9. Scene II - part V
But you did make it back to her.
I was barely managing to keep breathing -- again, it didn't really hurt, not all that much, they weren't letting me suffer if they could help it, it was just that it took so much effort -- like rolling a big chunk of fieldstone when it's just you and nobody else, each time you get it over you think, "That's it, that's the last one, I can't do this again --" and then you fling yourself at it again until it goes over again, just a little bit farther. And then we were there, and -- it was strange, 'cause I shouldn't have been able to see anything, by then, I could barely see the flames of the torches around, but I could see her, and everyone else, like the way I see you now, but her the brightest, even brighter than the stone, and there was light in the trees as well, especially in the big one, and I don't know if I was just hallucinating or what. It didn't feel like it.
[pause -- the Ten exchange significant looks]
You need to tell the King about that. It sounds like it means something important, but I'm not entirely sure what.
Third Guard: [gently]
Can you please finish?
She came up to us and put one hand on each of us and looked at me, and I tried to tell her -- everything -- I was sorry, and for her not to be unhappy, and it wasn't her fault she couldn't save me this time -- but I couldn't, I -- I didn't have words any more, and she just said, "I know. I love you too." And she told me to wait for her here, and then she kissed me. And then it didn't hurt . . . it was just . . . strange . . . I was pulled along -- whatever I was -- in the wind like a leaf in Fall -- I couldn't even have thought of resisting if I'd wanted to. And when I'd gotten here I . . . I just waited in the dark. That was the only thing I could do, until Huan came for me and started taking care of me, and things started coming back. And these people I couldn't really see -- they were just lights and voices, but that might have just been me -- they kept coming and asking me what I was doing, or what I thought I was doing, and telling me to move, and I couldn't do what they wanted because I had to wait.
[he breaks off, sounding very frayed at the recollection. Huan leans up and shoves his nose in Beren's ear, keening. Into Huan's fur:]
Good boy. --You're my good boy.
[to the Ten:]
I'm sorry. I'm acting so stupid about it.
We weren't alone. --Except for him.
[nodding towards the Soldier]
Soldier: [shaking his head]
That was only a little while. And Lady Nia was with me for most of it.
Beren: [wiping his eyes]
So . . . you're really all right? I know he said, but . . .
We've no complaints.
[several of the Ten exchange ironic Looks at that]
Soldier: [smiling at Beren]
Especially not now.
It's too quiet, but that's all. After the Gaurhoth, we're not inclined to gripe about the scenery being dull or the subdued quality of experience here.
Beren: [glancing up at the shadowy vaulting]
I thought maybe I was missing things, but it sounds like it really isn't all that much more, uh, detailed, than what I can make out.
Ranger: [looking over at the Soldier]
We had a bet going that it was boring on purpose so that people won't malinger, but that turned out not to be the case.
And Finrod isn't bored crazy by it?
He's a very hard person to bore. When it gets dull he comes up with something interesting to do.
And then no one's bored. Though it usually means we get into trouble.
You seem so -- unfazed by the idea now.
What are they going to do? Lady Vaire lectures us, or Lord Namo lectures us, or they both give us disappointed looks, and we apologize, and it's fine till next time. There's not much of a big deal about it any more.
Youngest Ranger: [quietly]
--At least not for you.
I haven't noticed you remaining non-participant in any of his schemes.
Youngest Ranger: [frowning at his commander]
--Of course not.
Well, then. But it is true, many people are much more upset at getting scolded than we are, and much more worried that some unnamed something is going to happen to them.
Has it ever?
Aside from being told to go away and think about things until one is fit for Elven society again? Not often. Or ever.
Except for us.
Yes, but we're insane. Everyone knows that.
What happened to you guys?
Lady Vaire lost her temper.
She yelled. And broke a lamp. Though that was by accident, she was pounding against the door frame and didn't look.
But you must understand, the Weaver has never, ever lost her temper in the entire course of earth's history. No one -- including the demigods who work here -- can remember her raising her voice. Or banging on things. It was very distressing.
Though the circumstances were rather amusing. The timing of it, at the least.
I thought you didn't think any of it was funny.
There is a difference between being amused and howling like a loon.
What was funny about it?
Certain persons were taking exception to our attitude, and --
What's wrong with your attitude?
Oh, we don't know how to behave at all. We sing ridiculous songs --
--And make jokes.
--And a few individuals have been known to use deeply offensive language from time to time.
And we haven't gone through the normal stages of "denial" and "anger" and "resignation" and "acceptance."
Though someone seems to be stuck at resignation.
I mean, what's to deny? "No, I didn't get eaten by a wolf-demon?" And little point in being angry about it now, is there?
