8. Scene II - part IV
- Second Guard:
- Yes, but you said he was shooting at the Princess. Don't you think that was the reason?
[pause] Beren: [deliberately]
I'm having a hard time imagining this at all.
It would help if any of us had actually seen the inside of Angband ever, or if Beren had bothered to describe the scenery.
[the next several exchanges all overlap as people talk over each other and answer different questions]
Ah, it was really ugly--
I'm still trying to imagine a wolf the size of an aurochs or larger.
--it looked kind of burnt, kind of like the Nightshade, only worse than the edges you guys saw, and--
How peculiar --I'm trying very hard not to.
--there were designs on them that I don't want to remember. And Balrogs. Multiple Balrogs.
Did you run into Glaurung?
You know, I was wondering what was lacking to make the experience complete, and guess what, that was it. Somehow there was a disaster that we actually missed.
Captain: [also straightfaced]
Shocking inefficiency. I wonder how that happened.
Beren, I know you're superb at that "lurking around" business, but I'm still finding it somewhat hard to believe that you were able to wander freely inside Thangorodrim without being spotted. Not to mention Her Highness.
Oh. We -- we were disguised as minions.
I see. That makes sense.
Captain: [noticing Beren's downcast look]
Oh . . . I was just thinking.
[he checks briefly, and goes on more brightly:]
--You know if I'd been able to do that myself back in Dorthonion, I could have--
--Lad, if you'd been able to turn yourself into an Orc during your War, you'd have gotten yourself into so much trouble you wouldn't have lived long enough to get yourself into more trouble. --You know I'm right.
<[Beren ducks his head, smiling a little]
Now you can't stop now -- you've just gotten to the most exciting part. So far.
[he reaches over and shakes Beren's shoulder, trying to get him to look up. Earnestly:]
You know we -- none of us -- wanted you here. But it's too hard for us not to be pleased now that you have turned up. Stop fretting. Trust the King. --Trust your Lady. They'll work things out for the best.
[Beren sighs and nods]
Okay, where was I?
Under Morgoth's seat, you said.
Yeah -- when I made that vow that I'd avenge Da if it took me to the Gates of Angband to challenge the Dark Lord himself -- that was not the scenario I had in mind. So I'm hiding there, and looking out between his heels, trying not to make any noise, and I knew he was a giant, I remembered about him smashing big pits in the ground when he killed the High King -- we even passed them on the way in, they're still there -- but I wasn't ready for how much larger than us. Or having to lie there and watching his minions eating corpses. I still have nightmares about that place.
You said he recognized Lady Luthien?
She came down in front of the hall when he told her to, and tried to keep bluffing that she was a courier from Sauron, but he goes, "What are you talking about? We just had the reports from Taur-na-fuin. You're not one of our people!" and--
That's almost exactly what happened to us--
Yeah, I know -- again. So she admits it, and he starts laughing and wants to know what her dad's thinking to send her on a mission, if Thingol had lost it finally. And she explains how he doesn't know she's there, that he tried to keep her too hemmed in and she ran away, and all roads eventually lead to Angband because that's where the power in Middle-earth is and she realizes that now, and she's willing to serve him as an entertainer because she needs to and has no place left to go, and he starts making all kinds of crude remarks about needs and serving and I'm trying to keep my cool and not wreck it this time by losing my temper--
No, you can't have all that blame. None of us were expecting to hear her name under those circumstances, and all of us reacted. Himself most of all.
[Beren does not look entirely reassured but goes on:]
And anyway what could I have done? Maybe hamstrung him? That didn't slow him down much the last time, and it didn't seem like it would help her any. So I trusted her.
Best thing you could have done.
It was hard. When he reached out to grab her, saying something like, "This will make me feel better about the gods enjoying our misery," it was all I could do not to lunge for his ankle. And Tinuviel says, "Nope! You listen to me now!" and melts right out of his hands like he was trying to catch hold of a shadow, and she flings open her capes and starts to dance, like swallows over the water, that quick, or like real bats when you see them out in the door-yard flying after bugs at twilight, to her own music, and it was like Esgalduin pouring in to drown us all with sleep.
Of course. Not like I could resist it, if a god couldn't.
She couldn't -- be selective?
[Beren shakes his head]
You don't understand, this was the real thing -- this was like a flood when the ice melts up in the mountains, it's coming down and everything in its way is going down. But it wasn't a weapon -- not like knocking someone over the head to put them out -- she gave -- us -- what we needed -- what we really wanted: absolute peace. Complete rest from pain, and having to think, and regrets, and hating each other, and that's why there was no way anything there could hold out against it. Not even Morgoth. Though she said it took longest to take him down, but in the end he slumps down like an avalanche and the Iron Crown goes rolling across the floor --
[making a sweeping gesture with his hand]
--and not even that woke anyone up. She said it sounded not like metal clanging but like when thunder hits all the sudden, it was that big and heavy. So then she wakes me up and I crawl out from under trying not to step on any of the other minions or the snakes -- hey, why are there adders in Angband? Just loose on the floor -- his people just stepped over them, or on them, or kicked them out of the way. And it was cold, so they should have been hibernating but these were awake, until they weren't any more.
