Now Lost, Lost to Those From the East, Is Valimar!
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 29, Part 239
After the Dark of the Moon
December 12, 1452
The Yaur towered over the hobbits, against a sky just beginning to glow blue about the horizon, yet stars still shown behind his grizzled head. Frodo and Mattie both now faced him with weapons drawn. They could see, when he grimaced, that he had large and sharpish teeth, and yet anguish filled his face. “You mistake me, guests!” His knees bent slightly, as though he would almost kneel, and his hands clenched into upraised fists. “Most of our lives we spend in an evil dream, slaves to passions that we long since have sickened on, desiring anything else than what this curse upon us has made of us! Can you not understand how we welcome this one night a month, when once again we may almost become the creatures that we were meant to be?”
“Curse?” Frodo demanded, “or choice?” He pointed Sting at The Yaur’s breast. “Was this not your reward for worshipping Sauron?”
“Reward!” The Yaur snarled, twisting towards Frodo. “Aye, so we thought at first. Reject the call of Mandos and regain new flesh, strong flesh, without fear of judgment or punishment, for as long as Arda should last,if we have but the will to keep it.” For a moment a twisted smile tweaked his lips, but soon contorted into a scowl once more.. “Yet we have had ages to change our minds.”
The Yaur glowered over Frodo, leaning over the sword, so closely that the hobbit could see his own reflection in the yellow eyes. “Have you yourself never made a decision which chained you to horrors which you never imagined? Do not answer! I smell it in your blood, the traces of poison still in you, the old enthrallments slowly breaking down and going stale within your flesh. I can scent how recently and narrowly you have escaped, how you cannot wholly trust your escape even now, and how grateful you are that on this, our one night a month, we have no time to brew.” His angry lips drew back from his teeth, his voice grown hoarser by the minute. “I know what made you gaunt, oh righteous one!”
Then slowly The Yaur mastered himself, straightened up again, and said in sorrow, “Must you find it so hard to believe that we genuinely desired just this once to hear new songs and host new company?”
“Not at all,” Frodo answered, yet he did not lower his sword. “I also know precisely how far to trust the good intentions of anyone still enslaved to a bad decision, however long ago. Did you even admit to yourself why you so eagerly urged food upon us–or why you called my wife ‘luscious’?” Pity filled his voice, even as he said, “It is a poor resolution that makes provision for its own failure even in the act of trying to succeed. I know it all too well.”
As he spoke he took Mattie by the arm and walked them slowly backwards, away, and no one tried to stop them. Frodo told them, “No one, not even Varda, can cure you unless you really want the cure.” The Yaur began to tremble all over as the stars faded into a spreading blue light, showing more and more of the anguish in his face–and the hairs that had begun to sprout here and there. The lens warmed on Frodo’s chest. “I can feel it from you, Yaur. I can feel you missing the chase.”
“Leave!” The Yaur barked, tension trembling in his every muscle. “Leap on your steed and gallop, gallop far away!” The hobbits needed no more than that–they scrambled for Bleys. Even as they clambered onto the donkey’s back, The Yaur howled, “Ruuuuuun! By Elber...El...Ellllllllloooooooooooo!” As Frodo looked back over his shoulder, The Yaur threw back his head and wailed to the sky, the fur bursting forth all over his body. Then his arms dropped down and became forelegs, and his leather clothing, too, merged with his body and sprouted fur, just as the slender horn of the new moon peeped up over the horizon in the early glow of morning.
Frodo had no need to spur Bleys on.
”Flesh!” the now-beasts barked behind them. “Flesh! Howwwww I want it again!”
“Yes! Yes! Yes! Siiiiiink in the teeth! Laaaaaap up the blood!”
The desert ass, wily child of the wilderness, bounded from rock to rock like he flew half the time, till up and down and left and right spun together beyond all disentangling, under the thin sliver of a moon now full-revealed in the morning sky. Yet the wolf-things scrambled fast behind.
“Cause ‘em paiiiiiiin! Make ‘em hurrrrrt!”
Mattie cried back, ”Why?” as the wolflings drew closer and Bleys began to flag, overburdened as he was. “We were your guests mere minutes ago!”
“Because it’s fuuuuuuun!” The old leader howled, and all of the others took it up. “Fuuuuuun! Funfunfunfunfun!” And the hobbits watched the madness glaze all the yellow eyes behind them.
Bleys brayed horribly and lurched. Frodo glanced down and saw the blood flying from his flank, and horror rose in the hobbit’s throat. On the other side, Mattie lashed out with a knife at a wolfish muzzle before it could gape to bite. Bleys stumbled, then collected himself.
“Jettison everything!” Frodo cried. “Bleys can’t carry it all!” Yet he grabbed his flower-press and writing-kit before he kicked off the saddlebag that carried them, and stuffed them inside his weskit. He saw Mattie do likewise, shoving the dwarf-kit into her bosom, with her harp slung on her shoulder, bouncing wildly on her back with muffled jangles.