We occasionally use weird sentence constructions and peculiar expressions picked up from some backwoods barbarians we met in the North Country.
And all in all we're a strange and incomprehensible and uncouth lot, and a bad example to the rest.
--But according to certain core members of the sort-of following of Feanor, we're also pathetic pets and grovelling lackeys of the Powers, which is why we're so repellently cheerful and unconcerned about the things they stress over.
--Like who interrupted whom in front of whomever else, back before they were exiled to Formenos. I mean, really -- that was over five hundred years ago, and some of the people they're talking about are still in Beleriand, so they can't speak for themselves, and who really gives a damn, any more, anyways? --Criminetlies!!
--Which obscure mortal idiom would be taken as a pointed insult, and I'd probably have to end up skewering someone before the conversation was over, if I'd said that. So there was nattering along that vein, and His Majesty was continuing to play and pretending not to hear any of it, and I'd taken my blade and put it on the table, as a little reminder, because sooner or later Himself ignoring it was going to push someone's temper past flashpoint and I don't consider it drawing first to simply point out that I'm there, I'm paying attention, and if you lay a discourteous hand on him I'm going to chop it off.
The High King hates it when you do that, you know.
Yes, but he hates it even more when I hit offenders with the board or the pieces, or the table. Lesser of evils and so forth. Besides, what really irritates him is when I make suggestions as to what he should have done to win. And right at that moment the Lady of the Halls storms in like the wrath of Osse shouting "Finrod Ingold Finarfinion, WHAT have you done to my house?!?" A number of people vanished right then and there, and the ones who wanted to stay and see us get into trouble made themselves scarce when glass started breaking. And Himself shouts back, "I did what you told me to do!" and they go back and forth for a bit until milady hit the sconce trying to emphasize the point that we were to leave the walls alone, supporting walls or not.
I see what you mean about the timing.
Then she became extremely upset, and the King offered to try to fix it for her, and she threw the bits at us and left.
Oh, matters worsened after that. When people started coming back to see if we'd been thrown in the dungeon -- there isn't one, but try convincing anyone of that by logical means like maps --
Fourth Guard: [scratching Huan between the shoulderblades]
--Though she could make one, I suppose, if we bother her enough--
--the Lady came back as well and saw that we'd made a basin to stop the dew from running all over the floor and that Himself was not only trying to mend it but had gotten a few of the smaller breaks back together, and she kneels down next to us and starts apologizing for losing her temper and finishes fixing the lamp, and he apologizes in turn, and tries to convince her to let him keep on working on it, and this goes on until it's almost as annoying as you two, and they parted company ruffled and exasperated but not furious.
That doesn't sound like grovelling, though. Not really. That's kind of like a border dispute, when you both claim it's really your fault.
I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. I didn't want to usurp his authority.
There is truth in your words, though. It does become a contest of pride and will. Not that anyone in the present company knows anything about that.
So why does he just stick around for them to insult him?
That doesn't happen as often any more, I must confess.
Can't imagine why, Sir.
But it's hard to hide here, if you don't want to be invisible and inaudible and blend into the background. The more -- interesting one is, the more other people tend to cluster 'round, just to see what will happen next. Or to ask advice, or his opinion, or just to listen to him talk about things.
That, too, is little different from the world Outside.
He isn't really cut out to be a hermit, however much he might like to pretend to himself that he is.
[he suddenly shivers and looks around a bit wildly]
Beren: [low voice]
I think there's someone else in the room. But I can't see anyone.
You can't tell?
No more than you. Not if they choose to remain thus.
[softly, to the room at large]
--You're welcome to join us, you know. We're not as dangerous as everyone says we are--
--though twice as crazy--
--don't listen to him, it's thrice -- but you're just as welcome to stay as you are. --All of you.
How many could there be?
[the Ten shrug]
--But there could be other -- ghosts, here.
You needn't fear them.
I'm not -- Okay. I am.
[shaking his head]
It's stupid, but I-- I'm still mortal. I still have those old superstitions, even if I am one now.
Youngest Ranger: [troubled]
Are you afraid of us?
Of course not!
Sometimes they are spies and mean us ill. It doesn't matter. We have nothing to hide, they won't find any discreditable murders in our pasts, and there aren't any secret "tricks" to our winning: it's a few hundred years more of hard fighting and training together combined with in-depth analysis of the situations.
Most of them are simply unready. Occasionally they join us, at least for a little, and it does them good.