Steward: [thinks for a second]
? ? ?
--Experimental Dragons. Did they appear to be fashioned out of metal?
Oh. I -- I'm not really sure, it was hard to see -- but they did make a lot more noise than adders usually do when they moved. Like someone filing something. So maybe. And I got up, and . . . there they were.
[he stops, staring into the distance, until the Captain clears his throat]
I . . . it was like a sunset, and the northern lights, and sunrise, and when you look up through water and see daylight, all together . . .
But it was like sunlight through Autumn leaves in the wind, too, and the Stars . . .
[pulling himself together]
And then we tried to get the jewel off the Crown -- it was way too big and heavy to take the whole thing, like trying to carry a cartwheel made out of metal -- and I'm trying to pop it out of the setting with my bare hands, and it isn't working, and Tinuviel's hovering like she's about to take off again, trying to get me to hurry, and I'm getting more and more frustrated, and then after all -- stupid! --that I remembered about the Angrist, and I got that and sawed off the prongs that were holding it on, and . . . light. I thought it would feel cold, like a polished stone, but it felt like sunlight in my hand. It shone right through -- like a candle through cloth -- but it wasn't hot. It didn't even occur to me that I should be afraid -- like picking up bees. I knew they weren't afraid of me, or angry, they wouldn't do anything to me . . .
[he is rapt at the memory again]
That's right. I'd forgotten all about that -- how dangerous they were. You shouldn't have been able to even touch them.
Ah. My conjecture was mistaken.
I had assumed that was the cause of your maiming.
No, that -- that was a little later.
[pause -- he continues under the gentle pressure of encouraging looks]
So then I thought if the first one came off that easy, and we weren't going to try this again, I shouldn't waste the chance because who was ever going to get another like that? and I went to hack out the second one, and the knife -- you remember how Curufin used to brag how it could cut through anything? Well, he was wrong.
It stuck and popped apart when I tried sawing the next setting, and the piece of it went flying up like that -- bing --
--just like an arrow, or a spear, and hit him in the forehead. And he kind of snorts and moves around like someone asleep who's got a fly walking on his face and we didn't dare keep trying, we just grabbed the Jewel and ran like crazy. And we almost made it.
[The Ten share glances of regret - Beren does not realize what they are assuming]
But Carcaroth was already awake, and he's standing there sniffing around as we come up, and the instant he sees us it's over. There's no other way to go, and he's blocking the exit, and he's mad. And Tinuviel was already almost collapsing when she took the spell off me, we're holding onto each other pulling each other along but she's leaning on me more, and she just gives him this look, like, "I can't do this again, -- but I have to" and he sees her and his hackles go right up -- she was the one he most wanted to kill at the beginning, she really bothered him even when he thought she was Thuringwethil. So I pushed her behind me and shoved the Silmaril up in his face.
Instinct, mostly. --I thought if it burned Morgoth, it might repel him, or at least blind him, or at least have a chance where a blade wouldn't -- and it did, for a second, but he was too strong, or I didn't do it right, and he just whipped right back around with his head and bit at it like it was a fly.
[bringing his left hand down hard against his wrist]
He went through it like kindling -- I could hear the bones crunch when he closed, there wasn't any time for me to pull back or anything -- and bolted it down like he'd caught the fly and was swallowing it. And then he just stood there for a second with his eyes all glowing and growling, just like a guard dog would for trespassers -- except for the eyes glowing -- and I knew we'd had it, but then he gives this howl like he'd been shot, but it's as loud as the whole pack would be, and he kind of arches like a fish jumping out of the water, and then he keeps on bucking like a colt -- or like a hooked salmon, and he flings around for a minute there before dashing outside like he was closing with deer. And there was nothing but air between us and the Plains.
So you didn't die then.
No. Luthien dragged me out of there and we managed to get clear of the Gate before it fell in.
Carcaroth wasn't waiting for you?
Why did it fall in?
No, he was gone. Nothing but dust clouds and echoes way out there. Huh?
What was that about the Gate?
Oh. Morgoth woke up then, I guess, since there was this unbelievable roaring noise coming from below and the walls started shaking and the floor, and it just kept getting worse -- all the wargs in the place started howling the way dogs do sometimes, and rocks were falling down from the ceiling, and after we got out there was a landslide from up on Thangorodrim and it filled up most of the archway with rubble and took down a lot of the masonry over the Gate itself.
That seems rather counterproductive behavior, doesn't it?
Yeah, his temper-tantrum meant that the pursuit couldn't get after us right away. So anyway she carries me the rest of the way out and into the open as far as she could, and we couldn't go any farther, and we collapsed in one of the gouges left by Grond, which was a little bit of cover, and she keeps trying to heal me even though her voice makes her a target, and the lightning bolts are hitting awfully close--
Yeah, he wasn't willing to wait for them to unblock the door, I guess, and these fireballs kept coming at us from the peak, and the ground kept shaking, and I thought the whole world was ending or something. She actually sucked all the poison out of the amputation site -- that sounds so much neater than it was -- it -- well, you've seen a dog eating a hare -- it was blood and ends and sharp bits and--
[he stops short and bends down to hide his face against Huan's coat again. Brief pause]
Are you all right?
