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Leithian Script: Act III: 13. Scene X

A Boy, A Girl & A Dog
The Lay of Leithian Dramatic Script Project



The lessons of an idle hour's gaming may be well-learned,
by fairest maid no less than him whose scars hard-earned
befell in fight more worthy than when ship and city burned--

[Luthien is sitting by the hearth with Huan, both of them watching the flames, him behind her rather like a sphinx with his head over/on her shoulder, (the way horses like to.) Celegorm, shown in by an attendant, looks around the solar for a moment before seeing them on the floor and is surprised. He has an ornate longish box under his arm.]

Celegorm: [hesitantly]
Er, hullo, I was just looking for Huan -- I see he's there with you still . . .

Luthien: [looking around]
Yes, he's a little hard to miss.

[She gets up and comes around the Hound and greets Celegorm with a polite nod as to an equal; he takes her hand and bows over it with just short of exaggeration. She does not look quite so drugged and haggard as before.]

Well, how's my little pup doing? Behaving himself?

[Huan stretches and whines, wriggling, conveying I'm-a-good-dog-but-I-don't-want-to-move]

Luthien: [wistfully]
Oh, yes. Do you haveto take him away so soon?

No, not at all. In fact, -- I was thinking you might like to play a few rounds of chess to divert yourself, so I brought a set and a board along . . ?

[looks at her with an expression of mild hopefullness]

There's already one in this room,

[remembering manners]

--but that's kind of you. --Oh--

[her eyes light up]

--wait! with two we could play mortal chess.

Mortal chess?

Yes, Beren taught me how to play it. It's very interesting. I'll teach you, if you like. I find our version rather dull now, to tell the truth. [she takes the box and carries it over to the table, grabbing the other set off a sideboard as she goes]

Celegorm: [lightly]
Hm. Wouldn't have guessed he could fit a set in that little kit of his. Or was it yours?

Luthien: [serious]
Oh no. You can play it with rocks and acorns, or bits of stick with the bark peeled off some of them. All you need is two colors and one bigger than the rest, to be the king-stone. And some flat ground and a twig or a flat rock and charcoal to draw the lines.

[she takes out all the pawns, leaving the rest of the figured pieces in the case.]

Now if you'll give me the other set--

[she takes out the red pawns only from this set and sets the pieces up tafl-style -- the red pawns go in clusters at the centers of the four sides, the white pawns go in the middle of the board, and in the center of them one white king.]

Where do the rest of 'em go?

That's it. Now we play.

You're joking!

[Huan comes over and sits down between them, leaning his head over the table to watch the game curiously]


But you can't win this. Or -- that is, only red can win, all the time. The unlucky soul playing center certainly can't.

Oh, you can -- it's just very hard. That's why I find it so much more mentally stimulating than ours, with everything all equal and balanced to start with. Very symmetrical, not very realistic. --Unless you could somehow bring out secret ones all of the sudden.

[he is looking at her rather oddly]

Just like in the Leaguer. This isn't realistic really, having everyone know what forces are on each side, since we're all trying to hide ours from the Enemy and he from us, and trick each other into mistaking what's what. --But at least this is more like what really happened. --And you can win it, which I think is a hopeful sign.

Even outnumbered. And surrounded.

Yes. As long as you don't lose your leader. The trick is to keep moving and get free.

Celegorm: [rubbing his lips pensively]
How do you take pieces, if they all move the same way?

Any warrior trapped between two enemies is down. And you only move in straight lines, ahead, back, or either side. I go first -- see, like that. Now you go.

[They go through the next few moves carefully]

Oh, you made a mistake, you just went two squares with him.

No, that's right: you can go as far as you think safe. Generally you don't want to get out ahead of the line, though. Realism again.

Hey, wait, your chap's down -- he just went between two of my pieces.

No, you can dash between two enemies already there.

Celegorm: [wry]
Now you tell me.

Sorry. It's just if you're engaged with one and someone else comes up behind you, then you go down. I believe that's an accurate reflection of how it works in real life, reduced to essentials, isn't it?

Celegorm: [heartfelt]
This is a weird game.



Eh? What's that?

I have to warn you -- I have a clear path for escape there. --That's another way games differ from real life.