[Beren gives him a bemused look]
The King was utterly shattered when he arrived -- the thought of you being reserved for prolonged torment as a result of his mistakes was more than he could bear. Lady Nia was the only one who could get through to him, and even that was just bringing him to the point where he was willing to talk, not moving beyond that. He spent most of the time insubstantial, or nearly so, and if any of us tried to reach him when he wasn't, he'd vanish. --Until the news came of your escape.
We were speaking of matters -- and of yourself, milord -- and much to my astonishment I was seized by someone who had not been manifest but a moment previously and it demanded of me to tell, at once, whether indeed it was of yourself we were conversing. And after the initial shock had passed and the confused account set somewhat in order, we hastened to find our lord and inform him.
What he's not saying is that he almost shoved the Lady right out of the way and quite forgot to apologize after. I've never seen anyone rattle him the way you do. --Sorry, I didn't mean to break in.
Of course not -- you never even notice that you're doing so.
Why? You'll merely interrupt again in another sentence or two.
[the Captain grimaces and shakes his head]
All right, then. --So Edrahil catches hold of him by the shoulders shouting, "He's safe -- it's all right, he's safe," and Himself, too surprised to disappear, hears this and says, "Perhaps she'll forgive me, then," and we're trying to explain that it isn't what he thinks, and that takes a bit, and then a little longer for him to grasp it, and then all of the sudden he's back, and he says, "Well then, I suppose I should leave off mourning and go pay my respects to the Lord and Lady of the Halls and then to my kindred. But not, I think, like this, or they'll think I'm a most confused Wild Man," and Edrahil says, "Oh, I doubt that very much -- I understand the Laughing Folk are far more particular about their appearance," and--
I did not--
Yes, you did.
Not like that.
No, I can't quite do that tone of yours, it's inimitable. And he bursts out laughing and says, "Help me get presentable, then, will you?" and had him braid his hair the way Lady Earwen used to, in the Teler fashion, or as close as we could remember it, and attired himself after the manner that was his habit when visiting her parents, in Alqualonde, and had word sent to Lord Namo and Lady Vaire that he was ready to speak to them.
That sounds like it's supposed to be some kind of statement. Is it?
He's gotten over his guilt about the Kinslaying entirely.
Getting killed for it seems to have thoroughly exorcised it, for all of us.
--It hurt so much seeing him like that and not being able to do anything . . . we were afraid he'd stay that way until you had to be dead, one way or another.
Meeting and speaking with those of the Kinslain who are still here has helped as well, I think. And so we went out to meet those who are here, and he shone so brightly that some thought him Eonwe come to bear word from Taniquetil, and all were astonished when he came to pay respect to his uncle, for none had the slightest notion he -- or we -- had even arrived here, for the duration of his time in sorrow. His spirit dimmed with the Lady Amarie's refusal, --but your coming has given him more heart than even the organization of the Battles.
[Beren looks away, embarrassed]
Beren: [changing the subject]
How did he send her messages, anyway? I thought no one could leave here. I mean, except being sent by Lord Mandos.
Well, the people who work here can.
The Powers are people, don't you agree?
Well, yeah, of course -- but -- he didn't have Mandos himself running errands for him, did he?!?
Of course not. I think he asked one of the security staff to deliver it on the way to Everwhite. It might have been one of Lady Vaire's spinners.
Ranger: [respectful but unhesitating]
No, sir, it was the Weaver's handmaiden who brought the reply back. Remember? She was very apologetic about bearing bad news.
You're making it sound like the -- the Ainur? -- are hearthguards and maidservants going on holiday and visiting their families and gossiping. Just like a great hall's household back home.
--Because it's like that?
[nods all round]
[shakes his head, laughing at himself.]
Okay. Who's Eonwe? I'm trying to remember and I just can't. Is he the guy who makes storms?
No, that's Osse. Eonwe's the chief royal courier of the gods. Kind of like Lord Edrahil only not as particular about everything.
[the Steward sighs]
Oh. --Now, when you say, "his uncle," you mean the late High King, right? Not Feanor? I've been assuming that's what you meant, but . . .
Since Feanor doesn't want to acknowledge the rest of his family, and since nobody ever sees him anyway, it's simpler just to distinguish them that way.
Why doesn't anyone see him? Is -- is he kept locked up?
He refuses to mingle with us lesser beings. We don't merit his condescension.
--And he's a raving lunatic.
Even his most loyal followers have had to accept that the eldest son of Finwe inhabits a world entirely of his own construction which bears very little resemblance to the Arda that the rest of us have experienced. A small group -- not coincidentally the same that are most vehemently aggressive towards our lord -- persist in maintaining that it is merely the height of his genius and the depth of his griefs which keep him isolated in his meditations, beyond the ability of mere Eldar to comprehend, though one rather doubts that they fully believe it; but the rest have resigned themselves to the situation which obtained in Beleriand, where absent their respective lords, they acknowledge the headship of the High King and do as they please.
