Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Voice in the Wind

Author's Note:

Some of the first writing that I ever did was in the Star Wars universe.  Those writings were juvenile, unfocused, and not that good.  Ultimately, it was just me as a writer practicing my prose.  Star Wars took up a great deal of my childhood (I used to know almost everything about this universe and I read every single book ever printed until after the New Jedi Order series).  This story, therefore, is dedicated to George Lucas for creating Star Wars, and those writers who have written in the Star Wars universe.  I think that many people will agree that this franchise has been one of the most successful and endearing of all science-fiction works.  I hope that you enjoy A Voice in the Wind.

Before you begin reading, it is recommended that you take a quick look at the pictures of both a Hutt and a Talz, the two main species in this story.  It's good to have a visual image in mind when you're reading.  All Huttese has been translated with the help of The Complete Wermo's Guide to Huttese.

A Voice in the Wind
M.R. Michel

Jesko na joka, Lappa!  Yoka to Bantha poodoo!”
Lappa squinted with his day-vision eyes at the slithering form of the Hutt in front of him and let out a penetrating buzz with his proboscis.  For a Talz, the pitch of his voice resonated at a lower octave; it was more a dull droning that a brisk shrill.  It had gotten him the names slow worker and mind lacker in his youth. 
“Now listen here, Zolda.  Just because you’re larger than I am, doesn’t mean that you can boss me around.  Commander Keldjion sent us both out here, and by the spirits of my ancestors, that means we’re to treat each other as equals.”  The vocabulator that he held in his hand transferred his words into Basic so that his companion could understand him.
Zolda the Hutt let out a booming laugh.  His great maw of a mouth spread in a grin large enough to swallow multiple womp rats.  “O ho ho, my friend!  You really are Bantha poodoo!  Keldjion sent you along as my guide, nothing more.  It is I,” he said, gesturing with one tiny hand at his immense chest, “who am the important one!  If the Imperials do not form an agreement with my clan, then they will not be able to continue to mine from your wretched planet.”
Lappa looked out at the swirling white eddies of Alzoc III and couldn’t help but agree.  Snow fell in clumps around them and the ground underfoot was often slick with ice.  In all directions there was primarily only one color:  white.  Off in the distance, Lappa could see the peaks of the Helara Mountains poking up just above the horizon.  Nearby, a few scraggly fir trees struggled to eke out an existence in the bitter cold.  It was kind of bleak, really, even if you hadn’t lived here for your entire life.
Lappa crossed his arms over his chest.  The two sentients made an odd pair.  Zolda was the heir to a wealthy Hutt clan and just coming out of Hutt adolescence.   For a Hutt, at least, he was fairly wiry and his body could move quickly over the ground.  He had yet to gain the multiple layers of wobbling fat that his species slowly accumulated over the centuries.  Right now he was quite comic in appearance, as goggles covered his bulbous eyes to protect them from the sunlight that reflected off of the high-albedo snow of Alzoc III.  Lappa, on the other hand, was a Talz, the species that was native to this planet.  He was a towering monolith of white fur with a set of double eyes.  He used one pair for seeing during the harsh, bright day, while the other was adept at nocturnal vision.  A proboscis descended from his jaw; Lappa used this both to eat and to communicate.  His hands were padded scimitars with which he could dismember his prey.
Now Lappa absently hid his claws inside of his thick fur.  The Talz had long suffered under the yoke of Imperial slavery.  His father’s father had recounted grim tales of when the Imperials first came to Alzoc III—of how they had rounded the Talz up into pens and then shaved the matriarch from head to toe as a demonstration of their power.  The horror had only increased from then on:  inadequate rations, backbreaking labor, and limited medical care to serve as a bulwark for the variety of diseases that humanity had brought with them.  But there were also happy memories.  The old Talz had nestled Lappa deep within his fur and told him of better times on Alzoc III.  He narrated times of plenty, of when each Talz had enough to eat and even to store through the long, hard months.  There were stories of the creator goddess Ipzula-ru, and of how the Talz had wandered under the sun and listened to the voices in the wind for wisdom and understanding. 
Now—now, there was nothing.  There was only the crack of the Imperial whips and the chortle of their nefarious allies, the Hutts. 
“Let’s move, Gundark slime!  The sun will set before we reach the rendezvous.”
Lappa turned and looked at Zolda.  He did not see a fellow sentient, but only a mechanism for violence, an arm of Commander Keldjion.  It was then that Lappa felt something move within him.  It was anger, but there was something else there that he had never felt so acutely before.  It was the heaviness of the years of his youth wasted as the personal slave of Keldjion, a thick-jawed man who ruled with an iron fist.  It was the bite of Lentha-ru’s refusal to share the mating crèche because he was too close to the Imperial overlords.  It was the agony of watching his father fall flat on his face in the mines, scars crisscrossing his back, finally set free to a better world.  And above it all he thought he could hear the voice of the goddess, the lovely shrill of Ipzula-ru.
You, yes even you, my different one.  Even you are beloved!
Lappa tweaked his proboscis and answered the Hutt.  “Of course, Master Zolda.  We must not be late for the meeting.  Your father will be angry if I do not deliver his son in time.”
“O ho ho!  Finally, the furry idiot has a measure of intelligence!  Indeed, my father will be most angry if Hunter’s Glory must wait on me to return to Nal Hutta.  He will be furious, anyways, since Commander Keldjion would not even give us one stormtrooper as an escort!  Perhaps my father will make you into a jacket, slow one!  The quality of your fur is one of your few redeeming qualities, ho ho!  That and your limited intelligence.”
Lappa ignored the jabs that Zolda threw in his direction and thought about the situation between the Hutts and the Imperials.  It was true—he was a slow thinker. But hastiness was not a good thing to have.  It helped to think about the whole situation.  Zolda, as with many young Hutts, was irreverent of authority and lived only for his own wants and desires.  More than once he had insulted Commander Keldjion, and the human had been furious when he found the Hutt attempting to woo one of his more attractive adjutants into a lifetime contract with the Hutt clan.  If the two oppressors could be somehow set against each other…
“Let’s move, you slug!  Even my thick hide is beginning to feel the bite of this cold.”
Lappa bowed at the waist.  “Of course, Master Zolda.  The rendezvous is in this direction.”  The Hutt fell in behind the Talz, muttering in Huttese.  Lappa wrinkled his proboscis in disgust as the winds shifted direction and he got a good whiff of the Hutt’s body odor.  How could someone take absolutely no pride in their personal appearance?  Lappa took great care to comb his fur each morning before work.  His comb was one of his most prized possessions—it was made of polished Torsk bone, and had been crafted in times long ago.
“You know, Lappa, you aren’t such a bad sort, even though you aren’t a Hutt.  Certainly better than that pile of excretement, Keldjion,” Zolda said.  “You’ve worked for that man for years, haven’t you?”  The Hutt’s booming voice echoed across the snowfields.
“Yes, I’ve been his personal servant ever since I can remember,” Lappa answered.  What was with this sudden change in mood?  What was the Hutt trying to do?
“Hmm, hoo!  Yes, it would stink to work for that fleabag.”  The Hutt stopped slithering and clutched Lappa’s leg fur.  “Just between you and me, the Imperials could use a new overseer on this planet.  And you know, it’s so easy for accidents to happen in a mining complex.  Oh ho, yes!  Falling rocks and collapsing tunnels.”  The Hutt grew serious.  His tongue slithered from one side of his enormous mouth to the other.
“But you, my Lappa!  You are beside him all the time.  If perhaps Keldjion did not make it back from one of his production tours, then you would maybe tell the Imperials of how this great tragedy happened?  Rocks become so easily dislodged, eh?”
