The Children of Húrin - Page 49
Then they turned upon Brandir, and cried: ‘Fool, with your false tales, saying that he lay dead. Did we not say that you were mad?’ Then Brandir was aghast, and stared at Túrin with fear in his eyes, and he could say nothing.
But Túrin said to him: ‘It was you then that were there, and tended my hand? I thank you. But your skill is failing, if you cannot tell swoon from death.’ Then he turned to the people: ‘Speak not so to him, fools all of you. Which of you would have done better? At least he had the heart to come down to the place of battle, while you sit wailing!
‘But now, son of Handir, come! There is more that I would learn. Why are you here, and all this people, whom I left at the Ephel? If I may go into the peril of death for your sakes, may I not be obeyed when I am gone? And where is Níniel? At the least I may hope that you did not bring her hither, but left her where I bestowed her, in my house, with true men to guard it?’
And when no one answered him, ‘Come, say where is Níniel?’ he cried. ‘For her first I would see; and to her first will I tell the tale of the deeds in the night.’
But they turned their faces from him, and Brandir said at last: ‘Níniel is not here.’
‘That is well then,’ said Túrin. ‘Then I will go to my home. Is there a horse to bear me? Or a bier would be better. I faint with my labours.’
‘Nay, nay!’ said Brandir in anguish of heart. ‘Your house is empty. Níniel is not there. She is dead.’
But one of the women – the wife of Dorlas, who loved Brandir little – cried shrilly: ‘Pay no heed to him, lord! For he is crazed. He came crying that you were dead, and called it good tidings. But you live. Why then should his tale of Níniel be true: that she is dead, and yet worse?’
Then Túrin strode towards Brandir: ‘So my death was good tidings?’ he cried. ‘Yes, ever you did begrudge her to me, that I knew. Now she is dead, you say. And yet worse? What lie have you begotten in your malice, Club-foot? Would you slay us then with foul words, since you can wield no other weapon?’
Then anger drove pity from Brandir’s heart, and he cried: ‘Crazed? Nay, crazed are you, Black Sword of black doom! And all this dotard people. I do not lie! Níniel is dead, dead, dead! Seek her in Teiglin!’
Then Túrin stood still and cold. ‘How do you know?’ he said softly. ‘How did you contrive it?’
‘I know because I saw her leap,’ answered Brandir. ‘But the contriving was yours. She fled from you, Túrin son of Húrin, and in Cabed-en-Aras she cast herself, that she might never see you again. Níniel! Níniel? Nay, Niënor daughter of Húrin.’
Then Túrin seized him and shook him; for in those words he heard the feet of his doom overtaking him, but in horror and fury his heart would not receive them, as a beast hurt to death that will wound ere it dies all that are near it.
‘Yes, I am Túrin son of Húrin,’ he cried. ‘So long ago you guessed. But nothing do you know of Niënor my sister. Nothing! She dwells in the Hidden Kingdom, and is safe. It is a lie of your own vile mind, to drive my wife witless, and now me. You limping evil – would you dog us both to death?’
But Brandir shook him off. ‘Touch me not!’ he said. ‘Stay your raving. She that you name wife came to you and tended you, and you did not answer her call. But one answered for you. Glaurung the Dragon, who I deem bewitched you both to your doom. So he spoke, before he ended: “Niënor daughter of Húrin, here is your brother: treacherous to foes, faithless to friends, a curse unto his kin, Túrin son of Húrin.”’ Then suddenly a fey laughter seized on Brandir. ‘On their deathbed men will speak true, they say,’ he cackled. ‘And even a Dragon too, it seems. Túrin son of Húrin, a curse unto your kin and unto all that harbour you!’
Then Túrin grasped Gurthang and a fell light was in his eyes. ‘And what shall be said of you, Club-foot?’ he said slowly. ‘Who told her secretly behind my back my right name? Who brought her to the malice of the Dragon? Who stood by and let her die? Who came hither to publish this horror at the swiftest? Who would now gloat upon me? Do men speak true before death? Then speak it now quickly.’
Then Brandir, seeing his death in Túrin’s face, stood still and did not quail, though he had no weapon but his crutch; and he said: ‘All that has chanced is a long tale to tell, and I am weary of you. But you slander me, son of Húrin. Did Glaurung slander you? If you slay me, then all shall see that he did not. Yet I do not fear to die, for then I will go to seek Níniel whom I loved, and perhaps I may find her again beyond the Sea.’
‘Seek Níniel!’ cried Túrin. ‘Nay, Glaurung you shall find, and breed lies together. You shall sleep with the Worm, your soul’s mate, and rot in one darkness!’ Then he lifted up Gurthang and hewed Brandir, and smote him to death. But the people hid their eyes from that deed, and as he turned and went from Nen Girith they fled from him in terror.
Then Túrin went as one witless through the wild woods, now cursing Middle-earth and all the life of Men, now calling upon Níniel. But when at last the madness of his grief left him he sat awhile and pondered all his deeds, and he heard himself crying: ‘She dwells in the Hidden Kingdom, and is safe!’ And he thought that now, though all his life was in ruin, he must go thither; for all the lies of Glaurung had ever led him astray. Therefore he arose and went to the Crossings of Teiglin, and as he passed by Haudh-en-Elleth he cried: ‘Bitterly have I paid, O Finduilas! that ever I gave heed to the Dragon. Send me now counsel!’
But even as he cried out he saw twelve huntsmen well-armed that came over the Crossings, and they were Elves; and as they drew near he knew one, for it was Mablung, chief huntsman of Thingol. And Mablung hailed him, crying: ‘Túrin! Well met at last. I seek you, and glad I am to see you living, though the years have been heavy on you.’
‘Heavy!’ said Túrin. ‘Yes, as the feet of Morgoth. But if you are glad to see me living, you are the last in Middle-earth. Why so?’
‘Because you were held in honour among us,’ answered Mablung; ‘and though you have escaped many perils, I feared for you at the last. I watched the coming forth of Glaurung, and I thought that he had fulfilled his wicked purpose and was returning to his Master. But he turned towards Brethil, and at the same time I learned from wanderers in the land that the Black Sword of Nargothrond had appeared there again, and the Orcs shunned its borders as death. Then I was filled with dread, and I said: “Alas! Glaurung goes where his Orcs dare not, to seek out Túrin.” Therefore I came hither as swift as might be, to warn you and aid you.’