1. Dinner Guests
Fortunately, she was still too rigid with fury to slay their guest as Pharassion hurried him out the door. She hissed to her husband as he passed, “If your favorite roast weren’t already on the spit, you would be eating your old hunting boots for dinner! And if I see him again before that dinner is on the table, I will throw the meat to the dogs and feed you the boots anyway.”
They wandered the vacant, starlit woods until perilously near dinnertime. Pharassion was beginning to fear for his repuation as a hunter when finally he heard the sound. He had only heard that particular animal’s calls once before, but no other creature sounded even remotely similar. And what an animal to stumble across! Phangi were quite possibly his favorite quarry. He could feel he was doing a public service by controlling a destructive pest, they were delicious in a wine sauce, and they gave better sport for their size than any other game in Beleriand.
He signaled Dirghel to follow and slipped closer. Peering through the undergrowth, he began to smile. Four of the creatures sat beside the trail, four of the biggest and finest ones he’d ever seen. He hadn’t realized they ran in such large packs; he’d never seen more than two of them together before.
There was little hope of bagging the whole pack at once since phangi could be dangerous despite their size. Perhaps they could lure one or two away from the rest. That should be feasible, even with Dirghel about. He wished he had had the foresight to invite King Singollo instead. The two of them might have managed to get the whole lot, and the king would have been delighted to add one of these to his trophies. The beard on that largest one had to be twice the length of any Pharassion had seen before.
Following that beard to its end, tucked into a broad belt, he frowned in annoyance. The wretched little pests must have completely emptied someone’s armory. They could be as bad as crows about anything shiny, and these all carried axes and had knives and hammers thrust into their belts, and wore shirts of mail and helmets.
Whose things were those, anyway? The armor was of a strange style, made of metal rings linked and glittering like the scales of a fish. The weapons were peculiar as well. They were graceless in form and entirely the wrong size for an adult, but too heavy to have been made for a child. The mail was the same; too wide for a child but too short for an adult.
Dirghel prodded him urgently in the ribs. The other elf did not seem able to take his eyes off their quarry. His mouth hung open and he looked as if he had just received some hideous revelation. Pharassion looked back at the creatures, afraid that he could not avoid a revelation much longer himself. Those weapons and mail shirts were all too obviously made for their wearers. Even the most sport-mad hunter in Beleriand did not fit the game out in armor. The only reasonable conclusion was that the creatures had made the things themselves, and with a skill that was nearly the match of the Elves’. That ugly growling noise they made might even be...no, they couldn’t be speaking. They just couldn’t.
That led to an even less pleasant thought. These creatures were obviously akin to the ones he had hunted before. If those horrible noises were their speech, then the pair of phangi he had heard making those sounds before had probably been speaking too. He had a brief, dizzy vision of the trophy beards that hung in a place of honor in his home, a fine display surpassed only by the king's own collection.
King Singollo was not going to be pleased with this news.
Dirghel gave him another jab in the ribs and moaned, “How could we have not known they were speaking people? Why didn’t we think it was strange that animals could dress themselves and use weapons? No other animal does!”
“Be quiet, Dirghel! Do you want them to hear you?”
It was too late for caution. One phanga whirled around, its axe in its paws, no, hands so fast Pharassion could barely see it, and the others sprang to their feet and rushed towards the hunters. Pharassion started to reach for an arrow, but Dirghel knocked his hand away from the quiver. “They’re people, Pharassion! We can’t just kill them.”
Pharassion would have liked to argue that point, but the strange phangi were faster as well as larger than the kind he was used to, and there was no longer any option but negotiation. He laid down his bow and tried to look harmless as the creatures surrounded them, making truly ghastly noises. He spread his hands, palms up, and said, “We mean you no harm.”
Dirghel nodded vigorously in agreement. The phangi looked distinctly dubious, or at least Pharassion thought they did. Perhaps to themselves, they looked pleased to have company, but to him, they looked as if they were ready to tear someone limb from limb. He decided he still needed to do something to avert a disaster, so he tapped himself on the chest and said his name. Dirghel did likewise, then gestured to the both of them and added, “Eldar.”
The creatures hesitated a moment, then one of them carefully repeated the names in an unmusical growl. The same one touched his own chest and pointed to each of his companions in turn, saying, “Gabil, Ibun, Zigil, Baraz.” Then he gestured to all of them and added quite proudly, “Khazâd.”
Pharassion saw nothing to be proud of in a name that sounded like someone clearing his throat, but dutifully repeated, “Kasad.”
The Khazâd muttered a bit among themselves over that, then everyone seemed to run out of ideas at the same time and they all simply stood and stared at each other.
“Stars, how can people be so ugly?” murmured Dirghel after a very long silence.
“It hardly seems possible. They did make wonderful game animals, though, didn’t they?” said Pharassion wistfully, imagining how the king would have envied him if he’d been able to add these beards to his trophy collection. “I don’t suppose we could pretend we didn’t notice they were speaking people?”
Dirghel glared at him and said, “No! They’re people, and that’s that. Why don’t we invite them to dinner? Show them we don’t want to be enemies.”
Pharassion looked at the uncouth creatures in front of him and had no trouble imagining exactly how unenthused his wife was going to be about these guests. But if he didn’t do something, they’d be standing here staring at each other forever. He mimed eating and drinking, made a sweeping gesture to include both groups, and pointed towards his house. The Khazâd conferred in their own tongue - or perhaps they all just cleared their throats - and nodded their agreement.
That settled, Pharassion realized some things would have to be done before the Khazâd entered his house. “Dirghel, run on ahead and warn my wife that we will have guests for dinner, and have someone take word to the king at once. And for the beauty of the stars, take down all my trophies and burn them!“ Then he recalled how hard it was to disguise the odor of burnt hair and said hastily, “No, bury them in the woods. Quickly!”
Dirghel nodded and dashed away, leaving Pharassion surrounded by the stunted but very well-armed creatures. He gestured for them to follow and started down the path more sedately. A few paces down the trail, just a little too late to call Dirghel back for further instructions, he remembered something else and stopped short.
He hoped the Khazâd’s axes weren‘t as sharp as they looked. He had a feeling he was going to find out when they all sat down to his favorite meal of roast phanga in wine sauce.
This story came out of one line in Chap. 21 of The Silmarillion, “Of Túrin Turambar”, where Mîm the Petty Dwarf is telling Túrin about the history of his people. “Before the Dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost came west over the mountains the Elves of Beleriand knew not what these others were, and they hunted them, and slew them; but afterwards they let them alone, and they were called Noegyth Nibin, the Petty-Dwarves, in the Sindarin tongue.”
Phanga, phangi, and Pharassion are all attempts at backing into Old Sindarin from fang- (beard) and faroth (the hunt, hunting). What I did with the resources at Ardalambion is my fault, not theirs. I thought about using Noegyth at first, but decided that would have made the story even sicker than it already was. Why would the Elves have seen the Dwarves as stunted unless they already suspected the Dwarves were people and therefore ought to be Elf-shaped? So I went with a name based on a physical feature that would have been noteworthy on either a person or an animal.
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.