“I will not take a part in any of your schemes, Zolda the Hutt.  My people are pacifists, and cannot willingly harm another sentient being.”
E chu ta, koochoo!” the Hutt swore.  “You’ll pay for that, slime!  No one denies Zolda the Hutt and gets away with it!”  He began slithering again, angrily.  “Where is this rendezvous?  I should see the wings of the Hunter’s Glory by now!”
“It is just a bit further, master.  Have patience.”
Lappa tweaked his proboscis nervously.  Was what he was doing right?  What would his father say?  Surely the goddess was guiding him!  What would Lentha-ru think?  The thought of lying cuddled in her embrace stiffened his resolve.  Lentha–ru could not deny him after this, even if he did have a strange voice!
He gazed around the Hutt’s form and saw what he was looking for.  A faint trail of steam rose from one portion of the ground.  To an untrained observer it was hardly noticeable, especially if one wasn’t a Talz.  Lappa began to follow this path, his long legs striding effortlessly.  The Hutt could barely keep up.
“Slow down, you Talz worm!  I wasn’t made for this dastardly world.”
“I thought that you wanted to get to the rendezvous quickly,” Lappa said dryly. 
“Don’t play smart with me,” Zolda said.  “I can back up that threat about turning you into a carpet.  Come to think of it, my uncle’s new barge could use some floor decorations.”
Lappa carefully sidestepped part of the path in front of him.  The Hutt came on behind him, his massive bulk leaving a furrow in the snow.
            “Did you hear me, you living carpet?  I can—”
            The Hutt let out a squeal of terror.  The snow underneath him seemed to collapse, and a gaping mouth fastened itself to his stomach.  Rows of incisors began gnawing at the Hutt’s underbelly.  The snow slug unhinged its jaw and began to widen its grasp on the struggling Hutt.  At the same time it wrapped its muscular body around the tail of the Hutt and began squeezing.  Zolda let out a strangled cry.
            “Don’t just stand there, help me!  Do something, you heartless kung!”
            “I’m a pacifist,” Lappa said.  “I can’t do anything.”
            “My father will have your head for this!  You led me to this thing on purpose!”  The snow slug was still working at Zolda’s underside, but the Hutt’s skin was leathery and tough. 
            “You know,” Lappa said, “this is kind of ironic.  From one slug to another, he might have been your kin.”
            Zolda groaned, his flabby arms grasping futilely at the air.   “I’ll do anything, Lappa.  I’ll make it up to you.  I’ll—I’ll free your people.  The Imperials will leave.  We don’t need your ore, anyway.  Please!  Oh, it hurts!”
            Lappa considered.  The Hutt probably wouldn’t keep a promise, even under the threat of death.  A cold, sinking feeling entered his chest.  What had he been trying to accomplish here?  Zolda’s death wouldn’t matter.  They would only send another in his place—and that Hutt might be worse.  He calmed himself and listened to the wind.  There, above a pitch that human ears could hear, he recognized the voice of Ipzula-ru.
            Different one, beloved one!  Fruit of my womb, offspring of my loins!  I am your progenitor and your Goddess; I am the nectar flowing through your veins.  You have suffered, it is true.  But how petty, how telling!  To ease your suffering you desire others to suffer.  Cease this madness, or no longer call yourself by the name of Talz.  See now this vision, and know that you will soon be free!
            In his dream, Lappa saw two Talz that stood by a river frothing with whiteness.  Alongside the river lofty cedar trees stood proudly, and beneath them low shrubs bore golden-red fruit.  Was this a vision of how the world once was?  His father’s father had told him of this tale, but—could it be?  Brightly colored creatures flew between the branches, and as Lappa watched the two Talz embraced each other and sat on the bank.  They took exotic flowers in their hands and raised them to their proboscises, sipping the sweet nectar.
            Lappa recognized the faces of his parents and was overcome.  He ran towards them, letting out a cry of joy.  His proboscis quivered with ecstasy.  He embraced his parents lovingly, relishing the feel of their fur on his face.  His father’s face held a proud, stern expression.  His mother wept, the tears trickling down her face.  Somehow, her fur didn’t seem to get damp.  He wrapped his proboscis around his mother’s.  He was home.  This was where Lappa belonged!
            Then the vision shifted and he saw Ipzula-ru herself.  She was seated alone in the snow, and her head was bowed.  The goddess’ pelt was blindingly white, and after a moment Lappa had to avert his eyes.  But he could not help but look back once more.  Ipzula-ru raised her head and titled it gently.  Those eyes—they beckoned like no others!  They were a strong azure of clarity and understanding.  Lappa looked in those eyes and knew what he must do.  The world dissolved in a flurry of snowflakes.
            He turned to the Hutt and tugged him forward.  The snow slug already had about half of the Hutt’s body in its mouth and the effort was fruitless.  Lappa unsheathed his claws and bent in the snow.  Ipzula-ru, forgive me! he prayed.  I must take a life in order to save one.  He began slicing at the jaw hinges of the snow slug.  The slug let out a piercing shriek and began to thrash in its death throes.  In a few moments it was over.  Zolda threw off the dead skin of the snow slug like a moth shedding its cocoon.  Then he sunk to the ground, a pile of weary flesh.
            Deep gash marks crisscrossed his flank, and Lappa could see that the Hutt was in great pain.  Still, this did not stop him from delivering verbal abuse.  Coona tee-tocky malia, wermo!  I almost died!  What were you doing?”
            “I—I am sorry, Master Zolda.  It is so hard to take a life, even one such as this creature’s.”  It is hard to save a life, too, he thought.  Especially one such as yours. 
            “It is only a dumb animal,” Zolda said.  He shivered.  “My wounds hurt so much.  Lead on, Lappa.  We must be near the rendezvous.  I must see a doctor.  My father will know what to do.”
            “Very well.  We will hurry.”  Lappa began to backtrack the way he had come.  It did not take long for the Hunter’s Glory to come into sight.  The wings of the vessel were covered with new fallen snow, and they glinted from a distance.  Lappa could see a number of small figures moving about beneath the ship, tiny black grains against a backdrop of whiteness. 
Suddenly, he felt cold metal pressed against his back.
            “You thought you could kill me off, didn’t you?” Zolda said.  He shoved the butt of the blaster against Zolda’s back and the Talz turned around slowly.  “You moron.  It’s so obvious that you led me away from the ship in order to kill me.  Only you’re a coward, and couldn’t finish the job.  I have no pity for cowards.”
            Lappa stuttered.  “But—you’re injured!  And how—”  He looked at the blaster and fell silent. 
            “Hutts never tell their secrets, especially not to their enemies.  Did you think that I would come to this hellhole unarmed?  You’re more naïve than I thought, Talz.  You’ve never met a Hutt before, I can tell.  I’ll have these wounds healed in no time.  This blubber is more than just insulation, you fool.  It’s a shame that you’re too stupid to realize that you could have profited greatly by a deal with the Hutts.  We may have even alleviated the suffering of your people, if you had worked with us.  But now it’s too late, ho ho.  The Talz will be enslaved forever, and you’re one of the reasons why.”
Zolda steadied the blaster pistol.  Lappa extended his arms and lunged forward, his claws sweeping upward.  He would not take a life, but the Hutt would not forget his last meeting with Lappa of the Talz, beloved of Ipzula-ru.
The Hutt fired, but the trajectory of Lappa’s body did not change.  The Talz’s claws cut the strap that held the goggles onto Zolda’s face and they fell off into the snow.  The Hutt tried to twist his arms downward, but it was too late.  He blinked rapidly and the harsh light that was reflected from the snow seared his retina into a pile of mushy pulp.  Zolda bellowed in agony and rolled his bulk in the snow, thrashing. 
The smell of seared flesh and blaster discharge filled the air.  Lappa lay on the ground, his body bleeding out the last of his lifeforce.  At least now the suffering was ended, and he could rejoin his people.  Above him, he thought that he could hear something.  He strained his ears and listened over the moaning of the Hutt.
It was the sound of voices in the wind.

