't believe it.
It was my fault she died.
I made a dumb mistake -- a lot of dumb mistakes -- and got killed, and . . . and she faded.
Faded? The Princess chose to follow you?
Beren: [shaking his head]
That's not -- you can't-- you're making it sound like she was responsible.
Most of us in the King's following have known the Court of Doriath since before your people were born. I don't think there's one soul here who's met her who'd doubt that the child of Melian and Elu Thingol should prove as resolute in love as those two -- any more than we who know you believe that you'd ever hurt her. Sit down and stop blaming yourself for things you didn't do.
[the Captain pushes Beren down gently, while the Youngest Ranger and the Fourth Guard pull him down from either side, and sits down himself]
So what happened after you got shot?
I don't remember.
[at their Looks]
No, I mean, I passed out, I only know what Tinuviel told me. Afterwards. Huan went after them and then they took care of me, and that made me realize that it was never going to work, there was no way I could go on pretending it could, and I had to convince them.
Er . . . what?
That she couldn't stay with me, we couldn't just pretend that everything was fine like it used to be and the world didn't matter to us -- we had to resolve this and she needed to go back to Doriath where it was safe. --Or it was, then.
No, I -- I meant, earlier -- I was a little confused by all the "theys".
I believe that the first reference was to the Lords Celegorm and Curufin, the second and third to the Lord of Dogs and the Lady Luthien. --Is that correct?
--Someone else should really be telling this.
No, you're doing fine -- we just want more details. --Did I really hear you say that Huan here actually attacked that pair of traitors?
[Huan makes an unhappy grumbling noise]
I'm not entirely sure that -- technically -- the Feanorions' actions should be considered treason, seeing that--
Captain: [cutting him off]
--They had guest-right and they dishonored that along with kin-right. That makes them traitors not just once, but twice over, even if they never did swear fealty. Now be quiet, Edrahil, I'm not going to argue semantics, we want to hear what happened to Beren.
Steward: [smiling a little, for the first time]
It's all right. Please continue.
So anyway, yeah, Huan went for them, and she said he was really scary, she'd never imagined he could look like that, he was even angrier than he had been fighting Sauron, and if I hadn't been hurt and he hadn't broken off the chase to come back and help me she doesn't know what he would have done to them. So then she pulled it out -- the arrow -- and cleaned it out, and he found her some kind of plant to use for a pain-killer--
Didn't recognize it. I don't know the lowland vegetation as well as the northern types. Worked, though -- even the scar didn't hurt. --She sang it shut. It should have taken weeks to knit, and maybe never properly, and it healed overnight.
What class was the point?
All-purpose military-hunting, long barbs to keep it in--
[makes a demonstrating V with his left hand]
--and sharpened on the outside. --Not birdshot. The sort of thing you don't dare try to take out if you don't know what you're doing and have irons ready in case something big's been cut. --And then she built a shelter out of branches to keep the wind and rain out and a fire and kept me from getting dehydrated and getting trapped by the power of the Dark while I was unconscious.
You sound surprised.
It -- just -- is not what I thought of when I thought of Elven princesses, um, chopping up branches and dragging piles of wood around and so forth.
And you've met exactly how many?
Er -- two . . .
Finduilas is hardly a statistical sampling, you know. You never met His Majesty's sister, or his cousin, or--
Beren, if you happen to encounter the High King's daughter, don't bring up the sons of Feanor to her. She doesn't like hearing that they're bloody maniacs and insists it's all a misunderstanding, and she tends to the preemptive strike, even if she does apologize after.
But anyhow, you know that a majority of our medical people are female -- and you know what Healers do -- so what are you so amazed about?
Tinuviel just always seemed so -- so much too nice, to be completely unfazed by blood up to her elbows and deranged relatives trying to kidnap her and getting knocked off a horse and knocked out and me being hurt and having to do everything by herself-- with Huan, yeah, but there wasn't a whole lot of help he could give her past that point, except give moral support and keep Curufin's horse from running off.
Warrior: [very interested]
Which one was he? Stormwing or Watersong? Those were their best steeds -- I'm sure they would have taken them.
I dunno -- what did they look like?
The dappled-grey one or . . . er, the other dappled-grey one . . .
The big grey one with spots.
He never said what his name was -- I just called him "Roch" and he didn't seem to mind.
[quiet laughter all around]
I'm pretty sure he called me "that maniac who knocks horses over" -- it was a long time before he stopped looking at me with his eyes all white around the edges trying to see what I was doing wherever I was, even after Huan took him aside and explained it was an accident.