(Beren shakes his head, not looking up. Huan makes a grumbling noise, his brow furrowing, but doesn't move (which would force Beren to straighten)]
First Guard: [understandingly]
None of us had to watch.
[the Youngest Ranger pats Beren on the back, his expression sympathetic]
[when he still doesn't move, the Captain signals to the Youngest Ranger, who obediently pokes Beren hard in the ribs, causing him to sit up in outrage]
You're not being very considerate, stopping all the time like this, you realize.
But I don't remember the next part.
[The Guard on his right grabs him by the shoulder and shakes him hard in humorous exasperation]
--Well, did you die or not then? That's all we want to know.
--Speak for yourself!
--Star and Water! can't you just tell the story, and save the apologizing for after?
Well . . . I . . . was just lying there while she worked on me, and I kept blacking out and coming to again and wondering why I couldn't die, and after a bit Tinuviel finished singing and pulled her cloak over us and we just waited, and at some point I didn't wake up again.
And what about her?
The Eagles came and picked us up and took us back to Huan. Back to Doriath, as a matter of fact, right where we started from when I tried to sneak off.
So you were still alive at that juncture?
I'm not doing a very good job of telling this, am I?
Most people are somewhat disoriented and find it difficult to recount their death-experiences without some initial counselling. Of course, you've always been somewhat disorganized and deficient as a storyteller, though no more so than most mortals.
[Beren gives him an anxious look]
Don't listen to Master Particular there. I'm enjoying the tale so far.
I am speaking only from a bardic standpoint, in answer to milord's direct question. Continuity and coherence are challenges for a human mind to achieve.
That's because Ea is complicated and messy and happens all at once. --So you weren't dead. Yet.
Um, no, I wasn't dead, though I wasn't sure about it at the time. I--
I thought you didn't remember anything --
Wait a minute, wait a minute -- what Eagles? Where did they come from?
I think they live in the mountains down south of Rivil Falls.
You mean -- the Eagles. --Manwe's Eagles?
The sacred Eagles, yeah. Ordinary eagles couldn't carry anybody anywhere. Except maybe a baby and that's not a fun thing to think about.
You got a divine intervention to pull you out of there? Like the King's uncle?
Yeah, only we were still alive. Mostly.
But why did he send them for you? Was it because the Princess is Melian's daughter?
[the Youngest Ranger looks as if he's going to say something, but doesn't want to interrupt]
No, because of Huan. I mean, Huan sent them. For us.
And they just came? Like that?
Well -- yeah. Is that not supposed to happen?
It -- seems very odd. Not to mention implausible. I didn't think that Manwe would be watching that closely, and then there's the Doom. Though neither of you are Noldor, so perhaps . . .
Youngest Ranger: [finally]
Our traditions say that the Eagle-king acts on his own. He's the Sky-king's liege, not a slave. The same with his family.
I think they did it because Huan asked them to. I don't know exactly. She talked to them, not me. I was unconscious. Then when I woke up it was like nothing had changed except the weather, because pretty soon we started fighting about how it wasn't safe to stay out there and she kept arguing that it was, since nothing had happened that they couldn't handle in and the bad weather was over which was the worst of it and it was going to be summer pretty soon. Finally I convinced her we had to go back to her parents' place.
Every time I think you've come to the end, you start a new adventure. Does this story ever stop?
Well obviously it did, since they're all here, right?
[elbows the other in the ribs]
Don't interrupt again now that he's finally telling it. --What do you mean, "summer"? How long were you comatose?
End of winter -- beginning of spring. I came out of it when the Balance changed.
At least you weren't in pain for the duration.
[breaks off, then picks up again guiltily]
It wasn't exactly pain,but -- I thought I was dead, and lost somewhere trying to get here. It was all grey, and the terrain was terrible, and it kept changing, and there were things in it I had to fight and escape from, and there was this light, or something, that kept luring me over to it, but I had this feeling I shouldn't go that way, that it was an illusion to a trap -- but everywhere I went seemed to go back there, except when I closed my eyes and followed the Song. Her voice was the only true thing in that place. But I wasn't always brave enough to do that, and I kept getting lost again for a long time. But she got me out of there finally.
Do you have any idea where you were?
You don't think it was a dream either.
Oh, I think it was a dream. Very definitely. And I think the Lord of Fetters was trying to lure you into his hold.
Okay, that's kind of what I thought. But Tinuviel wasn't sure, because she couldn't see where I was, because I'm not an Elf, and she didn't know if we go into the Grey Country too, or if I was just trapped inside my mind because of the poison. There wasn't anybody else there with me. Except I could hear her singing, like before, when I was shot.
