1. The Call of the Drúedain
I know that he didn’t mean to hurt me, it was just instruction.
Well, that and the ale.
He was always meaner after he had had a couple of tankards of… “the soul of the sea.” That’s what he called it.
If that’s what it feels like to have a soul, I don’t want one.
Anyway, I have my drum.
It’s no easy business, you know, making such an instrument. Because it isn’t. You can’t just beat on the thing and expect it to sing for you. That isn’t the way that they work.
A drum has a soul, too.
First you have to kill something, and that takes something out of you, if you are at all a person, and my sister said that the souls of the starfishes will haunt your dreams if you kill something without saying thank you afterwards. I haven’t tested it, and the sea spirits know that I won’t try.
Anyway… we worked with the skins of deer. After the hunters were done with the meat selling, they would bring the skins to our part of town, and we’d get a hide and hang it up to dry. There were breezes a’plenty off of the waters, there, to cure just about anything, a hide first of all. Give you a bloody nose, too, if you weren’t careful, all that fresh air coming up from the sea past the river…
So. You have your skin, and it’s dry and all, hanging on the line, or pegged down into the ground, depending on whether you have a line or pegs. And then you take it off the line, or up from the ground, depending. I don’t think that the skin cares too much either way, y’know, but I haven’t been a skin, except when Father was beating me, and I don’t care too much to think about that, so never mind.
Then you need to think about the drum.
Who is it for? Is it for you? Not likely, if you are making the thing, because if you are, you’re poor, and you’ll be selling it…
So. Your skin is dry. I mean, the skin is dry. Now you need to think about how your drum will be used. Who is supposed to hold it? Is it a warrior? If so, your tree to hold the skin will be a birch, something lightweight but strong. Somebody with a master, in a fine house? Find a willow, their limbs are both strong and fair to look upon. Who else would want a drum? Oh yes… musicians. They are the most fickle of all. Before giving up, because they will never want what wood you have, take them with you to whatever woods are nearby you and let them choose their own wood. They will think the spirits are shining on them, and then they will give you more money.
Mine? Well, it’s made of cedar. Uncommon for a drum in these parts, but the scent of it gives me good dreams, and that is worth a lot. More than… ah, nevermind.
So after I soaked the skin and wood overnight (had to weigh the hide down with rocks, that’s the safest way to keep your supplies), I shaped the frame, then pulled the skin taught across the cedar circle. Heated up the nails that I always use for burning in the holes you need and then cut some thongs out of the extra hide to keep the circle in shape and to sew up the sides. Used the needle that I had carved myself, out of coral from Dol Amroth. It’s where my mother is from, you see, but she’s been dead for a while and it’s all I have left of her.
Well, there was just something about this drum, and I dared to run my fingers along it. I didn’t even know who it was for, you see, and not for me, to be sure, but I needed to know that it would sing when struck. For a drum that doesn’t make you want to go to battle, or dance, or love, well… it shouldn’t have been made. And I didn’t want that, so I had to try it. And I shouldn’t have. It wasn’t for me. But the sounds that came from it, well, it was as though it was a beautiful song just for me, and I just couldn’t leave it.
And so the beating stick and I got reacquainted.
Now I’m trying to get to some place friends told me about, across the White Mountains, and the Horse-Lords, or some such. I got through the mountains, and there’s a big woods in front of me. I hope that I’ll run across some good people soon. Not much food left in my pack, and I haven’t seen a person in many days. I hope I’m still going in the right direction, because going back isn’t an option, but I never did learn well how to fend for myself eating-wise. Some folk said that there are wood-spirits that will get me, but I’m not too worried about them. If I keep walking, I should get there. Anything is better than living in Pelargair, trying to stay away from Father and his beating stick and his ale when there’s almost no work and those awful Dunlendings, acting as though they owned the place.
I’ve made a few decorations on my drum, as it seemed to want to be beautiful both in its sound and its outside, so I’ve attached some nice rounded stones to it that I found while walking along the Sirith. A couple of pretty bird feathers, too, but until a couple of days ago I hadn’t seen many animals at all. Not that I mind; never did want to die by being eaten by something (stupid Jacobson, kept trying to scare me, saying there were creatures as big as several houses with big, long pointed teeth-things) and I never did have the stomach for killing. But it was awfully quiet until the past couple of days, and then the sky seems to have cleared and birds are everywhere. Not going to try and eat them, though.
So I inked my mark on it, too, not like anybody knows who I am, but a drum maker always puts his symbol on it, somewhere. Usually its hidden on the inside by the rim, but since I’m all alone, and I just don’t know about the future, I figured that I didn’t have much to lose. It’s odd; as I’ve gotten nearer the woods I could swear that I’ve heard drumming, though I thought that the horse-folk played harps and fiddles and such. I hope whoever I meet have respect for drums. I seem to hear them at night, and my drum and my dreams are happy.
“Without haste and at peace they passed into Anórien, and they came to the Grey Wood under Amon Dîn; and there they heard a sound as of drums beating in the hills, though no living thing could be seen… Then the drums rolled loudly, and were silent.”
Return of the King, "Many Partings"
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.