[shaking his head]
--I didn't know you coulddo that. I guess it's like pulling your mount over on yourself, but -- he wasn't a pony, by a long shot--! It was kind of funny the way he used to try to keep Huan in between us when we were walking at first, and if Huan was off scouting or hunting -- he'd try to hide behind her, like I couldn't see him if his head was out of sight.
It was kind of cute -- at first Tinuviel didn't realize what he was doing, and then when she did she'd walk a little faster or a little slower so that he'd have to hurry to keep up, or then stop to stay hidden, or then she'd hop up and talk to us from his back. I've never seen an animal try to look three directions at once. He was a nice horse, though. I thought it would be a lot harder to ride him -- oh, I'll have to tell him he was right, I could have done it for his plan. King Finrod, I mean.
[sighs, with a nostalgic smile]
Those were good days.
[checks -- his smile fades]
Well -- by comparison. While they -- lasted. I--
[he looks down, biting his lip, and rocking a little; the Guard beside him puts an arm around his shoulders and gives him a little shake]
Fourth Guard: [consolingly]
--It's all right -- you don't think we'd grudge you any happiness, do you?
"While they lasted" -- yet obviously they did not last long. What happened to bring them to an end??
I -- uh -- I had to go get a Silmaril.
Several of the Ten: [simultaneously]
I had to.
But that doesn't make any sense at all, lad. You were supposed to get the stone to win the Lady's hand -- but the Princess came to find you, so the question of needing it to break her free from Doriath was moot. Why didn't you just -- what's that mortal word? --elope--?
That wouldn't have been honorable. --I made a vow. I promised to fulfill the task.
But you know it wasn't a fair task.
But I promised.
And Tinuviel was going to get killed staying with me, or worse. We just smacked the Enemy's top commander upside the head, so to speak, and this was the same guy who spent four bleeding years trying to hunt me down. I could imagine what he would try to do to us now.
But could he? I mean, without any base to work from, with his elite corps ripped to shreds, how much can he do now? That night essentially put him in the same spot you were in those last years in Dorthonion. I would be very surprised if he weren't replaced by someone with no failure record and consequently no real experience of the War.
[Beren shrugs uncomfortably]
That doesn't do anything about local Orc-bands and the rest of the minions that escaped from the Tower, in fact it could be worse because they didn't have anyone to tell them where to be now. And the sons of Feanor still being out there. And even with Huan we couldn't hardly protect her from her two psychotic kinsmen. --I kept trying to tell her this. And she kept saying we could just sneak into her parents' back woods and hide out along the edges the way I did before, and we'd be fine.
[growing frustrated just remembering it]
And I kept trying to explain that this wasn't going to work, no way in hell was it going to work, and she needed to be someplace where there were defenses, strong defenses, and that meant Doriath, because there was also no way in hell we could go back to Nargothrond -- because I knew what happened to isolated farmsteads and people who tried to hold out on their own in the open. And she'd just keep on saying we'd be fine.
[the Ten exchange troubled glances, considering the problem]
--And that there was no way in hell she was ever going to go back to Menegroth unless I came with her. And that wasn't going to happen without a Silmaril. Though I thought it was optimistic to think that even doing that would guarantee safe-conduct. So I got up really early one morning when she was still asleep and I told Huan to stay with her and keep her safe, and then I rode back again west and north to Ard-galen.
Without saying good-bye!?
I couldn't have done it otherwise. And . . . I wasn't strong enough for the argument -- I would have ended up giving in again that day.
[The Captain glances over at the Steward, who does not look at him]
Did you truly believe it possible that you might accomplish it, on your own?
Beren: [shaking his head]
No. But I couldn't not try. I just couldn't let her get killed or -- or caught, and have it be my fault. Not if I could do something to stop it. I thought she'd be reasonable enough to go home once it was obvious I was really gone this time.
What happened to "Horse"?
I turned him loose after we got to the Plains -- I told him he didn't have to go back to Curufin if he didn't want to, I didn't want him getting stressed about it, and going through what Huan went through, plus the spiders and the fell things on the way there, and he was glad enough to see the last of me -- though I think he did finally trust me a little by then. Last I saw him he was heading south towards the river as fast as he could gallop.
You convinced an Eldar war-steed to return to the site of the Battle?
[pause -- stifled:]
I would say -- yes, he trusted you -- but not a little.