Except for the others -- sorry.
I was about to say -- Saving those who have attached themselves to the following of Felagund, or would, did he choose to engage in such rituals of authority, and not hold them empty forms and to no purpose.
Now I'm getting confused again. --Still.
Since we are dead, and no longer in Middle-earth, he asserts that it is futile for him to name himself King, and will not claim the title. Yet all award it to him regardless.
And people do what he says. Sounds like he's still King.
It grows complicated, because in the past decade those of his and his brothers' followings who came at the Sudden Flame have attached themselves to the following of Fingolfin -- yet, on the other hand, that is in essence the selfsame circumstance that prevailed in Beleriand. So now that he is here, many would resume their earlier ordering, -- yet again, he will not claim it, in part because he wishes no strife with his uncle, and it is a small trouble between them that so many -- even of the High King's own following -- incline to ask him first for advice, since Fingolfin has little inclination for anything saving the chess-table.
So he's pretending that he's just an ordinary citizen of the Halls like anyone else, and you're claiming that he's still the King and you're still his vassals -- and most people agree with you all. Even a bunch of the Feanorians.
Concisely and correctly put.
Beren: [not asking]
That's why, isn't it? That's the real reason the Feanorians -- or some of them -- are so angry at him, isn't it. Because he's taken over again without even trying. Or wanting to.
Nail on the head, lad. The mind that comes up with short-notice plans for heisting a Silmaril or three isn't likely to rest content in idleness, and he can't help but tangle everyone else along after him, either for or against. That's the real issue -- that he's shaken everything up, and and not everyone is happy about it.
--Would it have worked?
Sorry, what have worked--?
The plan -- could it have been possible to carry it out, do you think?
You know, I'm still not sure. I -- it was hard to observe much when we were there, we had to focus on what we were doing and, and . . . it was so strange, I -- I really couldn't tell you. Maybe. It certainly would have a better chance of working than a frontal assault, on account of how that would have no chance whatsoever.
You don't think so? Not even with a concerted effort by the Armies?
When the guy loses his temper, earthquakes happen. This is definitely not someone you want to be around indoors if you're getting him mad. --And the place was full of Balrogs!!!
--They take up a lot of space.
One Balrog is too much. At a distance.
Youngest Ranger: [softly]
I ran. I lost my bow.
You threw it away to pick up Halmir.
Youngest Ranger: [bleak]
It didn't do any good.
That wasn't your fault. How many times has he told you that? Get over it!
[the Sindar Ranger looks away, biting his lip. Huan stretches over and licks his hand, begging for a nose-scratch, until he gets it. To Beren:]
I don't understand why you felt you had to go to Menegroth after all. Not after you recovered.
Beren: [shaking his head]
Because I couldn't take care of myself, let alone Tinuviel.
Beren: [gesturing with his right arm]
Like this? How much use is a one-handed ranger? I can't shoot, I can barely climb -- I can't even use a sword or a spear properly now--
Ranger: [trying to be helpful]
But couldn't you have switched to your left hand? You couldn't use a shield, but if you were fast enough -- you must have trained with either hand in the past?
Beren: [almost shouting]
Look, I couldn't do it, okay? I'm not bloody Maedhros, dammit! My balance was all off and I--
[he stops abruptly. There is a shocked silence]
I don't remember anyone here saying a word about Feanor's eldest.
[Beren looks away, biting his lip]
Sounds like someone has, though.
Things have been rough these past few weeks. She said -- and I tried but -- and I said -- and--
[he breaks off]
Lad, it's more likely that someday they'll be comparing Maedhros to you.
[Beren snorts at that suggestion]
--You went into Angband of your own will. You didn't turn into a gibbering wreck at your first sight of Balrogs, plural. You got one of the Silmarils, and if circumstances hadn't ambushed you you'd have gotten all of them. You got out of Angband alive. --And you're human.
I was rescued. And I lost the stone. And I shouldn't have done it given what happened.
Regardless -- you recovered a Silmaril. None of us in the whole span of time since the Return can make such a claim. Whatever else happened after -- nothing can take that away.
She did it all mostly -- and Huan. I can't claim any credit.
[Huan makes a grumbling sound and looks sad]
Would they have done it if it weren't for you?
[Beren rests his forehead on Huan's neck]
I should have been in the cairn with Da and the others.
You know, you used to say that all the time, and I always wondered -- who were you thinking was going to bury you? Because you realize, if you'd been killed by the strike team, you wouldn't have been able to bury yourself. That never made sense to me.