[the Captain reaches across and takes Beren'schin, looking him in the eyes]
That's an awfully long time to be lost. Mortal or not.
Beren: [hugging Huan's neck]
I -- know. They took care of me all that time.
And you kept on, and got home safe and sane.
[he grips Beren's shoulder and then his wrist]
[Beren half-smiles, still shaken talking or thinking about it]
So you returned to Doriath, and to Menegroth, after all?
Yeah. I had a hard time believing that they weren't about to shoot me, or lock me up like he threatened, but Tinuviel just stormed right back in like a hurricane and acted like she owned the place, and people just fell in with it. It was really strange -- this time nobody was laughing, and the way they were staring it was like they hoped we were gonna rescue them -- only we didn't know right then from what. It was so different from the other time . . .
Was Huan with you both?
One would rather imagine that put a somewhat of a constraint upon anyone who would have arrested you.
Yeah, but nobody even tried. Or wanted to. And we go in to where her parents are dealing with the chaos, and she drags us right up there and says--
All the refugees. And everybody being mobilized who could carry a weapon.
Refugees? From where?
And how did they get into Doriath?
From Doriath. --Um, they were in the Thousand Caves, that's why it was so crazy.
From what, then?
That's where he went?!
Eventually. He was rampaging around the North all that time we were there hiding out in the outskirts of Neldoreth, and finally he busted in through the barriers on the eastern side like the Labyrinth wasn't even there and started killing people in Doriath. He was basically rabid at that point--
How could he get in?
Apparently the Silmaril made him practically invincible, --though personally I thought he was to begin with -- and at the same time it made him crazy -- though Tinuviel said he already was crazy, it was so obvious in his aura that she couldn't believe I didn't see it. When they cut him open it had blistered him all up inside like a bucket of hot coals, as fast as he could heal it kept burning right into him.
So he's dead.
Yeah. Thanks to Huan.
[he strokes the Hound's head]
So everyone had evacuated the woods and meadows and moved into the Caves for protection, and they look at us like they can't believe we're back, like we're gods or something come to save them -- I guess a lot of them assumed we were dead to begin with -- and we go into the throne room, and there's this big row going on over what to do and people waving maps and the Queen's just sitting there looking like a ghost, like she doesn't care about anything anymore, and she's in pain, and trying to keep a brave face for everyone else, like my aunt before she got too sick to move, and -- he's looking like Da the night after everybody left and he didn't have to. But he has to keep doing his job.
[shaking his head]
I was so obnoxious to him. I couldn't help it. We come in and there's all this commotion, and Thingol looks up all angry at the ruckus and then he sees her, and I've never seen anyone look that -- that stricken. But in a good way. Except--
[he looks down for an instant, biting his lip]
Except when His Majesty recognized me. It was like that, only more . . . So we go right up to them, and Tinuviel's holding on to me like grim death, and she's got me between her and Huan on the other side, so obviously she thought they were going to grab me or kill me too, and I get down on one knee and he's just staring at me, and I could see the veins starting to go up on the back of his hands, and before he could say anything I said, "Hey, I'm back like I said I would be -- you gonna keep your promise now?"
[silence -- the Ten react to this image]
Yeah. I know. But what could I say? I couldn't even say "you can't call me a thrall," 'cause that wasn't true any more, and I just had to -- take control, I couldn't let him put me on the defensive again or I'd be stammering like an idiot like before. And I couldn't do that to her in front of them. So he goes, "Where's the Silmaril?" cool as anything, like we'd been gone a week or so. And I said, "I've got it in my hand right now," and he says, "Let's see it, then." So I hold out my hand, like so, and he gives me the evil eyebrow, and I just smiled at him and shook back my cloak and showed him my stump, and I said, "Guess you better call me 'empty-handed' after all."
Oh, Beren . . .
I know, I know. And he says, "You want to explain that, young Man?" and I told him that the Gate-Guard of Angband bit it off and the jewel with it, and he just sort of glares at me, for a long, looong time. And then he goes, "You took my daughter where?" --Fortunately Tinuviel took over the conversation at that point, and there was a lot of guilt operating there, and she used it for all it was worth, because they actually listened to her this time. And me, afterwards -- they had them get chairs for us and it was actually civilized, when they interrogated us about what we'd been doing.
You know, you seem to have a gift, or a curse, for being outrageously insolent to powerful people who mean you no good. How many times does that make?
[Beren has to stop and think]
There's Thingol, and Sauron, and the sons of Feanor, and Sauron again, and Thingol again, so six. Wait, I forgot about Carcaroth. That's seven.
What about Morgoth? Surely helping yourself to a Silmaril should count.
Yeah, but I wasn't in his face about it. He didn't even know I was there. Not like shooting him in the middle of his bodyguard, or asking him who the hell he thought he was, messing with us.
[shaking his head]
I -- I still wonder about that, if I made things worse . . . jumping in like that when he was at a loss for words, before it went to combat. But it seemed like a distraction was needed, even if we weren't supposed to say anything, and . . . but I still think about it sometimes when it gets to be around the Starless Hour, and ask myself -- did I give us away by doing that?