*          *          *

On Alzoc III, the wind howled and whipped through bare mountain peaks.  It whistled across snow fields and danced through the bare branches of cedar trees.  It sang a song of completion and joy.  Above the white plains, a new voice joined in with the harmony. It was a chorus of thanksgiving and petition, of somber reflection and genuine celebration.  It was the song of the goddess Ipzula-ru.  It was the song of life.  It was the song of the Talz.

The End

Feel free to share your thoughts!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I Am Writing a New Fan-fiction Piece!

Just to keep you updated, I'm writing a new fan fiction piece!  It will be from the Star Wars universe, and there will probably be a Hutt stay tuned!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Your Least Favorite Book Ever?

Okay, so what are some books that you just despise, for whatever reason?  I've made a pact with myself to read every book that I pick up until the bitter end in the belief that there may be some redeeming quality as I progress through the literature.  This isn't always fun, though; sometimes it can get messy.

Before I name my least favorite choice, I want to say that I have a deep respect for this author.  However, everyone produces something that isn't a masterpiece every once in a while.  That being said, my least favorite book of all time is The Number of the Beast by Heinlein.  This book was so tedious.  Let's just say that the good portion of this many hundreds-of-pages novel are spent whizzing through space and time in a "time machine" (sixth to the sixth to the sixth power is an important mathematical number in this book, hence the title).  However, nothing actually happens.  It bored me to tears.  I had to force myself to pick it up.  Not to mention that the book is incredibly sexist and belittles women.  At one point, one of the main characters even says that she's willing to have sex with her father if he desires it, because she wants to please him.  So yeah.  Heinlein got a bit sex crazed later on in his life, but that wasn't the half of it.

I now quote the words of reviewer Sue K. Hurwitz:  it is "a catalog of Heinlein's sins as an author; it is sophomoric, sexist, militantly right wing, and excessively verbose." She comments that the book's ending was "a devastating parody of SF conventions—will have genre addicts rolling on the floor. It's garbage, but right from the top of the heap."

 Now supposedly this book is a guide on how to write good fiction by showing how bad fiction is written.  It also alludes to many other works of "good" literature.  However, that should have been put in a manual.  If Heinlein was trying to write the worst possible book, then he certainly succeeded.  This wasn't a look back to the pulps -- this book isn't even worthy of being burned as pulp.

Another book that I really don't like was Great Expectations by Dickens. It was extremely dry and I just couldn't get into it.  I was also forced to watch a British film of it in class, which dragged on for hours and hours.  Not recommended.

Just one more.  I have a beef with Moby Dick by Herman Melville, but I haven't decided whether I will re-read it or not.  It seemed to me that most of the book was on the mating and migration habits of whales.  Not exactly my favorite subject.  Anyways, what are some of yours?  And why?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Tale of the Blue Wizard

The Tale of the Blue Wizard
M.R. Michel

This fan fiction is dedicated to the memory of J.R.R. Tolkien.  My forays into Middle-earth will forever be some of my most precious memories, and each time I read or re-read more of his work, I am awed at the scope and detail of his imagination.  He is one of the greatest fiction writers of our age, and I am honored to walk in his shadow.  May God bless his eternal soul.

I’ve also created a short glossary of important words that you can find after the story.  If you aren’t familiar with Tolkien’s writings, or you have only read certain ones, then this may help you understand the story in more detail.  The story itself is split into different headings based on subject matter, but is all part of the same plot line.  In all of Tolkien’s writings, there are only a few lines about the ‘Blue Wizards,’ and the far East of Middle-earth is rarely mentioned.  This is where my fan fiction comes in.  Enjoy!

M.R. Michel

Of History and Lore

            As Sauron, most powerful servant of Melkor, strove against the might of Men, Elves and Dwarves at the end of the Third Age, the Valar sent lesser spirits of the Maiar into Middle-earth from the Undying Realms.  Called Istari, or the “Wise Ones” in the Quenya tongue, their role was to give strength and wisdom unto all the children of Illúvatar.  Common tales tell of three that strove long against the will of the Dark One.  First in strength, and in old times of wisdom also, was Saruman the White, as he was named in the tongues of Men.  Long he delved into the dark arts and wrestled against the will of Sauron, but in the end his will crumbled and he became a thrall of evil.  The second in power was named Gandalf the Grey, who later became Gandalf the White.  Of his shepherding role of the Ring of Power there need be no retelling; and through the merit of his contest with a Balrog in the deep shafts of Moria he has earned renown.  The third Wizard, so called in common speech, was Radagast the Brown.  Radagast had a love for the kelvar and olvar of Middle-earth, and it said that he could utter the speech of birds.  He was especially chosen by Yavanna, who of the Valar from the beginning has cared for the living things of Arda.  And yea, though he did not much contest the will of Sauron, and turned more towards the will of his mistress, his failure was perhaps not as great as that of Saruman, who fell in part because of his great pride.
            Five Istari came bidden into Middle-earth from the Undying Lands at the will of the Valar, but tales tell of two others.  These two Blue Wizards were little known to the Edain, yet the Eldar named them Alatar and Pallando.  Though they came in twain to the East of Middle-earth, and in friendship undying as only those of the Valar and Maiar might know, their paths were sundered.  It is said that Pallando was captured by Sauron, and long strove against his dark will.  Even unto the walls of Barad-dûr in Mordor their battle raged, and the Orcs quelled in terror to see the fierce light of the Istari’s brow.  Yet in the end Pallando was cast down and his staff was broken, and Sauron servant of Morgoth had the victory.  There was yet a deep darkness within Sauron’s spirit that would not be broken until the end of the Third Age.  Thus it was written in the lore of Elves and Men that though the Istari might aid in the eventual defeat of Sauron, they were not in themselves to be the instruments of that demise.
Our tale begins not long after the parting of the Blue Wizards.  For while Pallando went to the North to espy the comings and goings of the servants of Sauron, and to lay a watch upon that dark land, Alatar remained in the East of Middle-earth.  In olden times the bay of Cuiviénen lay nestled against the Inland Sea of Helcar, yet the land has yet been recast after the War of Wrath and the wrestling of the powers in which Morgoth Bauglir was defeated.  In these lands also awoke the first Children of Illúvatar, the Quendi, or the Elves, who long stayed there under the shining stars.  Some at last departed for the Undying Lands and were known as the Eldar, but the Avari grew to love the lonely paths and open glades of Middle-earth, lit by bright stars, and chose to remain. 
            This region is not known by many, even among those who are familiar with the little-trodden paths of Middle-earth.  Past the land of Rhûn and the Sea of Rhûn, the realm of the Easterlings, there lies a land partly veiled in shadow.  Here are the great Mornié Mountains, which in the speech of the Quendi means the Mountains of Darkness.  At the base of these mountains, which are often shrouded in mist, there lies the Kingdom of Tumna Cálë, or Hidden Light.  Here some of the Avari yet remain in secrecy.  They have not deigned to look upon the fate of Middle-earth, and will not come against Sauron with arms.  In the Kingdom of Tumna Cálë only Elves have ever lived, for the inhabitants of this city do not mingle with the other races of Illúvatar that were brought into being in the First Age.  And yet the eyes and ears of Sauron stretch out over the entire width and breadth of Middle-earth, and it was not long ere even the Kingdom of Tumna Cálë came to be known to him.  Yea, many Elves have tried to escape the prying eyes of the legacy of Morgoth Bauglir, but that is perhaps not their fate.  Gondolin met the fires of the dragons and the scourges of the Balrogs, and even so Sauron wished every hidden land and people to lie under his dominion, or to perish forthwith.