[Silence --Beren straightens and gives him a Look]
It was a figure of speech.
Ah. I see. Metaphorical and so forth.
[Beren abruptly reaches out his hand]
Beren: [through gritted teeth]
--Would you pass me that bottle?
[as he takes a pull from the canteen the Captain reaches over and jogs his elbow, hard]
So is it real, or not?
[spluttering, Beren nods, wiping his face on his sleeve.]
I don't know if that was a good idea, Sir.
No, I'm safe, he's feeling far too guilty to try anything back right now.
[Beren tries to say something, but is still choking too much to be intelligible]
--That's what I meant, Sir.
[but Beren only grins, partly coughing and partly laughing now, as he braces the flask against his knee and works the cap back on with his remaining hand]
Steward: [ignoring the silliness]
What is the reason behind the difficulties that are being raised over your remaining here with Her Highness of Doriath? Or have any been given?
Beren: [between coughs]
Because I'm not supposed to be here. It's against the law. --Is there anyone else in history who's been declared outlaw by the Powers on both sides?
But you're not causing any trouble. --Unlike certain other residents.
[glances at the Steward]
Including, yes, ourselves.
Beren: [passing the flask back]
Not like starting small indoor wars, no, but they were really put out with me -- with us -- for staking out a pillar in the hallway and refusing to move until she came.
--Perhaps we wore out their patience for people holding vigils in the corridor?
But you waiting quietly in a corner doesn't seem to be much in the way of problems!
I doubt that that is presently the source of the difficulty, however much it might have negatively influenced attitudes towards Lord Beren from the outset.
It's the Law. They kept saying things like, "You're human, and you're dead -- you don't belong in the world any more, go home!" I felt like a stray dog that had wandered into somebody's house to sit by the fire -- at least nobody threw any kindling-wood at me.
That's like me.
Not on, like you -- but back.
[Beren still looks confused]
I don't want to be reborn in Beleriand.
[Beren just looks at him. A bit defensively:]
And it isn't that I'm afraid of what could happen to me -- I don't want to lose everyone, and forget.
[he glances around at them, a little embarrassed, but resolute. The other nine look sympathetic, but also a bit resigned.]
But that's the land that belongs to your people. You don't mind giving that up?
Youngest Ranger: [stubbornly]
These are my people. This is where I belong.
Warrior: [trying to reassure]
You know, I think you're worrying about nothing. I don't think they even know you're here. No one's said anything to you, have they?
Oh, they know all right. They're just choosing not to be aware of it, because then they don't have to do anything about it. --Like the time that Lieutenant Telumnar refused to accept that no, he could not in fact fire all the way across the Ginglith at that point and that the enemy patrols were well aware of it, until he'd wasted all his ammunition shooting over -- into -- the gorge, and then after you'd all let him panic for a bit everyone contributed a couple of arrows so that Supply wouldn't notice anything outside of Normal Use requisitions.
You knew about that? --We -- thought you didn't know, sir.
Of course I -- didn't know about it. If I had, I would have had to take Official Notice and say tiresome things about it. Instead, you got a useful problem-solving exercise and Telumnar got a valuable lesson, namely, don't assume that the same conditions of terrain apply everywhere in Arda, and listen to the people who've been dealing with it longer, even if they are younger than you.
[pause -- the Youngest Ranger mutters something that sounds suspiciously like "Told you so--"]
Too bad that he had to learn that lesson repeatedly. I swear the High King shoved him off on us to cut down on their own casualties. Who was it -- wasn't he the same idiot who got one of those foolish things in Dor-lomin and didn't realize it wouldn't last?
Oh. Don't tell me you were all stupid enough to do that? You're not supposed to have little bits of soot or whatever under your skin -- couldn't you have guessed that it would work its way out in a yen or less? I suppose Telumnar was the only one who made a fuss about the whole affair. It figures.
What are those things called? The designs they do with pins?
--Tattoos? That was something they used to do in Hithlum. It was considered kind of barbaric by my great-grandparents' day.
That would be about the right time. Personally, I never enjoyed getting stitched up so much that I'd voluntarily have sharp pointed objects stuck in me for no good reason, but I suppose there's no accounting for -- stupidity.
[the others groan and roll their eyes. Enter two Elven shades, both sharing a strongly similar air of confidence, not arrogance per se, but an assumption of command and belonging, as well as a family resemblance. After glancing around and determining that no Powers are to be seen, they stride over to the group. The Ten rise respectfully, Beren following their example, but there are worried expressions on many faces as they come down off the hill.]
--Who are they?
