Hounds and Hobbits



“There are two types of hunting dogs in this world, Estarfin friend: those who run off and those who do not,” said Parnard.

“If they run away, are they of any use for hunting?”

“Oh yes, it is but a matter of finding them again. The hound has already run off,” he said to Danel, who had just caught up to them.

“It is not trained?” Estarfin asked. 

“Huano here is trained,” Danel said, motioning at the bloodhound following close at her heels. “But my money is on Faskalio." A russet feathered falcon swooped down and alighted on her gauntleted wrist. “Find the halfling,” she told the falcon. The bird shrieked once, bobbed its head, and flinging out its wings soared across the meadow and ascended swiftly into the starlit sky. “You have the halfling's shirt, Parnard?” Taking it from him, she stuffed the hobbit’s shirt under the bloodhound’s nose and commanded, "Find the halfling."

The dog snuffled the ground and wandered back and forth aimlessly in the dewy grass, perked up its tail a little, wandered a few more feet, snuffled the grass again, flapped its long ears around, and yawned. 

Danel sighed. “Which way did your hound run off, Parnard?” she asked.

The Wood-Elf pointed ahead. “Thro' yonder stone gate past the willow across the river by the three grey stones...' 

 

*****

 

“Elbereth watches over us tonight,” said Estarfin.

“We saw that before,” Parnard said, and pointed at the foreboding stone fortress.

“A Mannish place,” Danel told them.

“Did my hound go this way?” He looked around in the dewy field of flowers for any trace of the small white dog’s passing.

“I followed you, not the hound…” said Estarfin, staring at the keep’s walls. Men patrolled there. 

“We need to hunt food, not foes,” Parnard reminded them.

"The halflings were strange, do you not think?" Estarfin said to Parnard. 

The Wood-Elf continued to stare at the fortress. "It is so close to our dwelling. The land has gone to wrack and ruin," he observed. 

"Definitely a good number of Secondborn are there. Huano does not like it. Neither does Faskalio. I sent the falcon closer to spy," Danel told them.

The elves waited in uneasy silence until the bird returned. "Nigh seventy men," she said, listening to its chirping. 

"Yet we are three," said Estarfin. 

"But did the bird see the halfling inside?" asked Parnard.

"We have found a nest of vipers; it would be unwise to leave them undisturbed, whether they have the halfling or not," said Estarfin. 

"We must proceed carefully," Danel cautioned.

"Why?" asked Estarfin. 

"Seventy against three!" Parnard breathed in astonishment. "T'is enough." 

"'Why?' Because I do not want either of you slain, that is why," Danel replied. 

"You would leave them to their dark deeds?" 

Danel turned to the grim Noldo, irritated, her hands on her hips. "You should know me better than that. We stop them, carefully, so that I am not peeling either of you off the grass. Let us ride!" So saying, she leaned forward and urged her steed towards the fortress.

"Wait!" cried Parnard.

"Come!  They will not see another sunrise," Estarfin said, and springing forward, rode across the field in a hard gallop.

 

*****

 

"There you are, Ronyo," Parnard said, addressing a small, sturdy-looking white hound. "Go on, now. Bite the Men!" The hound barked once and ran away again. Parnard frowned and hesitated, unsure of what to do. 

Then Estarfin loomed up like a black apparition of doom. "You will defile this land no more, usurpers," he proclaimed in a loud voice to the cluster of men, and his sword flashed and whirled around.

"We challenge you in the name of the Noldor!" Parnard yelled, rushing over to his side, but the men were already dead. Once again, Estarfin was making quick work of a nasty bit of business. Now only forty-seven men were left alive by the Wood-Elf's reckoning; their odds for success were improving with every stroke of Estarfin's sword. Out of the corner of his eye Parnard saw Danel creeping around in the shadows: she must be looking for that wretched halfling.

As he stepped over bleeding bodies and peered around a column, wondering where Estarfin had run off, Parnard heard a faint voice calling. Seeing no one, he yelled from his hiding spot, "Your puny magics cannot stop me. Show yourself!"

"Hello? I am right here!"

"Oh," said Parnard, noticing a caged hobbit, and strolled over to him. "Hail you, halfling."

"I am sure glad ter see yer! Them put a bag over my head an' I wake up here." The hobbit rattled the bars of the cage. "Can yer let me out?"