So, I was going to try to make it in -- I figured it couldn't be much worse than Dungortheb, there had to still be springs and stuff, even if nothing grew there any more, and so long as it wasn't too contaminated I could still drink it, because it couldn't take anywhere near as long as the mountains to get over, since it was flat. But not completely flat, so probably there would be enough cover I could evade any patrols up to the walls, and then maybe find a route up like we had planned initially for the mission, sneak in through some access way or something. And then get killed. --Or more likely caught, again.
[silence; the Ten exchange significant glances]
I've never known anyone who could combine the most outrageous self-confidence and absolute pessimism quite the way you do.
Well, it didn't happen that way, because it turns out Huan's one of those dogs who puts the most creative interpretations on "stay" --
[scratches Huan's ears -- in the "doting dog-owner" voice:]
--isn't that right, boy? That's what you did--
[Huan snuffles against his face]
--and so he decided that "stay with Tinuviel" could be stretched to mean "bring Tinuviel with me wherever I go" and they showed up before I actually got anywhere and yelled at me for being an idiot. It was really awful -- I saw them from a distance and thought "I don't believe it, I'm almost exactly where we were caught before, this is some kind of twisted game the Enemy's playing, letting me get two leagues farther along" -- and then Huan left because it would be more of a risk for us to be seen with him than he could be helpful defending us, and to go round up some reinforcements, even though he didn't say anything about that then and we didn't know about that till later.
[there are some confused looks exchanged at this, but no one interrupts]
And then we crossed the desert -- that part seemed really hard at the time, but by comparison to the rest of it it was actually pretty easy -- but the sun was really rough on Tinuviel, and I kept cursing myself for dragging her into it, but I couldn't stop -- and then we got to the road -- this causeway thing they've built out of slag and rubble and stuff, it goes a long way out into the Plains, and there was shade next to that. We hid down there from a troop of Enemy soldiers being sent out West -- I think they must have been going to the siege of the High King's fortress -- and after they were past we tried to get through the Gates, but this Wolf -- Thing -- there, the size of a, a, -- no, bigger -- than the biggest wild oxen you've ever seen. You know how much bigger Huan is than most werewolves? She said that's how much bigger than Huan Sauron was. When he was a wolf. --Well, that's how much bigger than Sauron this one, that was lying there in front of the Gates, was.
[there are some hasty calculations made and more looks exchanged]
You're talking about something three-to-four times the size of an ordinary warg there.
Yeah. He gets up and gets in the way -- I mean, even more in the way, 'cause he already was in the way -- gets in my face, and starts sniffing suspiciously at her in spite of her cloaks and all I could think was, Tinuviel was gonna die, and--
One of the Ten: [cutting over, from the background]
"--and it would all be your fault--" [Beren stops, turns, and glares at the Captain]
Captain: [raising his hands]
Wasn't me. --Someone beat me to it.
[Beren closes his eyes and makes an exasperated noise]
Now I forgot where I was.
You were explaining about the Wolf at the door, and how it was all your fault.
Beren: [gives up, laughing]
--All right, all right. So he's there, and I'm thinking, "We're dead, I have to fight this guy, and there's no way I can take him--" and she just steps out from behind me and says "Down!" and wham!--
--there's this flash like when lightning hits a tree right by you but without any noise and he just drops on the ground like a felled ox and that's it. And we just went sneaking past him into Angband, like a couple of rats going by a sleeping cat.
First Guard: [awed]
She killed it?
No, it would have been better if we could have, because then he wouldn't have got into Doriath, but Huan said it was fated so I'm not sure anyone else even could. He was just sound asleep. Anyway, we thought maybe we could duck in and hide and check out the place before doing anything else, but -- He -- spotted Tinuviel right away and threatened to blast her down right there, if she didn't explain what she was doing there -- and she did this amazing act where she told him the exact truth -- only not all of it -- and sounding like she was completely helpless and terrified, and he thought he was in control and playing her like a fish on a line, only it was completely the other way round. I had to go against all my instincts to rush out and defend her and just trust her to know what she was doing, like with Carcaroth.
You weren't noticed?
I was flat on the floor under his chair in the dark. Everyone was watching Tinuviel.
You were under Morgoth's throne?!
I know, it sounds really lame -- but storming out waving a sword into the middle of a hall full of Balrogs and assorted minions didn't seem like it was going to work all that well.
Soldier: [to the Second Guard beside him]
Somehow I just had an image of Feanor when he said that.
Yeah, well, you know -- lurking around in the shadows and dashing out when they're drunk and careless is more my style.
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