--No. He was playing with us from the outset. He knew we weren't what we seemed. If he hadn't, your bluff might have worked -- that's a typical power-ploy, to demand more than one's jurisdiction allows, to see how far one can push before meeting resistance.
Hence the reason they say war and diplomacy are really the same thing, you know.
--And you were correct in your observations from spying on him so long that he did not in fact have authority except in times of crisis over the forces despatched to the western and eastern fronts, which at that time was not the prevailing situation. Had he not revealed that he was aware -- as we were not -- that the last "Great Chief" had been killed raiding Doriath during the time of our journey and a new one had yet to be chosen, I myself would have judged it the manifestation of internal power struggles between the Lord of Wolves and Morgoth's other field commanders -- a small gesture of authority, intended to remind them who was foremost. He might well have said, "Get out of my sight and stop wasting my time, and tell old So-and-so to train you better." Or words to that effect.
Are you sure?
That it might have worked, or that he knew beforehand? -- though the one hinges upon the other.
There is no doubt in my mind that he was aware of some discrepancies and already suspicious before we were taken. The way his questioning played out leaves no room for it. I've done the same thing myself at court, when we were alive, to draw careless adversaries into self-incrimination.
So did he kill you? Was that the mistake you were talking about, to flout him? --Elwe Thingol, I mean, not the Abhorred One. --Now you've got me doing it too.
No, I . . . he wasn't actually as angry as he was making out to be, it turned out. In the meantime Celegorm had sent him a letter which was even more obnoxious than anything I'd said so far, and he apparently decided that compared to that crew he could almost cope with the thought of me as a son-in-law, in a lesser of two evils kind of way.
Fourth Guard: [amazed]
Is that a joke?
No, it was really bad. I didn't see it -- he had sent the scroll back under separate cover to Orodreth, which must have been interesting, and I wonder when it got there, if it was before or after they were kicked out -- but they recited the contents for us word-for-word.
We're pretty sure Curufin wrote the actual thing. It was all about how they'd taken over Nargothrond and gotten us killed and if he knew what was good for him, he wouldn't try to challenge them about Luthien 'cause he was going to marry her. Um, Celegorm, not his brother. And a lot of stuff which I didn't get but Tinuviel says was about stuff that had happened in the past. So they let me stay there.
That doesn't sound particularly welcoming.
Hey, I only said not quite as mad. --He was really angry before. That leaves a lot of room for variation in "not quite."
But they let you get married.
Even though you hadn't actually brought it to him.
And they didn't poison you at the feast?
Captain: [staring at him]
Where did you come up with that notion? You're even more paranoid than I am these days.
Being betrayed rather does that to one.
No. No, they were completely honorable about it. I -- I think her father did understand that I was asking for help, and why, showing up without it -- even if I did phrase it as an insult. And Tinuviel just didn't let up on making them feel bad. One big factor in the guilting was that they felt really awful about us being up on the central borders after I was bit, about how she would rather live alone out in what was essentially their backyard with just Huan to help her get through the winter, rather than ask for help taking care of me, because she couldn't trust them. I think that ripped his heart out more than anything else, because it was no way I could have been controlling her, not with--
--"spells," and not with just ordinary emotional means. There was damn all in the way of comfort for her from me during that time, and I think that made them realize how serious she was and how they'd misjudged her. Even more than her fighting the Dark Lord and his minions, which I don't think they ever really believed.
How could they not?
Well, it did sound kind of improbable. And the way she told it was this very offhand, almost sarcastic way, like you might make a joke, and if you didn't know it was true you might think she was making a joke -- and you know how I tell stories. Everyone kept saying things like, "Not our little Luthien, surely!"
Yeah, that just made her get more sarcastic. And it was kind of hard to believe, even if you were there for it, but still, I mean -- we did have Huan there with us, which we didn't before, and so forth. --I could see why she was making such a big deal out of having them call her Tinuviel. So anyway it was really long and confusing, because they kept interrupting -- not like you, of course--
[the Guard on his right shoves him lightly, and he grins]
--and between her saying things like "So then I told Morgoth to shut up," and me going, "Um, I don't remember that part," every other minute, I've heard far more plausible fictions being told about stuff like what happened to the column on the porch and why we had no idea how it got all scorched like that.
--Told them, too, I gather.
Beren: [wide-eyed innocence]
I have no idea what you're talking about, Sir.
Captain: [same tone]
Of course not.
Like she said, it was pretty hellish at dinner -- oh wait, you weren't here then -- but it was. Her dad kept cringing every time I opened my mouth, but it turned out it's because -- well, part of it at least -- because of my accent.
What's wrong with your accent?
He said it sounded like I was mangling the words on purpose and drawling my vowels to sound affected and insolent.
You can't help your native dialect.
