1. quel fara
He sat up carefully through a rising wave of dizziness, afraid he would be sick. Holding onto his ringing head, he looked down at ruffled fur, the imprint of his own cheek, long limbs stretched out as though at full gallop. Though he ached from the simple effort of moving, he reached to rumple the crooked ear that had never learned to stand, marring Lôkhî’s beauty for his breeder and bringing him into the life of a ranger on the trail – two rangers on the trail, he corrected himself, still stroking the soft thick fur behind the ear.
It was about then he realized the big grey hound, the wolf in his fold, was more than asleep.
He lay back down and buried his face in the fur where his cheek had been cradled, and wept. “How will I ever comfort Nâlo,” he sobbed, wishing they were home with her, fire on the hearth, latch on the door, smells of bread and mulled wine, safe and warm, safe and home. How will she ever comfort me, he thought.
When he could stand, he began his farewells. He sang unconsciously as he gathered the stones for the cairn, a tuneless aching of the heart forcing its way into the cold night air. His own folk would think it was strange; might even misunderstand it – but not Nâlo. She sometimes shook her head at his ways, but she never questioned the things that made him who he was. He had partnered for several years with an elf, and he had learned the habit from her. Elves seemed to make everything into a song, as though they were trying to hammer their pain in the forge of their fëas until it became something of beauty, something they could understand. Or maybe it was not elves, but only his partner who did so – still, the habit was his now.
As his mind cleared, impressions flashed behind his eyes – a sharp crack like the snap of a twig; swinging around, reaching for his blade… nothing. A hard blow from behind had taken his senses as the hound, snarling, leapt forward in front of him. Except for darkness, that was all he knew.
His hand searched the big chest now until he felt a dart. He pulled it free and snapped it mercilessly in his hands as though he could gain some satisfaction over their unseen attackers. Then he wept again.
They say a man’s life will flash in front of his eyes if he fears he is dying, but no one had told him that the dog’s life would do so. Their days together unfurled backwards in his mind, clear and strong and bright as the woven pictures that lined the walls of the great hall. He saw each day as he laid the long body in the curl it would have used beside the hearth. He placed beneath the big crossed paws the broken dart and cradled the head on his extra shirt – one of the few things that remained from his ransacked pack - though the night was cold enough to consider wearing both. The work of shaping stones would have to keep him warm.
He thought at last of the day Lôkhî had come to him, a squirming ball that seemed more wag than dog. His partner had brought the pup with her to dinner - to see how the animal took to them, she said, and how his brand new wife took to the idea of huge paws and another mouth to feed - a slavering one at that. She had been stroking the sharply pointed ears as she handed him over, and her eyes were sad.
“I can’t take him from you,” he insisted, feeling she had already formed a bond with the beast, but she shook her head.
“Please, mellon-nîn. You need a companion to walk the road with you, and I need to know he is loved.”
“I think you want to keep him,” he’d tried one last time.
Her hand caressed the curve of the animal’s skull, brushing against his strong fingers. “I would come to love him,” she sighed, a foregone conclusion, “and that would break my heart, for what could he be to me but a breath.”
Nâlo had just reached them, was extending her capable hand to pet the pointed muzzle, and a look passed between the two women at those words. He did not understand it, but Lôkhî had become his in that moment, and his wife loved the big grey beast as much as he.
There was never any doubt that Lôkhî was the brother at his back upon the roads, and Nâlo depended on him having that protection, even though there were many nights that she would muse aloud that a good provider was supposed to supply a woman with firelight to keep the wolves away, and wonder what strange fate had made her give her heart to a man who put a wolf between themselves and the hearth… and to the wolf as well.
The grey light of morning was already touching the clearing when he piled the last stones on the cairn. He placed his hands upon them and whistled, then whispered a name to the wind. There was no answer, and he patted the stone beneath his hand. “Remember the call, brave heart,” he said. “You will hear it again some day, and we will find other quarry, you and Nâlo and I.”
He took three steps along the road toward home, then turned and whistled one last time. “Quel fara,” he called, and turned into the west toward home, the wind stinging his eyes to tears.
This story (complete with multi-language pun) is for Chris, who once told me Never name your baby Loki, or he will eat your couch; and for my very much missed grey-thing, Spoo. (I still cannot see ground fog without missing the touch of your fur)
Many many thanks to Dwim and Stulti for trying to walk me through correcting the fight. I have been through four re-writes now, and I just don’t seem to have a grasp of conflict, in spite of their excellent suggestions. I intend to keep trying, but I wanted this to make the deadline for the “all good beasts” challenge. I think the problem is that this story is not about that conflict to me, it was just a vehicle. I know removing it was the coward’s answer…
Languages are not my strong suit, so I hope that I have used my resources correctly – I understand Lôkhî to mean crooked in Adûnaic, and the elvish farewell quel fara to literally mean good hunting. If I have misused them, the fault is my own and does not reflect on those who were kind enough to help me. I would be grateful if the linguists would point me at my mistakes and how to correct them.
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.