1. That Way
Frodo was fast to remove the Ring from his finger, but not fast enough. It had called to its master and his servants hurried to its rescue. Not one candle burned and not one sound broke the silence as they stepped into the inn, with a draft of cold air following their heels, carrying the sigh of a thousand deaths.
For one timeless moment, the Ringwraith studied the inn's main hall. It was dark and empty, for the people had long retreated to the refuge of their bedchambers. But the mixed aromas of ale, roasted meat and sweat still lingered on, spiced by the residue of myriads of human emotions. There was sweet fear and delicious anger to be found there; but there was also the disgusting essence of innocence and the stale breath of laughter.
His fleshless eyes saw that the Ring had left its mark in the room. He saw the sparkling trail of its power on the floor, a trail that danced in gold and silver tongues and led away from the hall; to the guest rooms. Slowly but steadily the glow faded away, but it was clear that the Ring was now within their grasp. They had to make haste and track down the Ring-bearer, before he escaped them.
In this dark hour of the night, no living soul was to be found in the room; none but a black cat that stared at them with notable indifference. Then the Ringwraith recalled the tales that the midnight winds were whispering to the walls of Minas Morgul; tales of a servant fallen from grace and his minions, creatures stealthy and sly and greedy, beasts that enamored mischief and dark magic.
He gazed upon the small creature that acknowledged his stare with a languid stretch of his foreleg. Invoking the name of the Prince of the animal's forefathers, he demanded his collaboration.
"Spawn of Tevildo's minions, where has the halfling gone?"
Luin had lived all of his adult life in the Prancing Pony, terrorizing the rat population of the cellars and accepting the scraps of food that the innkeeper tossed at him. This one was a thickheaded human, by feline standards, but at least he provided him a warm place by the fire during the winter. Overall, the cat rather liked him, although he insisted on calling him Mouser instead of Luin, as was his real name, a fact that he kept on reminding him by ignoring him when he called him by that ridiculous name. In time, Luin came to accept that old Barliman would never understand the complex linguistic structure of High Feline.
And now, as the creature of shadow towered over him, Luin stared at the Ringwraith, contemplating on his answer. Although the affairs of Men, Elves and Halflings meant little to him, he had taken a liking to the short lad. The halfling had sung to him. He had sung the ancient tale of the feline minstrel who had assisted the Man of the Moon when the world was still young, a tale treasured among cats, shared in purring whispers between litters and old toms curled beside winter's embers. Additionally, the halfling had shared his soft meat with him and was not angered when he helped himself with seconds from his plate, unlike his pudgy friend.
The cat studied the dark form. The name he invoked brought up several memories from his kittenhood. He recalled the tales his mother had purred to him as he nursed happily, tales of how their ancestors had been driven east of a mighty fortress of old to die in the wilderness, starving and freezing. The one who claimed to be their Prince had failed in providing for them and perished in the wastelands while their kind survived and thrived among the Aftercomers. Ever since, cats had denounced all masters and all memories regarding the Fallen Prince were colored by spite.
He raised his head, sniffing the air, tasting the essence of the Dark One. His amber eyes caught glimpse of the fiendish halo encircling the Ringwraith, ripples of darkness that throbbed malevolently, craving to devour all that was fair. And for a fleeting moment the cat glanced beneath the midnight surface. He used to be a King of Men, this one. A king he had been, like the one who had set his forefathers adrift the West Sea along with a woman whose only crime was her love for cats, sentencing them to the slow torture of thirst and starvation.
Luin stretched and stood up.
Dark shadow of a king, your kind has sent my forefathers to death in cold and water and starvation, he thought.
I owe you nothing.
In this moment that lingered on, the Nazgul and the Cat stood facing each other in a willful silence. Then the cat tilted his head and glanced sideways, pointing with his amber gaze to the rooms that the hobbits usually favored; those with windows facing north and close to the ground. But not that night.
"Deedle dum diddle," he purred. "They went that way."
As the Ringwraiths left the main hall and walked towards the empty room, the cat jumped out of the window and vanished into the night.
No one saw the inn's black cat ever again. The innkeeper was briefly saddened, but in the events that followed the loss of an animal seemed of little importance. Still, legend has it that sometimes, at the nights when the light of the full moon shines gloriously over Bree and the crowds have long left the inn's main hall, the strangest of sounds can be heard. If one stills his heart and listens close enough, he can hear distant sounds of a fiddle playing the tune of an old, funny song.
"...So the cat in his fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle
in a jig that would wake the dea..."
This story is inspired from movieverse, but relies heavily on Tolkien's writings.
Luin is Sindarin for "blue".
Tevildo: The evil Prince of Cats from Tolkien's Lost Tales. He was originally a main character in the tale of Beren and Luthien but he was later abandoned.
Man of the Moon, "Deedle dum diddle" and the two verses at the end: From Tolkien's poem "The cat and the Fiddle".
"A woman whose only crime was her love for cats": Reference to Queen Beruthiel and her cats.
"Those with windows facing north and close to the ground."
These were the rooms that the hobbits had rented but did not use them that night.
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.