So . . . if I move this warrior here, your king is blocked, and you don't have an out any more.

Right. But he won't last very long, because I'm coming up alongside of him here, and now -- he's down.

But -- hmm.

[he scowls at the board, a bit chagrinned]

That's all right, I lost all the time at first, too. No matter what side I was playing. It took a few bouts before I got the hang of it.

Celegorm: [indulgently]
Oh, you mean before he let you have a win.

Luthien: [sharply]
Beren didn't let me win.

Celegorm: [nodding in patronizing fashion as he moves]
Right, right.

Luthien: [snapping her piece down]
He didn't. --He wouldn't dare, I'd know.

You really think I'm going to believe this can be won by the defending side?

When you see it.

[Celegorm moves, and she moves instantly, taking two of his pieces]

You can't do that!

Both of them were flanked. It's just like draughts: as many as are in range.

[he frowns, moves again, and she counters again]


What's that mean?

It means I win. See?


Even if you could block this side, you can't get your troops over to the other side fast enough to stop me from breaking through here.

I'll be damned. You did win. --Are you sure you didn't cheat?

[Luthien looks indignant -- his expression and tone change completely to sincerest gallantry]

Oh, what am I saying? Of course you wouldn't cheat, you're a lady and far too fair and honorable for that. You've bested me in fair fight.

I've had far more practice at it. Here, I'll set up again and you'll know what to do now.

[she starts rearranging the pieces; after a moment Celegorm catches her first words and gives her a wary look

Celegorm: [aside]
--Did she really say what I thought she said? . . . surely not . . .

[aloud, staring hard at the board]

Of course, you realize it's really ironic, dont'ya know, when winning consists of turning tail and running for dear life! You can tell no Noldor mind came up with this game--

[he chuckles, but stops at her look and settles down]

--All right, so I want to prevent you from bracketing my pieces, or they'll all be picked off and flattened . . .

[suddenly stunned with realization]

--Wait, I know this -- it's a confounded sandastan!


Hah -- my lady, you won't draw me into this hedge so easily again. Your move, I believe, Your Highness?

[intensely they go through the next series of moves in silence.]

Well. I think -- I've won. Your warriors can't get out out of that quadrant, can they? And your king can't get to the edge with my men there, right? So either you surrender now, or, you come out and get cut down one by one. Hm?

Luthien: [nodding]
Very impressive, my lord.

Celegorm: [smiling into her eyes]
I'm a fast learner.

Luthien: [not looking away]
But -- if this were real life, that might not be the end of it.

[She reaches into a box, takes out the rest of white pawns and sets them in a wedge at the opposite corner. Definitely--]

--Keep playing.

Hey! You can't do that! --Can you?

I just did. It's called -- the Serech Variation. Your move.

[Silence. Huan whines. Celegorm swallows hard, and breaks from her glance to consider the board. After a moment, he makes an uncertain jerky slide, and she moves at once to counter. He gets back to business, and keeps pulling pieces away from her encircled king to throw them in front of her attack, but she just keeps moving, without stopping to consider the next move.]

Path. --And field.

[Celegorm stares at the board dismayed, and then looks up at her.]

But you lost just about all of your forces to do it.

Luthien: [coolly]
And that, too, is more like real life -- isn't it?

[Celegorm doesn't say anything, although he tries. She reaches around the board and catches both of his hands in her own, staring intensely at him]

--You know what we have to do. You know how to do it. You've told me how it should be done. You've told me how Finrod befriended you and took you in and supplied your material losses out of his own stores without asking for any return or putting you "in your place" over it ever since the Sudden Flame -- and you told me I could depend on you. I am depending on you. --We are. Celegorm Turcofin Feanorion, will you redeem your pledge to me and your debt to the King and avenge your father all in one? --Which may perhaps even help effect a reconciliation not merely between my family and myself, but between our Houses as well, if only you but throw off this mirk that clouds all our minds and press forward without further delay!

[Celegorm stares at her, entranced, visibly torn, struggling to speak]

I --

[his expression changes from receptive to baffled]

--would, -- but--

[he shakes his head sadly]

--it isn't entirely in my control --

[meaningful tone]

not as though I were Regent, after all--

[Luthien lets go of his hands, flattens hers on the table and stands up from her chair]

Luthien: [ominously]
Are you saying Orodreth is a traitor? That he's delaying on purpose--!?