The Dragon is Summoned

            Sauron held the allegiance of many of the Easterlings, not the least being of Ulthel their chief.  Thus it was that through his servants Sauron heard rumors of the city of Tumna Cálë, but as of yet he thought that it was populated by Men who must have fled his wrath long ago.  He sent a summons to bring Ulthel son of Undiel, the chief of the Easterlings, to Mordor, and there questioned his thrall.  And when Sauron commanded him to take a force to the east of Rhûn to destroy all that lived there, Ulthel refused.
            ‘Lord,’ said he, ‘It is not out of irreverence that I refuse thee.  For here in Mordor’s dark dungeons I may face a slow and painful death, but in the mountains beyond the homes of my people there lives an ancient power.  It is better that I die today than lead the warriors of my people to certain death.  For none have ever returned from the far East that went thither.’
            Sauron questioned him closely, but could not gainsay more information.  The Dark One might have tortured Ulthel and perhaps learned something more, but his designs upon the Easterlings were yet unfinished and he needed the chieftain to persuade his people to support him in the coming war.  Thus he let the Easterling depart, but placed a mark upon his brow that endured for as long as Ulthel son of Undiel lived:  for all know that the house of Undiel were forever marked as the servants of the Dark Lord. 
            Then Sauron servant of Morgoth Bauglir sat for a time upon his throne of darkness in deep thought.  He did not count the strength of this hidden kingdom as valiant, and doubted much the prowess of what he thought to be a few Men at arms.  Yet inside him there was a burning desire to make every creature in Middle-earth his thrall, and he could not bear the thought of a free house of Men.  At this time he could not yet spare a large force from his main campaigns, and Orcs would have to cross a great swath of Middle-earth to come to the far East. 
            Thus he summoned one of the last of the great dragons of Middle-earth, the winged fire drake Hauthmog son of Ancalagon the Black.  The worm issued forth from the lowest dungeons in the fell pits of Mordor and lay before his master.  His bulk stretched out the entire length of the throne room, and many of the servants of the Dark Lord fled in terror at the stench of his coming.  Long had he waited the call to battle, though Sauron had not yet sent him out on his errands, because Hauthmog was not in full strength, being a young dragon.    
            Now Hauthmog was surnamed the Cunning, for it is said that of all the brood of dragons his wit far surpassed even that of Glaurung, who with his wiles deceived the Children of Húrin and caused their fall.  So while Hauthmog the Cunning had not yet come into his full stature, in guile he was unmatched save for his master, Sauron servant of Morgoth.  Sauron spoke to the dragon, and his voice was a dark whisper that made even the shadows tremble.  Thus when Hauthmog had heard the edict of his dark Master, he at once took wing towards the Eastern lands of Middle-earth.
            The Elves of Tumna Cálë kept a watch on the outskirts of all their land, and if any Easterling strayed thither he was put to the sword.  In this way they did not allow their enemies to know their strength in arms.  Yet they did not keep a close watch on the skies, for their kingdom was hidden and the rumor of the great dragons of past ages had long ago waned.  So it was that Hauthmog the Cunning came to the Mornié Mountains unseen in a great cloud of vile fog, which drifted from the west over the entire region at the bidding of the Dark Lord.  Some Elves there were who wondered at this fell fog, and accounted it as a sign of coming evil, but they did not know from whence it came. 
Thus Hauthmog came to the realm of Tumna Cálë in secret.  He slithered down the peaks of the Mornié mountains, leaving a trail of slime in his wake, and hid in the deep caves of the surrounding region.  There for a time he lay quiescent, but if a traveler were to wander the winding mountain roads he may perhaps have seen the dragon’s great head lying half out of some dark hole, spying out the land.  For the sight of a dragon is of all the creatures of Eä the most penetrating, save perhaps for the gaze of the Eagles.  Then for a time Hauthmog was ever-vigilant with his dragon-eye to know the strength of his enemy.