Youngest Ranger: [also whispering]
[the newcomers stand with folded arms, giving the Ten looks of impatience, annoyance and dislike. Jude Law and Ethan Hawke (Gattaca) might be cast as these siblings.]
What is going on? Has anyone got the least inkling of a clue? Or is this just the usual muddle of rumour, guesswork, and half-truths being passed off as information?
Aegnor: [staring at the Hill]
And what in Arda is this mess? Are you trying to get yourselves thrown out after all?
Captain: [to Angrod]
Your Highness, I take offense at that. My people have always been scrupulous in distinguishing between certainty, uncertainty, and conjecture.
For all the good it did you.
[Aegnor sees Beren and freezes]
Sir, for the respect I hold your brother, I will not challenge nor accept challenge of you, and you know it.
Starless Grinding Ice. It's him.
So where is my brother, then? --Who?
He went to find the King your uncle, but--
[Angrod turns in mid-snap and stops, open-mouthed, the look of exasperation changing to equal parts surprise & revulsion]
Ah. What in the name of Morgoth is -- he --
[shaking his head in dismay]
Captain: [giving no ground]
--He's also mortal, if that information has somehow also escaped your notice.
Really? You don't say. --He's also married to your cousin, which is a complicating factor.
Your sense of humour has not been improved by your too-brief sojourn here.
No jest at all, my lord.
[the brothers look at each other, still unsure, and then back at the Ten, and then at Beren, then at the Captain]
What do you mean, "married"--?
What is usually meant by the word, of course.
You are joking.
Captain: [shaking his head]
Far from it.
[Aegnor turns a blazing look on Beren]
You mean to say this -- mortal -- dared to claim her after all that's transpired?
Milords, he can hardly be blamed for the accident of his birth.
He can be blamed for everything else. --For killing my brother.
[Beren cringes; the two other Rangers silently move in in a protective angle, flanking him, ready to pull him back inside the safety of the group if it gets any uglier]
--For daring to set greedy and lustful hands on the noblest lady of our people -- if not black magic as well.
--Now then, my lord. Whatever your feelings on the affair, you have no right to denigrate the love between the Beoring and her Highness.
They aren't like us. They change their mates as easily as we would our cloaks. If you're going to call the relations of Men "love," you might as well speak of the "weddings" of cattle!
[simultaneously with the other two replying, almost together, Aegnor clears his throat and his brother looks briefly shamefaced]
Unjust, sir, as well as untrue, and unworthy of--
--No, I love Tinuviel. Not just her voice, not just her body, not just her soul -- I love her. And I always will.
And I didn't want the King to die because of me, even though it was my fault.
Angrod: [addressing Beren for the first time]
Then why didn't you kill yourself at once before involving him, and spare everyone the catastrophe of your existence?
[Beren flinches back and the Rangers step forward, protectively. Huan gets up from where he is lying on the hill and growls, a long, low, warning snarl, his hackles rising. The Princes are given pause.]
Your Highness, I believe you twain were seeking your brother --
And I believe, sir, that you have no idea where he is.
As you were informed, he is seeking after your uncle -- and, one presumes, endeavoring to evade the wrath of Lady Amarie meanwhile.
Don't tell me Amarie's dead, too.
No: merely, as has been given to me to understand, intensely furious with my lord for having gotten himself killed and having left her -- in that order of precedence and not of chronology, needless to say -- and with everyone else remotely connected with those two incidents. I much misdoubt any more clemency upon -- us -- than was granted on that Night in Tirion.
[the brothers share a wary look]
I do recollect her words to you as well as I recall mine own receivéd reproaches -- as, surely, does she. Perhaps you would wish to fortify your minds in preparation of response, anticipating a resumption where we all left off, with I am sure additional grievances as yet unanticipated . . . because the Lady is said to be seeking the recourse of this place's Powers, and it's most likely that her path shall find her here.
[Aegnor gives a disgusted snort, but Angrod looks somewhat more uncertain -- it would seem that the memories of the fight are not diminished or pleasant. After a brief hesitation they pull themselves together and stride out -- but not without a parting shot:]
Aegnor: [over his shoulder, to Beren]
[Beren recoils as if slapped, closing his eyes. There is a long silence after the sons of Finarfin have gone.]
They were my heroes when I was a kid.
It is not your fault, lad. They would be as angry if it were only us without you here.
[but there are uncertain looks exchanged around them.]
How did they know who I was?
You're so obviously a Beoring to anyone who's known your people. The Princes knew your father, uncle and cousins, and your grandfather, and -- And the rest of your family, going way back. There's no mistaking you.
Not to mention that -- unfortunately -- there isn't anyone else left that you could be.