[Celegorm is intimidated in spite of himself by her expression and backs down]

I -- I didn't mean to imply that, my lady, only, only, -- only that he -- well, it's difficult to say, being friends for many years, but -- he -- he isn't -- well, you know, about the Fortress and all . . .

Know what?

I really . . . shouldn't say . . .

You've said already -- too much, or too little, my lord.

Celegorm: [sighing]
He's got no nerve left for fighting. It seemed to happen with the onset of Sauron -- who as you might know is a spirit of no ordinary power and ability -- but I'm convinced it really all started with the Bragollach --

[spreading his hands regretfully]

not that I can blame him, certainly, not like he's the only Elf to be undone by that disaster -- but giving up the Fortress without a fight, running back here without even a retreatin' action -- there's a reason why he's never held command or even taken the field since then.

But he is not the only warrior -- soldier or officer -- in Nargothrond!

Celegorm: [more confidently]
But he's in charge. He's the one who sets the tone, you know, that a command takes its lead from the commander, and so on. Without the will bein' there at the top, the bottom ranks can't have it either. Morale and whatnot, doncha know.

Luthien: [shaking her head, bewildered]
But -- but that doesn't make any sense -- if he can't handle the responsibility of ruling, then it would make sense to do everything possible to get the one who can back safely--

True -- but, you know -- people don't always behave rationally, what?


Oh -- Lady Luthien -- you won't mention to him that I told you about this, will you? He's very -- sensitive, about the rout -- understandable, of course.

[he takes her hand and bows over it]

Are you going so soon?

Celegorm: [awkwardly]
I -- I must.

[sudden inspiration]

You asked me to see what I could do.

Luthien: [taken aback, uncertainly]
Oh. Oh, good. Thank you. --May Huan stay a while longer? If you please, my lord?

Celegorm: [smiles]
Of course, my lady.

[He bows again and leaves, still a bit shaken, though covering it well]

Luthien: [beyond upset]

[leans on the table, her head hanging down]

Did I actually accomplish anything? --I don't know--

[Listlessly she starts putting the remaining chessmen away -- then struck by a sudden inspiration she picks up one of the white castles and turns it around in her fingers]

Luthien: [thoughtful]
So cousin Orodreth was there . . . I'd not realized that. For years. That means he knows the area well -- and the Fortress.

[A look of focussed determination comes over her face. She puts the piece away, tosses the end of her mantle over her shoulder like a cape and folds her arms squarely.]

I need to talk to him. About everything. And the way to reach him is Finduilas -- I'm afraid I've got to catch her and not let go, even if I lose what's left of my mind as a result. --Oh well--

[looks at Huan; without irony:]

--Could I trouble you to find her for me, milord?

[Huan gets up, wagging his tail slowly, not unwilling, but not enthusiastic, and he sounds rather troubled when he replies:]

[short bark]

You don't have to stay while we talk, unless you want to.

[Huan comes over to have his ears scratched before going out on his mission; Luthien goes over to a "window" and perches on the frame as if it was a real windowsill.]

Luthien: [musing]
--He didn't even notice that I let him win the second time . . . it's worse than I realized! But I don't know what to do, except talk -- if it's being underground, really, I've got no hope -- but if it's being cut off from the sky, you'd think it would be the same at home -- hah, perhaps it is! -- but no, nobody stays all the time in the Thousand Caves. Or perhaps it's also the fact that Mom's there, and her presence counteracts the lack of stars. And then -- that could explain, actually -- with Finrod gone there's no one here who's strong enough to make up for the absence . . .

[traces the joins along the edges of the carved trees with her finger]

I wish Galadriel were here -- she wouldn't allow such a muddle and nightmare to go on. She'd know what to do, and do it. But instead -- we've just got me . . .

[she sighs heavily and leans back on the frame, closing her eyes]

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Last Update: 16 Aug 14
Stories: 7
Type: Reader List
Created By: helenjones

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Story Information

Author: Philosopher At Large

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/25/03

Original Post: 08/16/02

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