1. Speak No Truth, Offer No Comfort
"I have heard the voices of the wind, the voices of my dim killed children"
— from "The Mother" by Gwendolyn Brooks
"It is a melancholy truth; yet such is the blessed effect of civilization! the most respectable women are the most oppressed; and, unless they have understandings far superiour to the common run of understandings, taking in both sexes, they must, from being treated like contemptible beings, become contemptible."
— from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
I know why you're here. I know what you want. Don't think I don't know.
Yes, I'm talking to you!
Why, sir, you're blushing! Didn't think I would notice you, sitting here next to me with your fine livery and groomed hair? You're nearly as out of place as I am, and that's saying something. The King's sent you, hasn't he? Well there's no need to try and deny it, sir. I'm drunk, you know, not blind.
Yes, that's better. Speak up, now! You've chosen a loud place to have a conversation. Ah, yes!
I hope you don't find me impertinent, sir—well actually I do—but by what right do you speak to me in that way? Am I your dog? Your child? Your slave? Your inferior in some way? No, I am not, so kindly refrain from shouting.
The King, you say? Never fear, sir! I know all about the King, yes, plenty about him. You needn't try to explain to me about him or his ways! Yes, I know about the King. He's a rather demanding fellow, isn't he? Oh, don't you believe me?
I delivered unto the King all that I had, and he returned it not. Nay, do not shush me, sir, me—a woman who dares to speak against our King. It is the truth that I speak. Shall you not hear it?
Oh, do I offend you, sir? Does my honesty sour your ale? I know it sours mine. It's inescapable, truth; yet I can't help but try. I am only a silly woman, after all.
They've told you of me, no doubt, and you've come to see what all the fuss is about. Shall you tell the King of me, sir? A woman who drinks free as a man, who spends all her hard-earned wages upon ale, who dallies her nights in taverns no lady should ever set foot in. And why not, sir? Why should I not do these things? Womanly virtue, modesty, decorum, gentility—what pitiful stuff. Do I not live and die and piss as you do, just as a man does?
You cringe, sir! Perhaps you find it ghastly, a woman behaving as I do. Perhaps it is ghastly. I care not. After years of bowing and scraping to the expectations and rules of a man, I've come to see the folly of it all. You, you men of the world are not bound in such a way as are your wives and daughters. Why should I be? One's place in the world is what one makes of it, sir, not what society commands it to be.
And the way I see it, my place is here. Have I not just as much cause to be here as these men? They come here to drink away their loss. The King took their limbs, hearts, eyes, and ears—sundered them from their souls. And I come to drink away my loss, just as they do. The King took my soul, but he oh so kindly left me this damnation they call life. But I ask you, sir, what good is a shell with naught to fill it?
Such is the price of freedom, you tell me, 'tis an honorable thing, to sacrifice oneself for liberty and peace. Ah, but what a painful price it is—and not at all eased by the passage of time, no matter what the poets might say.
You shush me again, sir! Has my truth soured your ale yet? Do you now feel the pain of freedom, or are you still lost in your delusions of honorable sacrifice? Nay, I will not be silent! Have you learned that of me, if nothing else? I was obedient once—never again.
But you do not like my truth, do you? To be sure, it is not as beautiful or noble as the King's. But I am not a beautiful or noble woman, simply said. Oh, don't try to placate me, sir! I know my own shortcomings well enough. My truth is crude and ugly, and it suits me quite well. Mayhap it does not suit you, though. In time, you may come across a truth that does suit you, but until that day, I'm afraid you must listen to mine.
You speak to me of my dreadful, unwomanly habit, sir. Yet look around you. This room is full of drunks and drunkards. You yourself, sir, have had a mug or two more than's good for you. Unwomanly, you say. Well, I say unmanly. Would your precious King approve of these men any more than he would of me? Are not your masculine vices comparable to mine? Do you not think so?
And in the end does my heart not bleed, as yours does? Do I not cry into the darkness, as you do? Have I not pain? Have I not suffering? Shall I be denied emotion because of my sex? And if I am to be denied feeling, then I have no need of relief—ah yes, that's the way of it. You men are such fools.
Look, there is my brother, fallen into a stupor beneath the table, while his son searches for treasure between that wench's breasts and his grandsonmindlessly throws away his inheritance at dice. Will you not reprimand them also? Or does what hangs betwixt their legs spare them from fault? Do past injuries justify their lewd behavior?
And am I not injured just as much as they?
I have heard the wind that carries the death-cries of my sons and husband. The King took them from me, and I shall never again clasp them to my breast, for their graves are unmarked and untended. Shall you return my loved ones to me, sir? Nay? Then if you will not bring them back, leave me to drink in peace. It is the only thing that stops my ears.
You tell that to the King, oh Guard of the Citadel. I'm sure he would be most amused to hear it.
Oh, so now you are silent. How like a man!
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.