28. Fatal Beauty
It was nearly midnight. They had stopped at a farmhouse, she saying that they must not exhaust the horse. Gaergath asked the elderly couple if he and his "sister" might sleep in their barn for the night, and they might do some work to earn it, and could they spare a bit of food also? Huan had kept himself hidden, less he frighten the couple.
In the barn, Gaergath felt shy and strange, alone with this wondrous being he had met just a few hours before, and half of him wanted to flee, and the other half wanted never to let her out of his sight.
"So you have heard of me before," Lúthien said as they sat down on bales of hay to eat their small meal, which consisted of bread and butter and cheese, and a few strips of dried meat. She fed her portion of the meat to Huan. Her eyes twinkled a little in the dim lantern-light.
It scarcely needed a lantern to provide any light, Gaergath thought.
"A bard sang of you at a fair last year," he said after swallowing a rather big bite. Small bites, he told himself. "He sang of your...your beauty. In, erm, quite a bit of detail."
He wondered if he should tell her the bard had sung her praises from the top of her head to the tip of her toes, enumerating all her charms such as propriety would permit, going on about how her hair was spun of skeins of the deepest twilight, her skin of cream drawn from the dairies of blessedness, her eyes stars stolen from the crown of Varda herself, her lips the ripest cherries from the groves of Yavanna, her teeth dived for in the most glorious depths of Ulmo's realm, and so on and on, until Gaergath and his friends stole away before he was even half finished and mercilessly lampooned him over a stolen jug of blackberry wine.
Yet he did not find the song so amusing now. Actually, it had not come even close to doing her justice.
"My beauty!" she laughed. "What a bore! Why would one sing of someone's beauty? A bard should sing of one's deeds...and I have done none to sing of yet. That bard probably never even saw me."
Gaergath laughed a little also, yet thinking he could have sung of her beauty all day and all night long.
"As long as I have lived," she said folding her lovely hands over her knees and looking pensively at the lantern, "and as many things as have passed in my lifetime, it seems as if I should have done some deeds and had some adventures worth the singing. Yet this is the first of any consequence I have done. My life only began when I fell in love. And it will end when his does...for he is mortal man. Perhaps I told you already."
"Why did you fall in love with a mortal?" Gaergath blurted. "When you could have had anyone--anyone at all?"
"'Twas not my choice," she said looking at him in startlement. "He came along, and we met, and I heard of his deeds, and did pity him for the dangers he had passed. And could not help but love him. I am not mistress of my own heart; it owns me, not I it. Yet I cannot convince my father of this. He called me his treasure, and yet he wishes Beren's death, and therefore my own."
A chill went over Gaergath. He was certain Beren was dead already. And what then? He dreaded her grief. He did not once doubt that it would slay her. She was like that. As strong as she seemed, it would take no more than a great sorrow to crush her utterly.
And what would happen to him then?
Of course, he was done for, either way, whether her lover lived or not. For all he had fantasized about comforting her grief, and making her come to love him...but she would never do so. She was wholly bound to one man, and would never even consider another.
And so his heart was pierced, and was already slowly dying. He wished it might just die then and there, and bring him relief. Yet he would lead her to Sauron's tower, even as he had promised. And after that...well, likely Sauron would kill him for his betrayal. Let him. What life was there for him without Luthien always beside him?
Small wonder Sauron had told him never to give his heart. He was not master of it, even as she was owned by hers.
Give your heart, and you are maimed for life, he had said.
Before Gaergath was a ruin waiting to happen. Yet he almost envied her; he was already ruined himself.
"Are you so sure he lives?" he found himself asking her.
"My heart tells me so," she said simply. "I must go and see, at least."
"And if he does not?"
"Then I die."
"Just like that," he said, in wonder.
"There is no life for me without him," she said softly, almost as if she had read his thought. He wondered if she could.
"Perhaps he is not there, after all," Gaergath said.
"You did say there were ten men and Elves, in chains?" she said with eyes of anguish.
"So it looked," he said averting his own eyes, unable to look at her pain.
"He was with ten--himself being the tenth," she said. "We must go first thing in the morning. When we cross the Teiglin, you must let your horse go free to find his way home. I do not ask you to go to the tower with me. After the horse is gone, you may ride on Huan. He has strength to carry us both."