The Coming of the Blue Wizard

            The realm of Tumna Cálë was ruled by King Thirmir son of Téamos, and for many years the Elves knew only prosperity and joy.  For King Thirmir was in some ways a wise King; he did not allow his people to leave the Kingdom of Hidden Light save on pain of death, and would not allow any to enter his lands that had not been born there, whether friend or foe.  This law was harsh, but Tumna Cálë was saved from the treachery of Men and the fate of Gondolin.  King Thirmir did not allow his people to build great monuments or works of art, for he reasoned that such things would only bring ruin and woe upon them.  For he said, ‘It is better that my people learn the lore of growing things and of times past rather than the carving and delving of the stunted ones.  For if we raise towers, then the Enemy perhaps will espy them from afar; and if we delve deep into the mountains, then we may release a darkness that even our knowledge may not be able to repress.  Walls and towers may serve as a defense, but they are not needed unless one wishes to go to the fields of battle.’  So the Elves lived in secrecy and in silence, in humble dwellings at the foothills of the mountains, and did not forge great works of earth and stone.
            King Thirmir was of a regal stature, tall and proud as the Noldor of old.  He took Eyera daughter of Ithiel as his queen, and ruled his people kindly, and as he thought, justly.  Eyera bore Thirmir one daughter, but she herself died in childbirth.  And afterwards the King gave his daughter the name Nyérë Úvëa, which in the Quendi tongue means ‘Sorrow in Abundance.’  With the death of his wife he became a shadow of his former self and walked as a wraith among his people.  Though he remained King, he often forsook the leadership of his kingdom, and allowed the council to rule in his stead.  Oftentimes many would see him sitting on a rock at the base of the mountains staring up into the sky.  The people said, ‘Thirmir Téamos yearns for Eyera Ithiel, yet they shall not meet again, unless it is beyond the confines of this world.’  King Thirmir did not often see his daughter, for her laughter only reminded him of his lost love.
            Thus it was that Nyérë did not find comfort in the King’s hall, though she was a princess by birth.  Many a time she wandered in the foothills of the Mornié Mountains, and King Thirmir did not restrain her.  He reasoned that these mountains were safe, for by law none could enter or leave the kingdom.  Thus it was that in time she found a hidden path up into the mountains.  The path led to a vast lake that was fed by deep springs and the runoff of the mountains.  In olden times the Elves had come to these shores to fish, for the lake was full of life, but they came no longer.  Nyérë looked out upon the deep blue waters and named them Amanya, which means blessed.  For it seemed to her that there was a deep serenity in this lake, and many times she would come to sit by its side and stare across its vast breadth.  She would bring bread from the stoves of the Elves and cast crumbs upon the waters, and the birds and fishes would come to feed, so that in time they ate even from her hand.
            She would also come to the lake to practice the throwing of Anqualë, her dagger.  Anqualë was forged long ago by a great Eleven-smith from a fallen star, and it was said that no metal, rock, or armor was ever made that could not be pierced by its blade.  Her father’s courtesans said that knife-lore was not for a princess to learn, but she defied them.  Nyérë did not agree with the wisdom of her father, and thought that the Elves should not have abandoned their prowess at battle.  For though one may not seek out evil, evil may still seek one out. 
            One day Nyérë came to Lake Amanya and sat long beside the waters in thought.  She was so distraught that she did not notice the waters lapping at her dress or the approach of a stranger until he was nigh upon her.  Then she looked up, and for the first time saw one that was not of her own kindred.  Fear came into her face, and she stepped back, one hand on Anqualë, which lay in the folds of her skirt. 
            ‘Who are you, errant knave,’ quoth she, ‘that you come upon a maiden unawares and alone in the hidden kingdom?  For this perhaps my father will have your head, for he does not abide with the race of Men. The price for entry into Tumna Cálë is Death, and Death is our law.  What say you, uncouth Man?’  For she thought that he was perhaps one of the Easterlings that had somehow escaped her father’s snares and come unawares into the Elvish realm.
            The stranger smiled and mirth twinkled in his eyes.  He was dressed in a dark blue robe, and wore a tall, pointed hat.  A great brown beard sprung from his chin, and he held a staff in his left hand, much like one that a traveler might carry if they are going far distances.  He bowed to the Elf lady, and spoke.  ‘You say that I am of the race of Men, and that in a way is true.  I am a Man and I am not a Man, but was sent into this world in part to serve the race of Men.  And how do you know that I am a Man?  Have you talked with a Man before?  If that is true, then perhaps I should tell your father of this.’
            Then Nyérë’s words were wroth, and she said, ‘How do you know of my comings and goings, and if I have ever met a Man?  Do not speak in riddles, old fool!  For if you are a Man, and I think that you are, then you have much to answer for.  What is your name, and from whence do you come, and how do you know these things?’
            ‘My name is Alatar the Blue, and I come from far lands that you have no knowledge of.  I have learned many things in my time, but knowing things does not mean that one is wise.  I came to these waters because the fishes are my friends, but I knew also that you would come here, Nyérë Úvëa, daughter of the King.  For tales of your great beauty travels far, even unto the end of the world.’
            Then Nyérë was amazed that he knew her name, and was less wroth than before.  For she saw that this odd creature was kind, and that he knew much of her and of her people.  An unlooked-for joy in her heart was kindled at the meeting of this stranger, though she knew not why.
            ‘Well met, Alatar the Blue.  If you are a traitor, then you shall soon feel the prick of my father’s sword.  If not, and you are the bearer of good news, then perhaps my father will stay his hand.’  Then Alatar followed Nyérë down the secret paths into the town below.
            Now it was that King Thirmir sat upon his carved throne of wood, and Alatar came before him and bowed low to the ground.  He spoke with friendly words:  ‘King Thirmir, Master and King of the realm of Tumna Cálë, I come before you seeking asylum in your peaceful land.  I am Alatar the Blue, and my stance towards your people is ever peaceful.  It is my wish that you grant me leave to wander the hills and slopes of these mountains, for I come on an errand that must not be hindered.’
            ‘Your wish!’ cried the King from atop his throne.  ‘Your wish shall not be granted, conniving Man!  How was it that you entered by stealth into this hidden kingdom, and did not knock at the door?  How was it that you found my daughter alone in the mountains?  How do I know that you have not laid some spell upon her, or wooed her ear with the treacherous guiles of Men?  The Law of this land is Death to all who enter, and so shall it be with you!’
            Then Alatar the Blue stepped forth in the glory of his master Oromë, Huntsman of the Valar, who had chosen and sent him into Middle-earth.  A blue flame leapt into his eyes, and it seemed that his stature grew and his voice was filled with the authority of the Valar.  Many who were there that day claimed that far off they heard the echo of Valaróma, the great horn of Oromë, and the braying of Nahar, his steed. Thus it was that all lowered their heads as Alatar of the Maiar spoke, and King Thirmir groveled on his throne.
            ‘I come on authority greater than yours, Thirmir son of Téamos of the Avari!  For when your people first awoke under the light of the stars I had already wandered this wide land hither and thither, and explored its depths and hidden places.  Where were you then, Thirmir son of Téamos, that you should hinder my errand?  Perhaps the Dark Lord has worked his evil even here, that an emissary such as I do not gain welcome.  Of olden times Men and Dwarves were welcome in these halls, and the people grew rich in knowledge as the three kindreds dwelt in peace, side by side. 
            ‘Do you think that Sauron servant of Morgoth Bauglir will deign to let you live in peace?  For while his power yet holds sway in Middle-earth he shall not rest until all the Free Peoples are cast down and trodden underneath his feet.  Therefore my wish shall be granted, O King.  Furthermore, I revoke your unjust commandment that has held these people as slaves to this land.  For it was a decision that was made in errant folly, and not in wisdom, as you perceived.’
            Then a silence fell upon the hall, and forever after Thirmir son of Téamos was a king in name only, for he had been robbed of his authority.  And Nyérë herself was most taken of all, to see this old wanderer transform before her eyes.  For he spoke with the voice of one who has true authority.  Thus she said to herself, ‘Surely this Man, if he be a Man, is wont to do the will of the Valar.  For I see in his eyes a goodness and justice that this world has not known in many an age.’  Though she was moved at the plight of her father, her heart was kindled towards Alatar, and her gaze did not leave his tall frame.  Thereafter she did not rebuke him, but welcomed his comings and goings.

The Oracle of the Great Pike

            It happened that in Lake Amanya there dwelt a great and old Pike who had darkened the deep places of the world ere any of the children of Illúvatar had awoken.  Alatar as a Maia spirit had also walked the land in those days, and wandered by the lakes and streams and inlets of Middle-earth; for he had a love for those fishes that swam in the waters, and those birds that called the sandy beaches their homes.  Thus when the great pike was yet a small fry in the vast waters of the deeps, Alatar had sought him out and called him friend.
            Kyelek was the name of the Father of Pike, and Ulmo, Lord of the Waters, had christened him thus.  For Ulmo said of Kyelek, ‘Thereafter thy name shall be Kyelek, the Swift, and thou shall roam the fresh waters of the lands of Middle-earth under the light of the stars.  None shall be thy equal in speed or prowess, and thou shall be a fearsome predator.  I give thee a gift, Kyelek the Swift, Father of Pike; for though thou art a beast and utter the speech of beasts, I grant thee leave to speak thrice in thy life with the tongues of Man, Elf, or Dwarf.  Do not squander this gift, for of all the other beasts that have ever lived only one other has been given this privilege:  and that is Huan the wolfhound, most beloved of all companions, whose fate is yet untold.’
            Soon after Alatar had rebuked the King, he came back to Lake Amanya.  For it was his thought that he might meditate there, before the calm waters, and perhaps devise what evil Sauron had sent to destroy the land.  As he sat beside the lapping waters Kyelek the Swift, Father of Pike, forsook his deep abodes and rose to the surface of the lake.  An old fish was he, and large in length and breadth, and marred with battle wounds, for he had dwelt in the waters of the world for many ages of the sun and stars. 
            And he spoke:  ‘Thrice have I been given leave to speak in the tongues of Elves, Men, and Dwarves.  This is the first time.  Though many an age has passed, and the land has been formed anew, I remember thee, Alatar of the Maiar, and I recognize the presence of thy spirit, though then thou wast both terrible and fair.  Thou hast ever been a friend to the fishes of this world, and to my children’s children.  Therefore by the will of Ulmo I now tell thee what thou hast wished to know.
            ‘Of late these waters have been darkened with the filth and slime of Morgoth Bauglir.  For thus Sauron the Dark Lord has released his servant Hauthmog the Cunning of the firedrakes to pillage this land and destroy its people.  Be forewarned, Alatar the Blue:  though thou art powerful, this worm may yet by thy match.’  Then Kyelek sunk beneath the surface once more, and returned to his domain.
            This news troubled the Wizard, for he did not reckon that Sauron would send out such a powerful minion to the Kingdom of Tumna Cálë.  He did not doubt the words of Kyelek the Swift, but with all his craft and lore he had not espied the dragon or signs of his passing.  Thus Alatar thought that indeed a cunning spirit rested within Hauthmog.  He left the side of the lake to search the mountains for signs of the worm, but was wary lest he come upon him unprepared.