No . . . but I tried. And that just made it harder to talk. And then . . . then he started to make a crack about how could his nephew stand to listen to us, and then he choked off and dropped his cup and got up and walked away to where the little golden trees were and just sat down for a bit, and nobody knew what to do or say, and then he came back and pretended like nothing had happened. And then Tinuviel asked if Daeron was off sulking and couldn't even be civil, and there was this dead silence, and it turned out that was another thing I was responsible for, besides the Wolf.
He split when they were searching for her, right after she ran away, and nobody knows what happened to him. I suppose that Carcaroth might have killed him, even, but I doubt he could have stayed hid all that time if they were quartering Doriath looking for Tinuviel.
He isn't here.
Third Guard: [sarcastic]
Unless he's laying very low. --Again.
He'd better. If I run into him I'm going to let him have it.
Guys -- you don't have to be -- so -- I'm okay. I'll be all right.
No, you're not, and yes, we do.
Though you do look a lot better now. You're more yourself.
You know, that really is a weird expression. --How can you be more or less yourself? Either you are yourself or you're not.
What if one of the Enemy's agents is disguised as you?
Fourth Guard: [around Beren]
Then that's not you.
But what if you're possessed?
Then it isn't you yourself either.
All right then, but suppose Morgoth has put a control on you, and you don't know it, and you're still doing what you would ordinarily do, but wouldn't you say that you were less yourself then?
Captain: [to Beren]
Do you really want to have another metaphysical crisis?
[Beren shakes his head. To the debaters:]
All right then, table this discussion. --Unless you lot would rather hear yourselves argue than find out how it ends.
[they shut up]
All right, where were we again?
At a very unpleasant-sounding Acclamation banquet.
Hoo boy, was it ever. Between me trying not to make a complete fool of myself, and Tinuviel ready to savage anyone who looked cross-eyed at me, and the Queen and King trying to be civil and not doing a real good job at it -- and the general atmosphere of panic and Doom over the whole place, and people starting to admit that maybe it wasn't all my fault after all--
--You're admitting it wasn't?
Hey. Don't put words in my mouth.
[Huan grins and thumps his tail on the grass and whoever is too close; Beren taps him on the top of his skull]
--Quiet, you. I mean, it wasn't like I had anything directly to do with the fact that they were sending an embassy to Himring to demand justice from Maedhros against his younger brothers, or that they had to do that because the two mad bastards kidnapped their daughter, or that she got kidnapped by them because she ran away, and she ran away with no guards or anything because they locked her up in a tree. Indirectly it was my fault because she wouldn't have done it except to help me, and Carcaroth wouldn't have been able to get through the Labyrinth after slaughtering the embassy if I hadn't given him the Silmaril--
You're making it sound like you just handed it to him.
On account of how that's essentially what I did, even if it wasn't what I was trying to do. And everyone was kind of proud that one of their own had taken down the Lord of Fetters, even if they didn't half believe it and it was only temporarily. So it was really weird. Oh, and did you know that Melian and Tinuviel's dad lived up in Dorthonion before it was called Dorthonion before anyone else lived there, when they were newlyweds?
[the Ten shake their heads, looking at each other.]
It's true. I'm not making that up. They started talking about that as a way of trying to make conversation with me, and it was awful, because they kept saying things like, "How did the grove we planted along the top of the cliffs turn out?" and I'd say, "you mean the forest on the pine bluffs?" and then I'd have to tell them it got burned and turned into the Nightshade, or they'd say to each other, "Remember that meadow where we used to listen to your birds?" and I'd have to tell them we put a town there, only that got burned too, or about how they lived for a few decades at the lake, on our island, not that far from where Da's buried, and Tinuviel and her mother were having some kind of staring war across the table, and I'm not sure if they were really talking, or just meaningful looks, but she seemed to think all this proved some kind of point, like "See?" and I thought the candlesticks were going to melt, the way they were glaring at each other. So that was pretty depressing, too.
And before that -- does this sound familiar or not? there was all kinds of fuss before dinner after we finished telling about our adventures about trying to make us comfortable and especially, presentable, and that just sent Tinuviel right around the bend, anyone saying anything -- or even implying, or maybe implying anything -- about her hair or clothes or me being a mess -- I mean, Captain Strongbow just said something about how Huan must take a lot of brushing being as big as he is, and she tore into him like a rabid w--
Captain: [to the two on either side of Beren]
Thump him on the back, he's choking on guilt again--
--and there was trouble about trying to find something to fit me, and me saying I didn't care if it was kids' clothes or not, or a woman's tunic, clothes are just clothes and the only thing that mattered was were they warm and I could rip the sleeves off or roll them up and nobody had to make anything special, but of course they did anyway, only it wasn't quite done in time for the feast and we did the apologizing thing and Tinuviel and her mom had a fight over her wanting to wear her old dress, sort of come-as-you-are solidarity, and she threatened to show up wearing nothing but her hair, and Melian cried, and that was -- and she said, "Why should I care, I cried enough and you didn't pay any attention," and I had to beg her to back off, so she let them fancy her up, but she was really grumpy about it, and that wasn't fun, and . . .