He suddenly took heart at the thought of her exquisite body held close to his for...how many miles? Perhaps the memory would do him for the rest of his life....
"I wouldn't mind," was what he said.
Talk about understatement, he thought.
"You will have my undying gratitude," she said looking at him once more. "I will even make a song about it. For I am a bard also, and have made a great many songs...mostly about people I never saw either. But at least this one will be about someone I have met, and I shall sing of your deeds, and not of your locks of midnight darkness, nor your eyes green as the pools of the forest. Not that you are at all hard to look upon."
"You make songs?" he said with uplifted brows, his heart thumping in his chest at the thought that she would sing of him.
"Aye, hundreds," she said. "I do not even remember how some of them go now. They were rather bad, I suppose. Perhaps I am not a bard in the truest sense, since I have not traveled about much, and never alone. But I dearly enjoy making songs. I have made one about my first meeting with Beren...but I shall not sing it for you, since it contains a lie. I would change it, but I think it would not make such a good song."
"Well...it says when first he saw me, I was dancing and singing in a glade, to a pipe unseen," she said with a little giggle. "Well, I WAS singing a little, but I was most certainly not dancing, and there was no pipe. I was milking a goat. I have danced for him, to be sure. I love to dance. I left it in for my friend Laeneth, who wished it so. She is very young, not much past one hundred, but as a little sister is she to me, and I liked to please her. I was singing a goat-milking song. I will sing a bit of that for you, since we are in a barn."
She sat up straight, folded her hands with mock primness, and began to sing:
Little goat, little goat, let down your milk
Let down your milk today
And I will make you a gown of silk
So that you may dance and be gay.
Little goat, little goat, let down your milk
Let down your milk if you please
And I will make you a bonnet of silk
With ribbons the color of cheese.
"I did not make that song," she said laughing to Gaergath's astonished face, "although I did put new verses to it. I sang it to amuse the children, and that was when my Beren first saw me. I did not dance for him until many days later. He says I should put the bit about milking the goat in my song. But it would be most un-bardlike, I fear, and would not do him justice, when he is so valiant a hero."
"You are a princess and you milk goats?" he said. It sounded incredibly stupid to him even as he spoke, and he wondered if he could find a spell to make her forget he ever had said it.
"Of course," she said. "Nana and I have always done our milking. Why should we not? The goats and cows will not milk themselves."
"Well...I just thought perhaps you had...milkmaids," he stammered, feeling his face grow boiling hot. "I thought...being royalty and all."
"My mother has long looked after all living things," she said. "As do I. She is the Lady Melian, a Maia from Valinor and a priestess of Yavanna. She it was who placed a girdle of protection around our land to keep out the forces of Morgoth."
"The one you call Melkor. We name him Morgoth, the Dark Enemy. And...will you promise to tell no one, if I tell you this next?"
"I promise," he said. His heart began to flutter once more.
"My father has told Beren he may marry me only if he can steal a jewel from the crown of Morgoth," she said barely above a whisper. "Fancy that!"
Gaergath gasped. To think he had missed his chance!
"He considers it an impossible task, I suppose," Lúthien said, the animation dying from her face. "And I dare say it is so. Yet he means to. But let us speak no more of it tonight. We should sleep, for we must set out as early as possible in the morning."
He was about to confess that he was not very sleepy, then stopped as she began taking off her cloak. This she spread over herself, then lay down with her head against Huan's enormous shaggy flank.
"It is warmer than it looks," she said smiling a little as she noticed Gaergath looking at it. "What have you in your bag?"
"It's...a blanket," he said, looking down at the burlap sack that lay between his feet.
"I thought as much," she smiled. "Well. You had best cover yourself, my friend. You may lay on Huan's other side. He will not mind, and will keep you warmer."
"I do not know if I can sleep," he said as he settled down on the opposite side of the great dog. "I am too...wound up, somehow."
"Here," she said sitting up and holding out her cloak to him, "touch this."
It felt much as he imagined her hair might feel, or her skin for that matter, and he could swear he heard music of such airy and haunting beauty as he might have imagined amongst the stars, floating above swirling green and blue and silver streaks above rolling waves.
"Better now?" he heard her ask, as he sank down into a warm and bottomless cradle of beckoning dreams, forgetting that his life had ended the very night it had begun.
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.