            It came to pass that once more Nyérë Úvëa came to meditate by the shores of Lake Amanya, and to escape the ministrations of her most ardent suitor, Fönin son of Falstag.  Before, when she had met the Blue Wizard, it was likewise for this reason that she came to these waters.  Nyérë did not love Fönin, though he was fair, for she counted him as ill-tempered and vain.  Her father approved of the match, and when Fönin asked for Nyérë’s hand in marriage, he urged her to accept.  She refused him, but Fönin did not grow lax in his attention.  For Nyérë was the daughter of the King, and whoever married her would one day become Lord in Thirmir’s stead.  The beauty of Nyérë Úvëa was renowned, for though she had come into the world in an hour of sorrow, her complexion was as of a flower blooming under the light of the stars.  She was tall for an Elf maid, and her skin was milky white and fair.  Her hair was raven black and her eyes were the blue of sparkling diamonds, and she carried herself with the grace of the daughters of the Noldor of old.  Thus many stood by her side, though she would spend many hours alone weeping for her father and especially for her mother, whom she had never known.  But when she did not weep, her mere presence would cause others near her to grow cheerful.
            Nyérë was also known for her sorrowful voice.  It is said that when she sang, the grief of all the woes of the Elves could be heard in her voice, and it had caused more than one stalwart Elf lord to weep.  Often she would sit beside the waters of the lake, or in the foothills of the mountains, and she would sing.  All the birds and fishes would come to listen, and the Elf maiden counted them as her friends.  Thus now she sat beside the waters of Lake Amanya and sang to ease her troubled heart.

            Beyond the twinkling of the moon, far from this dark abyss,
            Past valleys deep, and hillocks fair, and mountains veiled in mist;
            Over winding streams, and oceans deep, and Fangorn’s dark floor,
            There lies in endless beauty fair the land of Valinor.
            I long to go and dwell in this land of undying bliss,
            To feel the warmth of Summer and forsake Winter’s cold kiss;
            To wander in the gardens fair and climb the mountains steep,
            To hear the flutes of brethren Elves and visit Manwë’s Keep.
            O Valinor! Too long have I dwelt upon these bleak shores,
            Beset by doubts, beleaguered and worn, weary of all wars.
            O Valinor!  I feel your breeze from the Shadowy Seas;
            I hear the song of blissful birds from all your wooded leas.
            To this place I must go, to join my sundered kindred there,
            Though none may take me to this hallowed land so dear and fair!

Many times Kyelek the Swift would come to listen to the Elf maiden’s fair voice, and so he now drew near to hear her song.  He revealed himself and Nyérë was amazed at his great size and strength.  She did not fear him, though, for she was friends with all the fishes that dwelt in Lake Amanya.  He heaved his bulk up from the water and spoke.
            Thrice have I been given leave to speak in the tongues of Elves, Men, and Dwarves.  This is the second time.  I am Kyelek the Swift, Father of Pikes.  I speak not with mine own wisdom, but with the wisdom of my masters, the Valar of Eä, servants of the will of Illúvatar.  Long have I listened to thy song, Nyérë Úvëa, daughter of Thirmir.  To these ears it is as beautiful as the songs of the Maiar and the Valar when they walked these lands; and there is an added depth that perhaps they lacked, for they cannot tell of the sorrow of those that have suffered in this Middle-earth. 
            ‘But I do not speak thou praise alone.  I come to give thee advice and to steer true thy heart.  For well thou doest to think long on matters of the heart, for those who are immortal should not cleave unto one another unless they are bound soul to soul.  If thou dost not love this Elf who seeks thy hand in marriage, then thou shouldst not marry.  It is better to wait and hope than to enter into alliance with one who only seeks thy hand for power and glory.
            ‘By the powers of Ulmo I see thy heart laid bare, and know perhaps even that which thou dost not yet know thyself.  Thou lovest the Wizard Alatar the Blue, friend of fishes, who with his staff shall perhaps save thee from ruin.  There have been few unions among the different kindreds, and fewer still among the Maiar and the Eldar.  I do not count the union of Elf and Man as wise, for either one must bear the long halls of eternity alone until the sundering of Eä, or both must be brief and fading flames in this world.  But the union of Elf and Maia I count as good, for as the years pass neither shall grow old or weary, and their love may be ever renewed.  Thus it was between Elu Thingol and Melian, and so could it be between Nyérë Úvëa and Alatar.’
            Then Nyérë stood astonished, and did not know what to say.  For though she was kind towards the Wizard, she did not yet think that she loved him with such a love, for she still thought of him as of the race of Men.
            ‘Great fish, strange are your words!  Though this Wizard has stirred an unlooked-for kindness in my heart, I do not yet love him.’
            ‘Dost thou then know love?  Whom hast thou loved?  In his true guise Alatar the Maia is fairer than any Elf lord, and thou wouldst perhaps be a fool to defy the fates of Arda and deny thy heart.  I go now to seek the depths of my domain, but I will tell thee one more thing before I depart.  In the hour of Alatar’s need, look to thy own hand if perhaps thou might gainsay the courage to do so.’  Then he disappeared beneath the gently rolling waves and left the Elf maiden alone upon the shore.
            From this time forth Nyérë gave much thought to the words that she had heard, but did not yet give in to all of the desires of her heart.

