Ice Hobbit: Dogged Pursuit


A’ight, credit where it be due: Calenglad weren’t lyin’. I’d put me heavy garb, includin’ the shearling boots on before I’d come to the first settlement, marked on the map as “Kauppa-kohta.”

I think this whole area may be on an elevated plateau, even afore yeh start factorin’ in latitude.

T’weren’t the frigid air what took me breath clean away on arrival, though.

What be the whimsical Hobbit-child’s rhyme?

          Grey as a mouse. Big as a house
          Nose like a snake. I make the earth shake
                    Oliphaunt am I
          Biggest of all. Huge, old, and tall
          If ever you'd met me. You wouldn't forget me

It truly takes some’ut to render a Bolingbroke speechless. Me mouth hung open like a vacant badger hole.

I never saw such. An’ the verse speak true: It en’t a sight you’ll forget.

What the poem fails to make mention of is the hair – That thar behemoth gots hair on its ribs an’ legs longer than the hair on me own head.

It be a veritable woolly Oliphant!

The mammoth creature’s handler – a Beardie Dorf called Ofráth –laughed long an’ hard at me dumbstruck gawk afore invitin’ me ter join in lunch. Ofráth had come down from Zigilgund to meet the trade caravan. The head o’ the caravan were another Beardie Dorf called Leithólf. He were amused the Green-Hoods commissioned a Beardless Zantulbasn to play catch-up with a parcel for ‘em – Those Rangers must be distracted by more than Gauredain these days.

I conceded they might be a tad busy; any rate, I got a fascinating trek out of it.

"What be a ‘gawr-ruu-re-dain,’ then?” I ventured, deftly diverting the topic.

“Oohhhhh, nothing small bite-sized apples ought to be crossing.” Mister Leithólf had a flair for the dramatic cautionary. “Lestaways, not those who don’t fancy themselves Wolf Bait.”

“The Wolf Tribe are a Wild People,” Mister Ofráth were a full-time denizen of the Ice. “Too large to be Men; too small to be Giants. They dress in skins, and run equally well on all fours as on two legs.”

“Well thar be a curious folk.” I raised both eyebrows.

“Curious, if they weren’t so very dangerous,” Mister Ofráth says grimly. “They train wolves as hunting hounds. And word among Lossoth is that like wolves, they eat flesh … of any kind.”

Ugh!” I says, pulling a face.

“Exactly.” The Dorf tossed back the last of his hot soup. “Gauredain usually confine themselves to the plateaus north of Zigilgund. But they’ve been permeating the hunting grounds of late, from the springs, to the south of Länsi-mâ.” He wiped ‘is beard. “Leithólf’s right: a Gauradan’s nothing you want nearby without a sharp axe. – Even THEY think twice about attacking the norsu, though.”

He gestured at the gargantuan quadrupeds. Thar be why he’d come all the way to Kauppa-kohta. T’weren’t just to help share some ‘o the caravan load: he were a cautionary escort.

Mister Ofráth added some landmarks to me map – clearly he were familiar with the North, an’ spoke some o’ the local tongue. He negotiated a sale on me behalf with the Kauppa-kohta merchants for an even warmer cloak, trimmed with fur. I may’ve resembled a plush bear toy I once owned, but Bullroarer’s Bunting, I were well insulated.

Thankin’ the Beardies very handsomely (they let me pet the Oliphant’s nose – EEEE!!!) I set out again.

*     *     *

From ‘Kauppa-kohta’ to ‘Pynti-peldot’ I made a few days’ modest progress. While Jonagold may’ve enjoyed the green slopes of Evendim, she were markedly less enamored with our expedition by now. Least Maddie had fun, playin’ in the updrafts.

Happily a certain amount of the road north o' the outpost of ‘Pynti-peldot’ were through the bluffs, shielded from excess wind.

T’were near the hour of Elevenses. I were sittin’ fer a nosh.

Distant howlin’ put me on guard.

I tossed Maddie into the air fer a look.

She wheeled a few times without cryin’ any form o’ distress. Still – what wi’ the canine sounds – I’d be lyin’ if I said I dinnae have a hand on the pommel o’ B-Sharp Major.

I swears to ye, every new sight in this Ice land be a head-turner. Round the bend came a whole line ‘o lean, wolfish dogs in harnesses like cart ponies, all running along a lead. At the end of it were a sled on low, broad runners, sized fer bearin’ a moderate load.

On the back of said sled were a broad-shouldered individual in Lossoth apparel, geared up with sword at hip, an’ both javelin an’ shield strapped over ‘is back. 

A loud command (I s’ppose some’ut along the lines of “Woah!”) rose from the base of ‘is chest: The dogs scrambled to a halt. The charcoal alpha edged about me, barking stridently at Maddie overhead. A white one alongside ‘im flung ‘erself on her back, head lolloped to one side, in hopes of either snacks or tummy rubs. The burly bloke stepped off the back of the sled contraption.  

I were relieved to hear the tone of ‘is guttural burr were one o’ concern, an’ nae hostility. But whatever ‘e said were lost on me.

“Oh dear.” This were always a risk o’ travellin’ abroad. I bowed politely; the white dog at me feet whined, paws failing in the air. “Wi’ apologies fer the Shire brogue, Sir,” I says cautiously, makin’ every effort to enunciate. “Would it be too much ter hope yeh spoke any o’ the Westron tongue?”

“Elendil’s Breath, you’re a Hobbit.”

“Don’t tell me,” I says, blandly. “Yeh took me fer a Big Folk’s wee sproutling.”

“I did ask where your family was,” he admitted. “And if I could escort you back. – This is reindeer herdsmen’s territory, mostly. – I assumed you’d wandered off from a camp.”

Maddie an’ the lead dog, by now, were chirpin’ an’ barkin’ up such a storm that both of us cut the dialogue short to call them off – “Ai! Far: tolo. Tolo!

“… And you speak Sindarian as well now?”

“After a fashion.” I put Maddie on the saddlebow. “But you’ve turned over yer cards, laddie,” I says, archly. “Yer common tongue free o’ the Lossoth accent notwithstanding, ‘ow many Big Folks’d both swear by that bloke Elendil, an’ know from skinny Elf-speech?”

I eyed him. “Ye’d nae by chance be the Dúney green-hood 'Lothrandir' now, would ye?”

“If I were,” he returns, “I’d say you have the advantage of me in both name and purpose. But whatever draws a perianeth so far from the Shire notwithstanding, how many outside the ... ‘Dúney green-hood’ circle both know what they’d swear by, and the name of their most obscurely-posted field man?”

“Is this the point where I gives you the free agent code phrases, then?”

“It would be a start,” he shrugged. “Would you oppose a return to Pynti-peldot? We can make it by sundown, if we push it. Lossoth spirits are ... an acquired taste. But I’d more than happily familiarize you with them, for any and all news of the greener world you might have.”

“I were on Gaffer Calenglad’s pay to carry you communications as-is,” I ‘fessed. “Never let it be said a Bolingbroke shies from a drink, though. Applecider’s me name: Personal Post-Hobbit, Braver of Freezing Fetlocks & Gruesome Gauredain– pleased as a pumpkin ter meet yeh.”

“Then more the welcome you are,” he says. “Lothrandir, son of Eryndol, Lossoth emissary, and if you speak of the Gauredain, then I’m very concerned indeed with whatever you have to say.”

“Aye, an’ why be that?”

He suddenly looked a good deal fiercer. “Because that’s what I’m hunting.”

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Disclaminer: The Oliphant poem was written by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, c. 1954). Apart from slight modification for formatting, I take NO credit for his intellectual property.