Messing with Canon

Messing with canon
Occasionally the community ran RPGs that included original characters from canon, and held ‘auditions’ for people to come and play heroic figures from the books. Competition was always fierce for this, simply because they hardly came up that often and who wouldn’t want to play a lifelong idol?
Best of all was when someone ran a quest game that let your usual character interact with Frodo, or Glorfindel who, in The Lord of the Rings had saved Aragorn and the hobbits from the Ringwraiths as they tried to get to Rivendell. For a bard like Jano, these were heaven-sent opportunities to roleplay with, or as, her heroes.
In one such quest game, she found herself paired with Glorfindel, one of the mightiest Elf-Lords ever, travelling south from Rivendell to Dol Amroth in Gondor. He was a big hero of hers, and she’d composed a short but emotive verse of his greatest deed, saving the survivors of Gondolin from a Balrog as they fled over the mountains.
Here’s her version of the single paragraph that was written of the encounter in The Silmarillion
They fell...
in glaring flame
and dark black smoke.
From the mountain
into the rocky vale.
The cost we paid
for freedom.
They fell…
It fell…
from the high crags,
its fire diminishing.
Damned to the depths
for its defiling
of the light.
He fell…
still golden bright
in glory and in pain.
Fighting for us.
The path made safe.
His life the price.
They fell…
into a legend
of betrayal
and deathly oaths.
His life for hope
of an escape
to destiny.
They fell.

That’s the homage to meagre canon, but in the quest game she had the good fortune to talk about this glorious battle and learn how it felt to have a fight to the death with a fire-demon. Talk about goose-bumps!

Fan art  rendering of Glorfindel re-incarnated.
One night, early into the journey, as they camped under the stars on the northern border of Hollin, Jano had asked Fin (as he had asked her to address him) about something that had been troubling her a while. It was a little embarrassing for her, as she thought she may have offended him once in the Hall of Fire, as she sang of his famous battle with the Balrog. He had been very subdued when he had realised what she was about to perform, and had left the Hall soon after she finished. It had preyed on her mind for a while, and now they knew each other better she wished to put things right, if they needed to be.
"I was too bold perhaps, my friend... insensitive? Maybe I should have sung my piece another time and not in your presence? If I offended you in any way, then I am truly sorry for it." 
Having screwed up her courage all day to ask this of him, she was therefore a little taken aback when Fin had burst out laughing. 
"Oh Jano! I am sorry, my dear... your face!"  he managed with difficulty to control his mirth and address her earnest question with a serious reply.
"To be honest with you I was uncomfortable yes, but then I always am when I am so 'honoured'. At the time though... your time... all I could think of was how grateful I was that yours was perhaps the shortest accolade I have ever received, and yet one of the most touching in its simplicity and directness."
He looked at her face briefly, then swiftly looked away again when he started to chuckle once more, as she still looked a little stunned. Instead, he gazed into the fire and, his lips still twitching into a smile now and again, he tried to explain some more.
"But this has happened many times before to me, as I am sure you realised at the time - we caught each other's eye remember - as you got up to sing, and I knew then what you would do... say. And you could not look at me, nor I at you after that."
He sighed, no longer laughing at himself, or at her discomposure, but trying to think of a way to tell her that would not make her feel at fault, for the truth was complicated and truly, he did not think that Bards should not acclaim his great deed in his presence at all.
"It is not embarrassment as such - I am past that. I just did what I did. For duty... and for love too I suppose? Have you ever been in a battle Jano? No, of course not - you are too young..."
"That is true Fin, but I have fought when my life was in danger, or to protect others. My step-father Aldred and all three of my foster brothers were warriors... cavalrymen in the service of Gondor, or of Rohan. Aldred taught all of us how to ride and to use a sword, and he used to tell us tales of the battles he had fought in - how sometimes a madness can take you into a place where you are no better than a beast, to slash and kill without compunction, or thought, or reason. No emotion except a rage to destroy whatever is in front of you..."  she hesitated a moment then went on "I have killed too... orcs... I lived in Ithilien close to the Ephel Duath for a long time before I came to Imladris. Once only I felt the madness Aldred spoke of, and... he was right. It was horrible, and when it was over... I was sick to my stomach and cried and cried..."
Her beautiful sea-blue eyes were wide and sad with the memory, and for a brief moment he wanted very much to comfort her with more than words, but he returned his gaze to the fire, nodding a little and spoke softly to her.
"Then you will not be surprised to know that is how it was for me on that day. In a way... your Aldred spoke the truth... it is a terrible thing to be that way in battle. You lose all control, all reason and act... instinctively. It is a primal defence I think, because for the time you are like that, you have no thought of danger to yourself, or even to others. All you are is someone else's death... a raging killer." 
He kept his eyes on the flames, watching the writhing forms and remembering what little he could... the eyes blazing hate and darkness, the fiery whip, the pure white-hot evil that matched his own rage and abhorrence...
"Had I not been in that place where you become your own hatred... where you will tear and rend and destroy anything in your reach, I doubt I could have fought that creature, let alone kill it. I was a soldier, a seasoned warrior and it had never happened to me before. I was good, even great, and had never known true fear - I knew my craft well. Was always cool and competent. Yet as we fled the city I was terrified - we all were I think, for we had never before seen such destruction, or horror... and... the relief when Tuor and Idril led us away through the mountain."  he paused, hardly aware she was listening now, wrapped up in the memory. "Then just as we thought we had won free, that... thing... was there, and for a moment there was shock and fear, and then... nothing except a desire... a need... greater than any hunger or lust. I wanted it gone – obliterated. And I really do not remember anything else after that, except the roaring heat and the smell of burning metal... cloth... flesh... then nothing at all, for so long."
Jano could not shift her gaze from the pale, handsome face staring into the fire, lost in the memory of his own death, and knew this moment would stay with her for the rest of her days. She kept quiet and very still, knowing not to break the silence, yet wanting to reach out and touch his hands or his face. At last he turned his kind, grey-blue gaze back to her and smiled gently.
"So there is no need for you to feel bad, Jano. I do not remember it too well. All I did was my duty as a soldier, and as one of the chief servants of my Lord Turgon, who had already fallen to three of those horrors. Protected and fought for people I loved and honoured. And the rest was fated."  his lips curled into another smile for the beautiful elleth, who was looking at him with compassion and understanding.
"What say you to a little night riding, Jano? I doubt either of us is going to rest tonight and Filigod and Asfaloth have eaten their fill... We have not pushed them too far today really."

And that is the beauty of roleplay – it lets you roam around someone else’s head and work out why they’re doing something, or how they got to that place. Even if they’re not your own character, if you dig deep enough you find their heart and soul, and share in their victories, their joys and sorrows. For a writer, it’s never unrewarding if you want to really get under a character’s skin.

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