'Akh', Andreth exclaimed suddenly, breaking off and shaking her head. 'How could I win an argument against you? It is your language we are speaking in.'
'But it is not,' said Finrod, puzzled and somewhat disconcerted. 'We are speaking Sindarin, and Sindarin is neither of the two languages I grew up with--neither Telerin nor Noldorin Quenya. I learned Sindarin much later, just as you did.'
'Meaning you've only been speaking it for a couple of centuries!', scoffed Andreth. 'Anyway, it is still Elvish,' she said, with the air of someone who knows she has just clinched the matter.
'Do you find then that reasoning works differently if you speak in a Mannish language, like Taliska, Saelind?' asked Finrod curiously. He seemed to have regained his composure and it was Andreth's turn to feel discombobulated.
'No, not exactly that. Well, actually, in a way, yes. Haven't you noticed? Things spoken don't mean quite the same, in Sindarin and Taliska.'
He was waiting for her to go on, to explain, and she thought that perhaps he hadn't noticed, really, not quite in the way she did.
'I have noticed that sometimes Sindarin has two words, where Taliska has one,' he offered, when she did not immediately continue. 'And also that sometimes it is the other way around.'
'True,' said Andreth, 'but it is not only that.'
Finrod had learned Taliska, of course, thought Andreth--much more quickly than her kin had learned Sindarin, at the beginning. He had learned Taliska to be able to talk to them, to teach them. Tradition in her family still emphasized how astonishingly easy he had found it to communicate with Beor and his tribe, despite the fact that they shared no language, picking the thoughts from their brains and putting words to them, picking up new words and freighting them with thought.
But now they almost always conversed in Sindarin with each other, the House of Beor and the House of Finarfin, although she and her people had had to learn Elvish the hard way. And her people had begun even speaking Sindarin among themselves; at any rate, subjects high and weighty were often discussed in it and some even used Elvish for everyday matters.
She wondered whether perhaps Finrod had learned Taliska too easily--on the rare occasions when he still spoke it, he did seem to speak it as fluently as any other of the languages he knew. Perhaps you had to learn a language the hard way, to keep making errors, learn rules as you broke them, to understand what she was getting at?
'Can you teach me, then, to make me understand?' he asked, surprising her.
Always when she was ready to accuse him of arrogance, she thought, he would turn around and say something amazingly humble, apparently entirely free of self-regard. His interest was never fake. And yet...
Oddly, she found herself not wanting to explain. Was this because she was not sure of herself, because she was afraid he would pick her faulty logic apart, as he had done before, during this long conversation of theirs? But to herself it still seemed clear what she had meant--that discussing the fate of Elves and Men in Sindarin and in Taliska was not just a matter of marking where the borders of one word began and the other ended, in each language, but might take a different path, as if speech guided thought, and lead to a different outcome. But no, that was not exactly what she had meant either, the difference was not as crude as that!
'Taliska is changing--or ours is,' she said, dodging his question. 'My aunt Adanel told me that the Taliska of Ladros has become very Elvish--it has borrowed much from Sindarin, a lot more than the language spoken by her brother's people in the vales of the Ered Wethrin.'
'That is, I suspect, true,' said Finrod, after giving the matter some thought. 'Have your meanings therefore become more Elvish, too, do you think?'
Their talk drifted back to other matters, equally impossible of resolution. She found she could not entirely forgive him, for his counsel to his brother and to herself, nor entirely hold onto her grudge. They had talked so long in circles that almost anything seemed possible, even that they should meet again after the end of the world, as he claimed to hope. No, assuredly, he did hope just that, for he was devastatingly sincere, was he not?
He left and silence settled back in about her. She picked up the slop bucket from the kitchen and emptied it out in the yard. As she straightened, she found herself looking north.
She straightened and, still holding the bucket close, almost involuntarily, she spoke: a word, in Elvish, a name.
Despite everything, it fell into the silence still full of meaning as before. She listened to the sound of it, Aegnor, and knew that to her it still meant: my love. And it was not Taliska.