Lúthien knew her captors well, by now – knew their differences and moods, but more importantly, knew their weaknesses. It was not the elder that frightened her, sometimes, but more often the younger, Curufin, with his eyes like iron slate that considered her with the cool unconcern of stone and the lurking lust of dark things.
If she were going to work on one of them, it would have to the other. He didn't, perhaps, seem so bad.
The door opened, and she set aside her tapestry and looked up quickly. And stood and curtseyed, slightly. "Lord." He looked surprised, a little, but returned the gesture with a bow of his own, only a flicker of his eyebrows betraying his uncertainty.
"Lady." At his gesture, she sat again, gracefully, keeping her gaze veiled through her eyelashes. She would have found him handsome, once, tall and lean with features that barely evidenced a single flaw; well-shaped cheekbones and a slightly stubborn chin; low and rich voice that she supposed many women would have loved to have speak to them. If she had known him first, or if her father had made a match between them, she would not have been entirely averse to the idea; might, she thought, have even enjoyed the challenge of bringing a smile to his perpetually solemn face.
But not like this. He sat across from her. "How do you do?"
"As well as can be expected, Lord." She kept her voice demure, watching him. She had her guesses, and wondered if she dared risk herself on them. Her love needed her, and she would try the less risky first.
"You lack for nothing?"
"Only for the sun on my skin, the wind in my hair and the touch of grass on my feet," she murmured, and she noted the flicker in his eyes.
"I wish…I would I could give you what you ask, but it is not safe here outside these walls."
She leaned forward, slightly, letting her tone be imploring. "And could you not accompany me? Surely I would be safe then…" He looked doubtful, and then shook his head, slightly.
"No – no. I do not think so."
She did not have to feign her sigh, and stood, gliding across the small room, knowing his eyes followed her. The silence stretched out, and Lúthien waited for him to break it, knowing he would.
Celegorm surged to his feet and took two quick steps forward before stopping. "Lady – I pray you, you may not believe me, but I – give you what freedom I can."
"And give me more!" She turned to face him, closed the distance between them by one step. "Surely there are protections you can offer – I would not balk. I only ask to be allowed outside this room, or am I a prisoner rather than a guest?" She wondered if, by the brief pause before he answered, he had asked himself the same question and truly did not know the answer.
"I would not presume to keep Thingol's daughter prisoner," he said, stiffly, and she could see his hackles come up just as his dog's would have when angry. "Do not accuse me of-"
"Then prove me wrong," she demanded, "Prove me wrong, and not just with words."
She realized too late how close she had come, and how far he towered over her. She found his eyes, and just for a moment, was frightened by the lust in his eyes. But she knew how to use that, as well, and altered the angle of her body, lowered her eyelids. "Please."
His right hand half twitched upward, as though to touch her face, and then his mouth shaped something like the word 'no' and he stepped away, seeming to surprise himself as well.
There was a silence, and she drew away, thoughtful again, watching him while he wasn't looking at her. After a while, she spoke softly, curiously moved. "I am sorry. I should not have pushed you so, Lord."
"I will speak to my brother." His voice was flat. "If he deems it unwise, I would…be grateful not to hear of the matter again."
Lúthien sat down again, quietly. "I do not know that he understands in the same way you do," she murmured. "About needing to be outside, to feel the fresh air." Now that she looked for it, she could see the subtle signs she'd missed before – the blankness in his eyes, the tired set to his shoulders.
For a moment, she almost felt pity. "But as you will," she added, more quietly, and lowered her eyes, demure.
Celegorm paced, restlessly, as though some itch would not allow him to sit. "Perhaps if Huan went with you – I know not. I'll ask him. It is the most I can do." Interesting, she thought, how frequently the elder deferred to the younger. But she only nodded, slightly, in understanding. There was another silence.
She took the gamble.
"Who was she, Lord?"
For a moment, she was startled by the fire in his eyes as he turned his head suddenly and they pinned her to the chair, furiously and blindly angrily. Then he blinked and the windows of that hall were shuttered once again. "Who?" His voice was suspiciously blank. She resisted the urge to smile.
Perhaps she had found something.
"The lady you loved."
"I know of no such lady." His voice was cold, but he looked away from her and paced again. "What gave you such an idea?"
"You will not let yourself touch me, as though you fear to betray some other. And you have the look of one still grieving."
"I do not grieve."
Lúthien felt her pity stir again and wondered how he would take it if she touched him. Wondered if she dared the risk. "Everyone grieves for something, Lord, if you will forgive my saying. Do I remind you of her, sometimes?"
The silence was so complete and profound that for a moment she thought she had made a misstep. "I don't know what you are trying to do, Lady, but I doubt that it will prove productive to anyone, including yourself." The tone of his voice was utterly flat, and it was the closest either of them had ever come to a direct threat to her safety, but for perhaps the first time Lúthien was completely unafraid.
"Out of no ulterior motive; simple curiosity, Lord. If I did not know better I might think that you thought to betray vows. With me." She examined the set of his shoulders as he paused, back to her. "As it is, I can only conclude-"
"Conclude nothing." His voice was harsher and huskier for it. Some women might have found the change appealing. Lúthien tried to remember her danger and not push too far. Even if now that the pity had woken it was hard to quash. "Your suppositions are just that, suppositions, and foolish at that."
"Is it such a secret as that, Lord? Why be ashamed-"
She saw his right hand work as he paced away from her, open and close twice. "I am not ashamed," he snapped, over her, "There is nothing to say."
Carefully, she eased toward him, lightfooted, stretched out a hand to rest it lightly on his shoulder, letting that one contact linger. "I think," she said softly, "That perhaps we both are already promised, in heart if not in name. And neither of us willing to forsake that promise."
He moved faster than she expected, hand catching her wrist and anger writ large on his handsome features. "There is nothing," he snarled, "nothing, that matters to me more than the Oath and my brothers. Nothing. And certainly no woman."
It hurt, though she wasn't sure he was aware of it, how tightly his hand had closed around her wrist. She kept it from showing on her face and looked up defiantly. "How long ago did she die? Give me her name, at least, so I may know in whose name it is that you lust for me."
For a moment, she thought he would strike her. Then he released her with a suddenness that was almost jarring, took two steps away, and again she saw the shutters of the windows of his eyes go from open to closed in a moment.
"I know not from whence you draw your mistaken conclusions, but I urge you to reconsider them. There is no purpose to your conjecture and I would sooner not speak of it again."
She drew back, backed away from him, far enough that she could move out of the way if he went for her again. "Does it hurt so much, Lord, that you must deny it happened at all?"
"I can only imagine what it would be to me if my Beren were lost to death in unknown pain…"
She held her ground. "And the promises you made that hold you even now…"
Crack. The sound of breaking glass surprised her almost as much as the expression on Celegorm's face when he turned to look at her. Nothing. She searched his eyes, the set of his jaw, but there was nothing at all.
His voice was very quiet. "Enough. I will not tolerate this foolishness." She had never seen eyes so empty. "You will resign yourself to marriage or to death. Those are you choices. No others." He didn't seem to look at her, gaze fixed instead on a point above her left shoulder. "Your man is dead, and best that you give him up for so." He turned and was at the door in two steps. "That is all."
The door closed too quietly behind him, and locked. Lúthien stood staring at the door, and wanted to weep. I would know if my beloved were dead, she convinced herself, and sank back into the chair.
He had threatened her with a forced marriage, and she still could not let go of the pity she felt. Never had she seen eyes so empty; eyes so blank they might have been dead except for their continued movement.
She did wonder, though, what her name was, whoever she had been, and if she knew how very much she'd been loved.