It sounds worse than the council disaster.
It went on longer. Or at least it felt like it. I -- I was feeling so trapped, like when I was in a cave or a hole and they were beating the woods for me overhead, trying not to either panic or go into that kind of vacant way where you just step back and watch it all happen.
Is that the word for it?
Comes from "being hunted."
Figures. I sure felt hunted then. Anyway the conversation for obvious reasons kept working around to Carcaroth and what they were doing about him, which was organizing a massive wolf-hunt for the next day because they had finally got a good report on where he was -- you know Beleg's crazy, right? Crazier even than I am -- and especially now that they knew it was because he had the Silmaril, they really didn't want to find out if it would keep making him stronger, or wait to see if it would kill him, 'cause a lot of their Sages thought that it would probably heal him or help his healing abilities -- something like that -- at the same time as it was burning him, and there was no telling if even Menegroth's shields would keep him out. And . . . I knew I had to go because it was my fault.
I thought you said that it wasn't.
On the final count it was. He was.
Carcaroth was your fault? Since when were you involved in summoning demons to this Circle and giving them bodies?
Carcaroth was made to stop Huan. He wouldn't have been put there if Morgoth hadn't gotten scared hearing about how Huan destroyed Sauron's power. Huan wouldn't have tried to take on an entire fortress single-handedly--
--Yeah, yeah, whatever -- by himself, if it wasn't for Tinuviel trying to save me. None of us would have been there if I hadn't been going for the Silmaril. Therefore it's ultimately and really my fault.
What did Lady Luthien say to that argument?
You don't want to know. --Trust me on that.
You surely didn't fight on your wedding, Beren?
Why stop then? We had an unbroken record going.
But that's bad luck!
No kidding. You don't say.
Youngest Ranger: [sad]
That's not the way you dreamt it would be.
It's way worse than that. She brought that up to me. --One of the things I never thought of about having a demi-goddess for a mother-in-law -- the Queen actually told her, way back--
[he breaks off]
Told her what?
About how I was dreaming about her when we were in the Pit.
But what's wrong with that?
There was nothing disrespectful or inappropriate in it.
Surely you do not imagine that your lady didn't equally dream of and long for you? Else why should she wish to wed you?
Look, I'm only mortal! I don't have Elvish attitudes about everything, and--
[breaks off, wincing in humiliation]
Your people are strange about that. I remember someone--
[to the Soldier]
--your wife belonged to that school, didn't she? -- theorized that mortals weren't supposed to be incarnates and this was one more proof that Morgoth had given them bodies, but I never believed that.
I don't see how she could have been right about it: he was able to touch the Silmaril, after all, and if mortal flesh were inherently corrupt that oughtn't have been possible. --How come Men are so peculiar about something as normal as the conception of their own offspring? I've never understood why you all make such an issue of it, especially since you need so many of them. Why would mortal parents want to pretend to their children that they just happen along out of thin air--
--or under rocks, don't forget under rocks--
[Beren covers his face with his hand, laughing in spite of himself]
--even when everyone knows it isn't true?
First Guard: [musingly]
I think for the same reason that mortal children want to pretend the same thing. It's like the time we were visiting Eithel Sirion and there was a new human guardsman there who wanted to know what the celebration was for, and we told him, and after he finished coughing and someone fetched him a new drink, it turned out he thought we were joking.
You saying back, "You mean you don't remember it?" didn't help convince him otherwise. It was funny, but we never understood why the High King's Men would rather congratulate the Prince on his birth than his conception. It seemed like silly semantic games to me.
We could ask Beren instead of speculating.
We could, but he'd just get even more embarrassed than he already is.
--Of course, I didn't ask you when your conception-day was, because by then we knew better, but I hadn't met very many mortals back when Dor-lomin was just getting started, I'd just come back from a few score on the Coast Watch.
[Beren ducks down between the Sindar Ranger and the Fourth Guard, hiding against Huan's ruff]
Fourth Guard: [mischievously]
--Speaking of which, when is yours?
[Beren groans without looking up]
He's going into a "fugue state" again -- why don't you all stop teasing him about being strange and let him finish the story?
Youngest Ranger: [indignant]
Beren's not strange, Sir!
Fourth Guard: [reasonably]
Yes, he is. He's strange even for a mortal. Perhaps especially for a mortal.
[leaning way over so that he can see Beren's face a little]
But we love him anyway. And we do want to know what happens next.
[pause -- Beren finally lifts his forehead off Huan's neck and looks at the Guard, who smiles at him until he finally smiles back, if rather wanly.]
There's not much left. Except us getting killed.
Fourth Guard: [remaining lying across Huan's back as though the Hound were a log]
So are you going to tell us how that happened finally?
Yeah. It's almost over.
[looks down for a moment]
We rode out from Menegroth early, and we quartered the district where he was supposed to have been last, and it was really strange, being there again, because he was practically where I lived all those months, but it was so different -- the woods were so quiet, as if even the trees were afraid of him, no birds, not even any bugs around, it was spooky. When we caught up with him he went to ground in very dense cover, no way could you go in there and have a chance--
Where was it?