Parnard glanced at the heavy iron cage. "Estarfin must smash the lock," he said, and leisurely swung himself up to sit on the top of it. He could hear no more screaming and bashing sounds. Surely all the men were slain by now. Perhaps the bird had miscounted their numbers.

"Who took you?" Danel asked.

 "Was some of Lotho's men."

"That accursed name again," muttered Parnard. 

 Estarfin, rushing up breathlessly, seemed not to recognize his friends at first, then lowered his sword. 

"You must break the lock," Parnard told him, pointing downward at it.

The hobbit bowed deeply, his face reddening. "Oh! I am sorry, sir! I was only tryin' ter help." Estarfin drew a knife from his belt and tried to prise the lock open. "I am sorry I got captured like a quail in a bag. I was tryin' ter be brave, like yer elveses." 

The lock snapped in half, and as Estarfin checked his knife for damage, he asked, "Why are you in a cage?" in Quenya. 

"I thought to meself, the village all respected the dark…" 

"Dark what? Dark Elves?" said Parnard. 

Gaisatrix nodded and pointed at Estarfin. "Them all think he be their best frien'." 

"He is no Dark Elf. He is one of the Wise."

Estarfin said in Quenya to Danel, "We are not of the Avari. Do their kind still walk in these lands?"

"Sometimes he is very wise. Sometimes he forgets things, like how I do not run from danger," said Danel, arching an eyebrow at Estarfin.

"Will you be setting out again in the world to avenge your folk?" Parnard said to the hobbit.

He nodded. "If I can get back ter Tighfield."

"And how will you stop them from thrusting a bag over your head?" 

"I will be more careful," said Gaisarix.

Parnard said to the elves in Sindarin, "Fool halfling will get himself killed."

"You speak cruelly of him? He is a fool perhaps, yet there seems no malice in him," Estarfin said. 

"Cruel? Is it cruel to want to keep him from harm?"

"Is it our place to treat him as a child?"

The hobbit seemed young, but who can really tell with mortals? thought Parnard. "You are quite right, Estarfin," he said, and watched in surprise as Estarfin drew out a dagger and offered it to the hobbit. 

"Oh, my! A real Elf knife, an' no mistake!" cried the hobbit, taking up the weapon. 

"May it serve you well, and end many a wicked Man's life."

Gaisarix held the dagger in both hands, his eyes gleaming with pride. "That it will, Lord!" he said, bowing reverently before the tall Noldo.

"You are a doughty lad," Parnard observed.

"We Bounders try. Them Bounders of Lotho be a nasty lot, unlike most Hobbits."

"It is the Men's influence. Ever do they corrupt and ruin what they touch."

"Another blade against our enemy is always worthwhile," said Estarfin. 

Parnard looked uncertain, and hopped off the cage to address the hobbit: "There are many troubles in the world, O halfling, and you have decided to seek them out. It is not an easy path. You may die. We may not be hereabouts to rescue you."

"I learn ter do me best, an' so will me brother an' Tolbold."

"Very good. Then you will not set out alone again," Parnard said, seemingly satisfied by this answer, and bowed his head in acknowledgment of the halfling's brave resolve, deciding to say nothing more to persuade Gaisarix to give up his newly-fledged career in vigilantism. Since captivity and fear of death was not enough to deter him, what would mere words do?

"Thank yer, Lord," the hobbit said to Estarfin. "I am so happy yer came ter save me. If yer be near the Elbow any time, I will buy pints," and gestured with his arms wide to indicate the pints would be extremely generous ones. "Yer all be safe," he said to the elves, then he waved good-bye and turned his footsteps homeward. 

"Watch out for bags!" Parnard yelled after him.

"A strange folk," said Estarfin, as they watched the hobbit run off.

"Very strange indeed," agreed Parnard. 

"Yet not without worth." 

"Brave and hearty, full of young eager blood when roused."

"I like him," said Danel. "He is brave for one of his folk. Yet most Halflings are brave, I think. They need only guidance."

"A brace of rabbits is what we need, cousin. Where is that hound?" said Parnard, whistling as he looked around. 

"We had better sport tonight than hunting rabbits," said Estarfin. "I will return to the forge. The hobbits need weapons, it seems." 

"That is an excellent idea, Estarfin friend," said Parnard, smiling as he watched the hobbit disappear into the woods. "They will kill the Lotho."