They knew all my ancestors -- and then they died fighting for our country -- and I lose it all, and get him killed. Actually, considering -- they were a lot more polite than they could have been. Considering.
It -- is more complicated than that. --Considerably.
[The Captain gives the Steward a long, meaningful look over Beren's head]
How? What could be worse than that?
Steward: [ignoring the Captain's silent plea]
Our lord's brother -- that is, Prince Aegnor -- was once in love with a lady of your people.
[Beren looks from him to the others, realizes that this is completely serious]
[the Elf-lord nods]
What happened? Did she die?
So -- what was it? --Did her family forbid it?
Whether they would have objected or no, it never reached the point where such a question would have arisen.
Did his? But -- their father wasn't here, he didn't come over with you, so who?
[The youngest Ranger starts to say something but doesn't quite manage before Beren starts talking again, and subsides]
Wait -- Finrod was head of the House -- H--He didn't tell them they couldn't, don't say that--
No one forbade it. It was broken off voluntarily, without outside interference -- saving, perhaps, the influence of the Enemy.
Morgoth broke up their relationship?
Steward: [shaking his head]
I was speaking metaphysically. Only in the sense of the wider Marring, destroying and damaging things in the world before they have a chance . . .
You're keeping something back. Why are you playing guessing games with me?
[he looks from one to another of them -- they don't look away, but none of the Ten can bring themselves to answer. Finally:]
She was a Beoring.
Someone from Dorthonion?
Someone of your House.
It was a long time ago, lad. Before you were born.
Not -- not Ma? I know my parents married kind of late, but -- I would have -- they would have -- someone would have said something over the years--
No, no -- not Emeldir. Long before you were born.
Then -- why -- I don't understand -- if no one -- why?
Because Aegnor, I'm sorry, is a--
Steward: [cutting him off]
You don't know what I was going to say.
Either "coward" or "fool," and the matter is significantly more complicated than that. --Am I not right?
Well, actually, "--blithering idiot."
--It can be of minimal consolation, but -- I did not enjoy being rebuked by milord either.
The Prince yelled at you too? Why?
Because I made a jocular comment to the effect that, if matters in Middle-earth were anything to go by, his attractiveness, far from being diminished by having left and come back, would be enhanced by the exotic aura of travel and danger -- a renowned adventurer, instead of merely "one of Feanor's youngest half-nephews," -- and that eventually, once we were let out, the intrinsic interest would outshine the tarnish of rebellion and could hardly fail to impress whichever lady he wished to win. Lord Aegnor was not amused. As you might put it, I "had my ears ripped good" for it. He did apologize, once he realized that I had no notion of why he was so infuriated, but the apology was nearly as distressing as the offense.
I would have told you, if I hadn't been sworn to secrecy.
I don't blame you.
I wish you wouldn't blame him, either.
The issue is resolved. I understand why he chose to keep it entirely within the family and to seal all the intelligence files on the affair even after the deaths of his Highness and Lady Andreth. I simply disagree. I am well aware that at least a modicum of my disagreement stems from personal discomfiture at having been kept in the dark, and the King is well aware of my views on the matter. End of subject.
[The Captain looks away in distress]
Wait a minute -- you mean my great-aunt Andreth? An'-the-Deep-Minded?
[silent nods of affirmation]
The Prince was engaged to my aunt?
Well, not betrothed per se. He lost his nerve before it got that far.
Prince Aegnor -- and my aunt?
Just as true as the first time you said it, lad.
[shakes his head]
How come I never heard about it?
It wasn't common knowledge. They were both very private people and unlike yourselves, no one ever made a public spectacle of their relationship.
But someone must of known. --People gossip. Stuff gets talked about.
I did not know, and I was contemporary to it, though indeed not present for the most part. I should guess that some few of the Lady's close kin were aware, and that such as were, chose not to speak of it for consideration of her feelings. After all, what was to be said? No promises were made, hence none broken, no public disrespect given, it was a private matter -- at least at the point beyond which it did not progress -- and for many reasons, not least of which I hazard the uncertainty of what, in the end, should be said, I guess that few should wish to think on it, let alone discuss the matter.
[silence -- the Steward looks towards the Captain]
Captain: [shaking his head, sadly]
That's your department, not mine.
The complication of vassal to lord, your House being liege to the Princes as well as to King Finrod, and all that that entails -- which might have yet been insufficient, had Lord Aegnor broken betrothal, and that publicly, so that your great-grandfather should have been compelled to address the matter in open counsel, or seek redress for his sister's disdaining even to the King's own court. But since that did not happen, far easier to let it be.