Um -- you know where the north edge of the forest is, there's those rocks where Esgalduin comes down from the plateau into a gorge?
Yes. That ravine's quite narrow, but it goes back a long way.
Right, and it's mostly thornbrake, with thick sedge growing in between the branches. So we staked it out, we were sure he wouldn't have the patience to stay there, since he hadn't shown any sort of reasoned behavior before according to them. But it was starting to get late in the day, and I was getting worried because if it got to be dark, all the advantage was going to be on Carcaroth's side--
Out in the night with an ox-sized werewolf in rough country in a gully so steep that it's dim there even at noon -- you don't think that was a good idea?
Beren: [just as innocent]
--I do have reasonable moments from time to time -- and I kept saying this, and maybe we ought to think bout trying to fire the thicket, even though that wasn't a great idea, and her dad was pointing out that the way the wind was we'd be completely blinded by the smoke as well as choked by it and it wouldn't help, either, and Huan I guess agreed about the dangers of letting it get too dark, because all of the sudden we realized that he wasn't there next to me any more, but we didn't see which way he went. And then he--
[tapping Huan's nose]
--starts baying down in the thickets, and everyone's on edge, even more that is, looking to see if we can see them, but we don't until Carcaroth busts out on our side and comes rushing up the hill towards us with Huan hot on his tail, and he's going too fast for any of the watchers to catch up with him, I think maybe someone hit him with an arrow but it didn't slow him any more than a charging boar, and most of them went wild, and he didn't seem to know which of us he was going after, me or Thingol, but then he goes for her dad and I tried to block him like he was a boar,
--but I fumbled it and he grabbed me and shook me like a hare and then Huan jumps on him and he drops me and they start fighting like a mortal dog going after a bear, so loud it made rockfalls come down where the waterfall was, and the echoes keep bouncing back overhead until I thought I was going deaf, and other people start running up to us but no one can get near the fight, and Thingol doesn't answer them when they're asking him if he's hurt, he doesn't tell them it's mine, it's like he doesn't even hear them -- he just keeps staring at me, holding my hand, like he's trying to ask me something, only he can't, or like he knows I'm dying and doesn't want to say it.
First Guard: [upset]
Didn't you take Curufin's mail? Weren't you wearing it?
[Beren reaches over Huan's head and pulls back the Hound's lip, revealing his fangs.]
Two or more times bigger than that? And jaw strength to go with it? I might as well have been wearing just a gambeson.
[He grabs Huan's lower jaw and wrestles gently with his head, as if the Hound were a puppy (though a puppy the size of a Kodiak bear)]
Only difference it made was making it harder for them to to start treating me.
[winces and headshaking all around]
Poor Huan comes staggering over all stiff-legged to us and lies down next to me, and he's all torn up, and he tells me . . .
[he trails off, stroking the Hound's ears. Sadly:]
--You were right about us having the same Doom. --Then Mablung opened up Carcaroth and that's when they saw how badly the Silmaril had burnt him inside, I heard them talking about it, but he still risked reaching in to take it, because he didn't want me not to have fulfilled my promise because of his fault. Even if it didn't really matter anymore. He -- I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to know him better.
Mablung's a good Elf -- wise and fair-minded as well as brave. Thingol has some excellent people working for him.
Yeah. Beleg too. The one thing that really freaked them was that apparently my hand was still locked around the stone--
After all that time?
Yeah. It didn't evaporate until he touched it, and then it was just gone, bones and everything, like the jewel was keeping it there.
But it burned the Wolf.
Weird, huh? So he brought it over to me really quick, and put it in my hand and held my arm so that I could give it to her father, and he didn't even look at it, he just kept looking at me, and going, --Why? Then they made a stretcher for both of us and carried us back to Menegroth . . . I was glad they put me next to him, even if he couldn't feel it . . . I could almost pretend it was like old times, out in the woods.
Was Thingol glad?
Beren: [shaking his head]
Not at all. Nobody was.
I imagine he was rather relieved at the outcome, nevertheless.
No. He -- he did change, even before. He was really upset when he heard about Curufin shooting me.
Fourth Guard: [scratching Huan's ribs while he talks]
It would have been easy -- very easy -- to let me die, then. And he did everything he could, to get me back to her, alive. It wasn't his fault that she couldn't heal me.
Couldn't they have gotten you back faster? Why couldn't he have taken you up before him and ridden the distance in a quarter of the time?
Good point. Why didn't he?
Sir -- I had a collapsed lung. It wasn't -- just the poison. And all kinds of crushed ribs and things torn from when he shook me and -- they hardly dared to move me onto the stretcher. It's like the problem of do you pull an arrow or not if it's poisoned but an artery's nicked and you can't cauterize it then and there. If they jostled me it might of made the bleeding worse.
And there was something wrong here--
[touching his sternum]
--and in my back. It -- I shouldn't have lasted an hour.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.