10. Tom Tells His Tales
Aragorn puffed his pipe and directed a piercing look at Bombadil. "There is a werewolf in the Old Forest." it was not a question.
Old Tom nodded. "Draugoth, the Wolflord himself."
Aragorn's eyes closed, Boromir caught his breath and the Hobbits exchanged apprehensive looks. The name meant nothing to them but they didn't like the effect it had had on the Men.
"Many fell creatures fled to the Forest after the fall of the Dark Lord," Tom went on, "birds and beasts and wraiths and other things. But they made little trouble until Draugoth came among them."
"And when was this?" the King asked sharply.
"The first time? two years or so, no longer"
"First time?" that was Boromir. "You mean he does not stay in the Forest?" "No, he comes and he goes. He has been among the Barrow Wights too, and the Swamp Walkers down in the Marshes."
"He's not hiding," Boromir said softly, "he's building an army."
Aragorn nodded grim agreement. "Is he here now, Tom?"
"No. Left last night, running north under the new moon."
"And right across us." said Pippin.
Boromir frowned. "We were attacked by his wraiths only, he did not appear himself."
"Of course not." said Tom reasonably. "He wouldn't want to face the Dunadan nor you either, my friend. Your kin have been killing his for three Ages of the world."
The Men exchanged something that might have been a smile but sent chills down the Hobbits' backs. "It is well he remembers that." Aragorn said softly, then crisply. "Where does he go when he leaves the Forest?"
"That Tom can't tell you. Sometimes he goes north, and sometimes due east but why and to who there's no way of knowing." almost apologetically. "There are few wandering companies of Elves to bring Tom news these days."
"He goes to his other allies I would guess." said Boromir. "I can think of some in the east. Aragorn, no doubt you know of others in the north."
The King nodded. "There are still many dark things hiding in remote corners of Middle Earth. It will be the work of more than one Age to destroy them, if it can be done at all."
He got to his feet, head brushing the beams of the low ceiling. "It seems the danger is greater than we feared and threatens more than the North Kingdom. I have letters to write and orders to give. Good night, Eldest. Boromir, come with me if you will."
The other Man rose obediently and together they left the room. Tom looked sadly and the Hobbits uneasily after them.
"It will be the work of many long Ages to undo the evil of the Dark Lords." Tom said softly, as if to himself. "And it is Men who must do it if they can, and who will suffer in the doing."
"Tom, who exactly is this Draugoth?" Merry asked.
"He's the great wolf he is, last of the Werewolves, Master of the Mountain wargs and of the White Wolves of the far north." he gave them a bright look. "Not for Little Folk to meddle with, leave him to your friends."
"Boromir says he was sent back to kill this Draugoth - and for it to kill him." Pippin said bitterly.
"Sent?" Tom snorted a little. "Men are their own Masters under the One, they chose their own roads."
Pippin frowned at him, trying to understand. "You mean he doesn't have to die?"
"But Boromir says it's his fate." Merry protested.
Bombadil shook his head strongly. "Fate isn't the master of Men, nothing is. They are their own Masters I tell you. Like Tom."
"What about Hobbits?" Pippin demanded.
"Little Folk too." Tom laughed. He looked from Pippin to Merry to Sam, eyes twinkling. "They started out as Men didn't they?"
The Hobbits stared at him. "Did we?"
Shaking his head over the short memories of Mortals Tom told this tale:
Nielle Turinke was a Maia in the service of Orome, Huntsman of the Valar, and Vana the Fair, his spouse. The young of the Kelvar *1 were in her care and she delighted in teaching and playing with them. Unlike most of the Maiar she was small in stature, like a child in appearance as well as nature. When the Elves were brought to Aman their children became her playmates. Valinor was a fairly depressing place after the revolt of the Noldor. Nielle's mischief and merriment were no longer welcomed by her peers, her playmates had grown up and few new children were born to the Elves left in Aman.
She took to travelling secretly to Middle Earth to roam the wide lands and play with the young Kelvar and on one of these journeys she found the first Men, newly awakened children in the land of Hildorien.
Nielle told no one, knowing the Valar would forbid what she intended to do. She lured some of the children away from their companions for she wanted playmates who would not outgrow her. And though she could not prevent their aging she could keep them from growing large.
Running barefoot with her through the woods of Middle Earth the Little Ones of Nielle grew tough soles on their large feet and curly hair to keep their toes warm. And she taught them how to move silently and disappear in a twinkling to protect them from the agents of Morgoth.
By the begining of the Second Age the Little Ones had grown numerous and divided into three kindreds: The Fallohides who dwelt in the woodlands and befriended the Elves, the Stoors who lived intermixed with Men along the banks of the Great River, and the Harfoots who made their homes in the foothills of the Misty Mountains and were allied with the Dwarves.
"Is that true?" Sam wondered, frowning.
"True as true!" Tom answered cheerfully, unoffended.
And Merry and Pippin looked at each other, very thoughtfully.
Note: For those who don't know, if any, 'Kelvar' is the Elvish word for animals. As opposed to 'Olvar' plants.
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