Clothes flew in the wind behind them, and empty bottles hurled to shatter against stone and root, tinkling and sparkling in the newborn sun. The full vessels followed: jars crashed and splashed pungent pickles and preserves everywhere, some hitting their pursuers first. Sleeping-bags bounced across the rocks and then unfurled as wolves tripped over them and ran right on. Paws skittered over dried peas and beans rolling everywhere. A loaf of bread hit The Yaur in the muzzle, but he plunged on hardly deterred at all, till a jar of spicy carrots caught him square between the eyes and knocked him cold. Yet other wargs then vied to take the lead, only too eager to see the old wolf go down. Some yelped and fell back when their paws hit broken glass, but others kept up the hunt, yowling and yipping to each other, sometimes with words, sometimes not, sometimes only they themselves could tell.
Now Bleys gathered himself for a wild effort, taking new wind with the lightening of his load. Four hooves skipped along ledges that no mere pony would dare, leaped crevasses with trees dark in the depths below, scrambled over boulders by moving so fast that the slips couldn’t quite catch up with him. On his own initiative, Bleys sought out again and again the most difficult path, bounding over high tangles of thorns that the wargs had to run around, despite the hobbits clinging to his back. Now up over a flinty ridge he scrambled, sparks flying off his hooves. Now down he plunged, just a nip ahead of fangs.
Yet wargs scurried up above onto an even higher ridge, while others herded the donkey into a narrow box canyon. Then, when Bleys reared up against a rock wall and had nowhere else to turn, fang and claw leaped down, and fang and claw leaped up, and Frodo found himself hurled to his feet to fight the best he could with Sting in hand, in a confusion of growls and saliva and blood and gnashing jaws. He heard feet shuffling and stamping behind him, and knew that Mattie warded his back. He also heard Bleys roaring brays in rage and pain, and caught glimpses of hooves coming down on wolfish skulls, or watched wargs kicked through the air. Then the fire of ripping skin brought him back to his own battle.
Slash and thrust, dodge and fend, he could spare no thought for hope or despair, just kept on fighting. His head spun with weariness, but he didn’t have time for that, either. Bites and scratches stung, and his meager muscles burned, not up to any such exertion, but he heard Mattie behind him and so he guarded her and pushed his aching limbs to feats that he wouldn’t have believed himself capable of, in his condition, if he’d had any choice at all. Sting flashed and flickered in the early light and the canyon ran with blood.
The fight took him near to Bleys. He saw the ass now foundered, all four hooves lashing out in the air at more and more assailants. To his horror he saw that the wargs did not wait for Bleys to die, but feasted on the living flesh. With a cry as horrible as any warg’s, Frodo lunged over to gash the donkey’s throat himself. He thought that he saw brief gratitude in the quickly glazing eyes, then he turned to the animals around him and fought more savagely than ever.
The wargs drew back a bit, just when they had hoped that their prey would drop of his exhaustion. But a madness sent Frodo howling like a wolf, himself, swashing Sting in a curve that slashed three wargs at once under their jaws, then plunging his blade down on the return-swing into another.
The slain wargs did not fall, but crumbled into dust too long held alive. Frodo did not care, except that the grit made the spilt blood less slippery. All pain and weariness forgotten, he made arcs of red rain fly through the air again and again, and red was his vision in the rising sun. It didn’t matter how the tears blurred his sight, he could still make out the shapes and hack at them. It didn’t matter how his bared toes throbbed with cold or his thin legs trembled in the fighter’s stance, he lunged anyway, again and again, and dodged only long enough to attack once more–that’s all he asked, another chance to attack, and another after that, as many chances as he could wring from his luck before it failed him.
Mattie fought beside him now, in a horrific dance of scintillating blades. A glance at her blood-streaked face showed Frodo that she didn’t expect to survive, either. And suddenly he knew exactly what he felt, all that he felt, and the shock nearly stopped him dead.
“Hoy! Hoy! Hola! Wargs at play–come and see! And never mind the sun–are we not stronger now than in those feeble days?” Harsh voices erupted from the rocks all around. “Wargs on the hunt–will they spare any meat for old friends, d’you think?”
“Hey! That’s no deer down there–they hunt two-leggeds!”
“Oh well, so much for friendship...”
The baying of the wargs gave way to yelps and yowls of pain. Frodo and Mattie saw the animals drop dead all around them, blurs of weapons somewhere in the melee.
“Mattie, look–Sting! And your knives!” Twilight had passed, yet the blades still gleamed blue. And yet they luminesced fitfully, flickering like ghost-light, in and out. Frodo’s free hand went to his lens. “Orcs! Orcs are fighting off the wargs!”
“I see them,” Mattie hissed to him. “Through you I see them.”
Something snapped within Frodo. All of the hysterical strength that had pushed him suddenly drained from him at once. He stumbled, then with no choice in the matter, he sagged against Mattie, who, startled, dropped her knives to catch him. They felt the rough hands grip them and haul them off the ground. A foul-smelling bag went over their heads. Too much: as his limbs tangled with his wife’s, jolting all about till everything settled into the thumping of their captor’s run, Frodo finally lost consciousness completely.