That's one reason.
The other -- which is all the rest -- is -- Time. That the Prince should continue, in outward seeming at the least, unchanged, while the Lady endured the encroachments of her mortality, would surely have silenced any whose hearts urged them to protest otherwise. --Or so I must hazard, in absence of evidence.
[Beren is completely quiet. Abruptly he sits down on the floor.]
Are you all right?
[he gives a short laugh]
So -- after all that -- I show up, too dumb to figure it out for myself, or to get the hints the universe kept throwing at me, that, hey, this is not possible, deal with it, and -- no wonder he didn't think it was the best thing for either of us. But -- what d'ye know, I had to go and prove him right.
I should have died at Aeluin.
[Huan whines and paws at his knee]
--Damn all oaths to Angband!
I know. --The world is a horrible place.
You don't need to tell us that.
It's like -- every time I think it can't get worse, -- it does. I -- I--
[he slumps sideways, bracing unsteadily on his elbow, letting his head hang down. Alarmed, the Captain kneels and tries to lift him upright, but Beren only leans against him, unable to support himself]
Beren: [looking up but not tracking at all.]
Captain: [very worried]
Can you see me?
Not well. . . . It feels like I'm going into shock.
But you can't go into shock, now--
[to the Steward]
Beren: [closing his eyes]
It's like -- everything's not real. Or I'm not real. And I just want to go away.
And I'm cold.
But how? He's already dead!
Because this Shore is not where he is called.
Beren -- look at me. You have to stay focused. You can't give in. It isn't that bad.
That's right. --We're here. We shan't let you fade.
We promised Himself we'd look after you -- you don't want to make a liar out of me, now, do you?
Warrior: [very hesitant]
But -- if -- since he's mortal -- and -- humans are meant to move on, after they're dead -- ought we to interfere with the laws of nature?
Third Guard: [savagely, grabbing him by the arm]
Don't even think of such a thing! How can you say that?
[he seems about to hit the other Elf, who is just as upset and does not even try to resist, before the Steward motions them apart]
Steward: [very stern]
Enough. The question has to be asked. --And the answer is of course yes. One presumes--
[looking around the hall]
Yes. We'll bring him over to the fountain, such as it is.
[he kneels and picks Beren up despite the latter's initial, unsuccessful attempt to stand of his own strength, and Huan leaning in on them]
But will that work?
He's . . .
[to the Steward]
Can you manage?
[followed by the others, he carries Beren over to the side of the rectangular basin and kneels by the edge]
A cloak, if you please.
[the Warrior hands his over at once, before anyone else can, and the Steward tucks it around Beren like a survival blanket, not putting him down. The Captain looks at the wall fountain with displeasure -- it's very quiet, with hardly a ripple to be heard.]
What's the good of a falls that doesn't make any noise?
No idea, sir.
I think it's supposed to be subtly aesthetic, actually.
Well, do something about it, Lieutenant.
[he turns back to Beren and the others, leaving his subordinates to it. The Rangers look at each other, the Youngest seeming dismayed. His colleague shakes his head and shrugs -- he sighs, squares his shoulders and begins to study the water sculpture with a resigned expression. Almost instantly the stone begins to reform, changing from a tall sheet of low grooves to a mass of leaning boulders and an escarpment blending out of the surrounding wall, which causes the water to cascade down with considerably more vigour and consequent noise. Except for the fact that all the stone is the same even gray and there is no moss or other plant life, it looks quite realistic (except for the context.)]
Youngest Ranger: [woodenly]
Oh, you're not still worrying about them noticing you, are you? --I'll tell Lady Vaire that I'm responsible for the mess and your name won't come into it at all.
She'll know that you're not telling the truth--
Captain: [interrupting with a touch of impatience]
--It is the truth. I made the decision, gave you a legitimate order and you only carried it out, ergo I am responsible.
[his subordinate does not look totally convinced -- the Captain rises and takes him by the arm]
Look, do you really think we're going to desert you at this point, hand you over without a struggle to the authorities if they want to send you back?
[looks meaningfully at Beren]
Do you think His Majesty would allow it?
Youngest Ranger: [small smile]
Good lad. Let your elders do the worrying -- that's what we get paid for.
Youngest Ranger: [old joke]
You get paid?
Captain: [claps him on the shoulder]
Get everyone on point -- set a perimeter, I don't like the feel of things.
[to the Steward]
--Unless you disagree?
Steward: [shaking his head]
A very good idea. Now, I've had a moment for thought -- go find the King, and bring him here--
--Yes. Of course.
--and take Huan.
Ah, for tracking, of course--
Not only. Cavalry equals speed.
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.