Fönin’s Folly

            So it was that after a time Hauthmog the Cunning came forth in full might to taunt the Kingdom of Tumna Cálë.  His bulk issued from among the caves and hidden places of the Mornié Mountains, and he flew seven times around the King’s city in a cloud of black smoke, and then returned to his lair. Then the courage of the people waned and all save one cast down their heads in fear.  For Fönin son of Falstag stood among the assembly of the Elf lords and spoke.
            ‘Do we of Elven blood then cower at the feet of this dragon?  We are many, and he is one.  Let us then assail his lair and put his foul carcass to the sword.  Indeed, in this hour I, and all that come with me, shall prove our worth in front of the King.  And where now is this Alatar the Untrustworthy who came before our gates and pledged allegiance to our cause?  In time of our greatest need, he has abandoned us.’
            Then some hearkened to his call and a few brave Elves pledged troth to Fönin son of Falstag, and said, ‘Ere death we shall slay this fell beast, or he shall slay us.’  Now Fönin spoke against Alatar because he had shamed the King, and often he saw the gaze of Nyérë following this Wizard, and he was envious of him.  He reasoned also that if it was by his hand that the dragon was slain, then the princess could no longer refuse his betrothal.
            Then Elémdris son of Eléner spoke.  He was old even by the reckoning of the elves, and was renowned as one of the most knowledgeable in history and lore.  ‘Do not be over-hasty, Fönin son of Falstag.  You know little of dragons and their ways.  Few there are who can stand against the breath of the firedrakes, save for the metal helms of the Dwarf-lords.  But since we have forsaken all ties with the other kindreds, we must face our plight alone. And it is not only by might that the great worms of Morgoth Bauglir have triumphed, but by cunning and treachery.  Beware the dragon-spell, lest it fall upon you!  For Men of more worth have fallen prey to a dragon’s cunning than you, Fönin son of Falstag.’
            Then Fönin was extremely wroth and walked up and down the throne room with great strides.  ‘Old fool!’ he said.  ‘Pray continue to stick your nose in ancient parchments and scrolls, while Elves of true valor protect this kingdom!  Let us depart at once, for a great task lies before us, and this scoffer would only hinder our errand.’
            Fönin gathered his companions, and besides himself there were six others who pledged their swords to his cause.  Then Fönin was glad, for he reckoned many of these to be the most stalwart and mighty among his brethren.  He purposed to come upon the dragon by stealth, and slay him in his own lair while he yet slept.  They departed in the waning of the evening, and it was Nyérë who guided them to the place of the secret path that led into the mountains, even though it was against her will.  For Fönin had many times followed the Elf princess from a distance to keep watch over her, and whether for good or for ill he knew that she often left the leas of the foothills for higher ground.  By edict of the King Nyérë was forced to show them the secret paths.  When they had come to the region of the lake, Fönin turned to Nyérë and spoke.
            ‘Elf princess, when my eyes fall upon your beauty my whole being rejoices.  Truly a portion of starlight is captured in your eyes, and the scent of your hair is sweeter than the gardens of Yavanna.  You have thwarted my advances thus far, but know that when I succeed against this dragon, you may perhaps accept my love.  I would be proud to serve as King, if you would stand by my side as Queen.’
            Nyérë spoke.  ‘Do not be a fool, Fönin son of Falstag!  For though I do not love you, I would not see you die in vain.  Seek first the council of Alatar the Blue, and perhaps he may aid you in your endeavor.  Life is too long to throw it away in such a short time.  Lessen your pride, and perhaps then you may achieve the victory.’
            Fönin did not heed her words but drew her to himself and kissed her, though she struggled in his arms.  The others around them stirred uneasily, for though Fönin was leader by edict of the king, they did not like what they saw.  When Fönin released Nyérë, she fled down the hill in tears, and the Elf warriors averted their eyes in shame.
            But Fönin gave a rousing speech, and said, ‘Let us proceed!  For when the dragon is dead our kinsmen will rejoice and shower us with many gifts.  There will be ale and food for the taking!  And it may be that many an Elf maiden will pine after us for the deeds that we have done, we who are accounted among the mighty of this world.’  His words encouraged his companions, and they climbed until they came to the dragon’s dwelling-place.
            The dragon dwelt in a series of dark caves, and all was dark within.  Fönin commanded two other Elves to light lanterns so that they could find their way.  They drew their swords and advanced through the caverns, cautious lest they awake the dragon.
            Suddenly a great wind blew through the cavern, and the lanterns of the Elves were extinguished.  For Hauthmog had seen their advance from afar, and waited until they were inside his lair.  Then with the powerful beating of his wings he created a strong gale that put his foes in the dark.
            Fönin commanded his companions to stay together, but none could hear his voice over the roar of the wind.  Thus the companions were sundered, and thereafter it was never known what became of them.  Some perhaps were killed by the dragon, and others fell in the dark places of the caves, and still others wandered in weariness seeking the light of day until their strength waned.  But Fönin son of Falstag alone came to the dragon’s lair, whether by chance or by fate. 
            He could see nothing, and could only smell an unbearable stench.  Then the dragon, which lay on a ledge above him, let a puff of flame and smoke rise from his nostrils, and Fönin saw his enemy.
            ‘Well met, Fönin son of Falstag,’ quoth the dragon.  ‘Thou hast come to slay me, Hauthmog, last of the great firedrakes.  Who now stays thy hand?  Where art thy companions?’  Then Fönin was speechless, and he looked up at the dragon into his great eye and fell into a swoon.  Many who were greater than he had tried to fight that baleful gaze, and had failed, as he did now.  Under the spell of the dragon-eye he fell speechless, as one who is mute, and he could not move.  Then Gauthmog mocked him, saying, ‘How easy is it to defeat the greatest servant of Sauron, Elf-lad?  Thou knowest nothing of evil and its ways, and perhaps thou art even more a fool than thy king.’  Then Gauthmog heaved his bulk past the Elf and slithered out of the caves, leaving him frozen under the spell.

A Game of Riddles

            Hauthmog the Cunning purposed to destroy the town and its inhabitants ere the light of day, but as of yet he knew nothing of the Blue Wizard.  Thus as he flew down the mountain he espied a lone man standing at the edge of the lake, and he landed on a great boulder that was upthrust near the shore.
            Now Alatar cast his gaze downward upon the sand, and would not look at the dragon or meet his gaze.  For he knew of the dragon-spell, and did not wish to fall under it.
            ‘Well met, son of Man!’ quoth the dragon.  ‘Thou art worth many of these Elves, who know not of my power and my strength.  Who art thou, and from whence dost thou come?’
            ‘Well met, Hauthmog the Cunning of the firedrakes, spawn of Ancalagon the Black, servant of Sauron the Dark Lord.  I am Alatar the Blue, and have come to fell the evil in these lands that has lingered with the stench of Morgoth Bauglir, the curséd one.  And you shall not pass this lake, or harm the inhabitants of this city, lest my body be broken on these rocks and my spirit return to the lands beyond the four corners of this world.’
            Then the dragon hissed, and a belch of smoke poured from his mouth.  ‘Alatar the Blue!  I have not heard of thee, but I see that thou art not of the race of Men, to make such claims.  For many are the Men in these lands, and all have fallen under the dominion of my Lord and Master.  But if thou must have death, then I shall give it to thee.’
            Hauthmog might have then destroyed the Wizard, but Alatar held up his hand and spoke.  ‘Do not move so quick to your doom, great worm!  Oft times I have heard of your cunning, and it is said that even Glaurung and Smaug did not have your wit.  Would it be not better if we were to solve this by a battle of wits?  Then one of us would emerge victorious, and the other would be cast down into this lake to his doom.’
            It is said that if dragons have a weakness other than gold, that it is pride.  Therefore Hauthmog the Cunning lay his bulk back down upon the rock and pondered this challenge.  ‘Thou wouldst try to battle me in a game of wits?  I am not a fool, O Alatar the Mysterious.  This battle of wits may be to my liking, but in direct combat I would ever be the victor.  Nevertheless, let us then fight with our minds rather than with claw and steel, and perhaps thou may emerge the victor.
            ‘I shall pose to thee a riddle, and thou shall answer.  Then thou shall get thy turn.  Three times I shall pose a question, and three times thou wilt answer.  And if thou dost not know the answer, thou wilt be cast down into the deeps. 
            ‘Very well,’ Alatar said.  ‘But why should you get the first riddle, and therefore be at an advantage?’
            The dragon laughed, a great roaring laugh that shook the mountains.  ‘Well met indeed, Alatar the Blue!  Thou art no fool.  The first riddle is mine because I have agreed to your game.  I could eat thee where thy stand instead, if thou dost not think it fair.’
            ‘It is fair enough.  Proceed, great worm,’ Alatar said.  Then the dragon hissed his first riddle.

‘Its hide is strong,
            Its spear is long;
            Its tongue is dumb,
            Its wit is numb.’

            Alatar thought for a moment and then answered.  “A cave-troll!  You will have to do better than that to defeat a Wizard, dragon!  Now answer my riddle.

‘Shadow, stench, and stone;
            Rubbish, filth, and bone;
            Silver, gold, and jade;
            Mithril, helm, and blade.’
            The dragon let loose a cloud of smoke and pondered the riddle.  ‘A dragon-hoard!’ he answered.  ‘Thou might mark something rubbish which to me is treasure.  Perhaps I may yet make a dragon-hoard in this mountain, and use the plunder of the Elves.  Now it is my turn, Alatar the Blue.  This time, I shall truly test thy wit.’  Then the dragon spoke his second riddle.
‘Its teeth are jagged,
Its top is ragged,
Its tramp is loud,
Its carriage is proud.’

            Then Alatar sat by the lake and ran a hand through his great beard.  ‘This one is more difficult it seems, but not impossible.  Is it an army marching to war?’
            ‘Yes,’ hissed the dragon.
            ‘Now you will answer my second riddle.  Listen carefully, Hauthmog son of Ancalagon the Black, or you may soon meet your demise.
‘It eats and eats, but hungers still;
            It has no life, harbors no will;
            It does not hate, wishes none ill.’
            The dragon lifted his bulk off of the stone and flapped his wings.  He belched a narrow swath of flame into the air, and then landed again.  ‘Thou had me for a moment, Wizard.  It is a fire, whose appetite can never be sated or controlled.  Now hearken to my third and final riddle, and see whether thou canst answer it.

            ‘What has white hair,
            Is void of all air,
            Down, down it goes,
            Where, no one knows?’
            ‘It has white hair?’  Alatar muttered.  “These are difficult words, dragon.’  Then he strode up and down the length of the shore while the dragon mocked him.
            ‘Surely this is an easy riddle, protector of the Elves.  Thou hast no wit if thou canst not answer it.’  And the dragon made ready to cast the Wizard into the lake.
            ‘Aha!’ Alatar said.  ‘The white hair is foam!  The answer is the ocean.’  Then Hauthmog rent a deep furrow in the ground in rage, but Alatar lifted up his staff and spoke once more.  ‘You have sworn to uphold this game to its end, fell dragon.  It is time that I spoke my third and final riddle, and it is as follows.

            ‘A tool without handle, wheel, or blade;
            For both poor and rich men is this thing made.’

            The dragon sat a long while in thought, the smoke rising from his nostrils.  Alatar watched him closely, holding his staff ready.  Hauthmog finally reared his great armored body up and said, ‘This was a hard riddle, for I shall never have use of this thing.  But it is a shoe, or boot, and now we meet a stalemate in our game, Wizard.’
            Hauthmog drew his great body into the air, and released a vast swath of dragon-breath that scorched all of the land in-between him and the Wizard.  But Alatar swept his staff upward and spoke words to the waters of the lake.  Then a multitude of rushing water swirled in a torrent and met the fire in the air.  A great volume of steam was released by this meeting of elements, and when it had cleared Alatar found that the dragon had circled around him.
            Then Hauthmog the Cunning dove downward with great speed, and with his claws he rent a wound in Alatar’s side and knocked his staff from him.  Then all would have perhaps been lost, and Hauthmog might have had the victory, but for the Elf-maid Nyérë Úvëa.  For after leaving the ill-fated adventurers, she had circled around and came back to the lake.
            Thus it was that Nyérë saw Alatar lying wounded on the ground without his staff, and the dragon coming around for the final assault.  In that moment Nyérë remembered the words of the Great Pike, who said thus:  ‘In the hour of Alatar’s need, look to thy own hand if perhaps thou might gainsay the courage to do so.’  Therefore she took Anqualë her dagger and ran towards the field of battle.
            Now Hauthmog was wholly focused on the Wizard, and he did not see Nyérë running towards him.  Thus Nyérë threw the dagger Anqualë at the belly of the great beast when he was above her, and fate guided her aim.  For though the armor of dragons cannot be pierced by sword or axe, their belly is soft and may receive a wound.  Then Hauthmog shrieked his death-cry when he felt the dagger enter his lungs, and fell from the sky as a burning star.  It is said that those who heard the death-cry of the dragon would ever remember it, for in it was both suffering and evil that cannot be measured. 
            Then Nyérë ran to Alatar, who lay wounded upon the shore of Lake Amanya, and cradled his head in her lap.  Great is the knowledge of healing lore of the Elves, and Nyérë had been trained some in that craft.  Thus she cleaned Alatar’s wound, and wrapped it in a piece of cloth torn from her skirt.  Then she also wept, and her tears fell into the wound.  It is said that the tears of the Elf-maiden may also heal, for in their sorrow they hold a great power.  Not far from there, in a wooded area, she found the plant Athelas, commonly called Kingsfoil, and she used this to drive away the darkness in the Wizard’s wound.  For without this plant the wound would have rotted with the stench of the dragon, and Alatar would have died.
            Then Nyérë would have gone to the dragon, and recovered her blade, but Alatar stopped her.  For he said, ‘Beloved Elf-maiden, do not worry about the fate of your blade.  For the black blood of dragons is poison, and it is better that both knife and victim go down to the grave together.’
            Then Nyérë sat for a time beside the Wizard, and her gaze was both loving and kind.  Alatar was amazed, both that she would look upon him thus and that she had slain the dragon.  And he said, ‘You have slain the evil worm, Hauthmog the Swift.  Where greater powers have failed, the power of your hand has conquered.  Thus name anything, Nyérë Úvëa, and if it is in my authority to grant it to you as a boon, I shall do so.’
            Then Nyérë said, ‘I require no boon save thy love, my lord.  For it was out of love for thee that I slew this fell beast.  Perhaps it was not my hand that guided the dagger, but fate’s.’  Then forever after the two were knit in one spirit. 
            While she tended Alatar, Kyelek the Swift once more rose to the surface of Lake Amanya, and spoke thus:  Thrice have I been given leave to speak in the tongues of Elves, Men, and Dwarves.  This is the third and final time.  Of all beings I perhaps know you both best, blessed of Maiar and Elves.  For in the early days I was comforted with thy presence, Alatar the Blue of the Maiar.  And long have I listened to thy song, Nyérë Úvëa of the Elves.  Therefore I put my blessing upon thy house forever, so that no shadow of the woes of this world shall lie upon thee.  Be blessed forevermore, until the sundering of this world.’  Having thus spoken, the pike swam back down to the depths of the lake.
            Now Hauthmog lay for a time on the ground, but then his evil spirit departed and he lay dead.  Thus it was that Fönin was released from the dragon-spell, and knew then how he had been shamed.  Thinking that all the rest of his brethren must have been slaughtered, and the city ravaged along with Nyérë Úvëa, princess of the King, he cast himself into a deep hole.  So ended Fönin son of Falstag, in part by the dragon’s guile, in part by his own hand.

Journey to the Undying Lands

            For threescore days Nyérë Úvëa cared for Alatar the Blue, and was ever-faithful and stayed by him.  Ever she wept or sung by his side, and her voice and tears helped to heal the Wizard of his wounds.  They burned the body of the dragon and a foul stench arose from his carcass, and forever after no green thing would grow in that place.  And when this time had passed, the Wizard was once again strong and hale.  The Elves held a great feast, and Nyérë and Alatar were wed amidst great joy.  Then the king and the other elders took council with Alatar, and he spoke to them.
            ‘These days are evil, and you must decide the fate of your people.  For either you must join your standard to the cause of good in these lands, and fight against the evil of Sauron, or you must seek the light of Valinor, where most of your brethren now dwell.  It is not decreed that Elves should stay in Middle-earth forever, for it has been given to the kindred of Men.  But some Elves shall stand with Man ere the end, and whether they perish together or defeat the powers of evil in this world, I know not.  But my task in this Middle-earth is finished.  Therefore take council with your people, King Thirmir, and choose together what course you deem wise.’
            Then all of the people gathered together, and the majority was for journeying to the Undying Lands.  For they knew little of the plight of Men in this age, and did not wish to perish in that fight, as they thought.  Then Alatar led the people of Tumna Cálë up out of the East, and they took only what they could carry with them.  He guided them through the deep, dark places of the world, beyond the gaze of Sauron, and the journey was not without peril.  For it is told of how King Thirmir son of Téamos perished in an earthquake, and some of his people with him. 
            But after a long journey under mountains and across seas, the Elves came at last to Valinor, and were welcomed in that land.  Alatar the Blue then took on his true form, of a pure and mighty Maia spirit strong in wisdom and in kindness, and lived in peace and love with Nyérë Úvëa, daughter of the Elves, until the sundering of Eä.

Thus ends our tale


Glossary of Important Words

I’ve created a short glossary with words that appear in my story.  This will be helpful to new and old Tolkien fans alike, for much of what I have written about does not appear in the Lord of the Rings, but in other works such as The Silmarillion.  I haven’t included any words or characters that I made up; this glossary only includes Tolkien's work.  I’ve tried to be as brief as possible, although many of these words have vast histories behind them.  If you see a word in the story that I’ve missed, please let me know so that I can add it to this list.

Ancalagon the Black:  Greatest of all firedrakes (dragons).
Arda:  The Earth
Avari:  Quenya for ‘refusers.’  Those Elves who chose to remain in Middle-earth.
Balrog:  Corrupted Maia spirits who served Morgoth Bauglir.  They often bore great black whips in battle.
Barad-dûr:  The Dark Tower inside of Mordor where the Eye of Sauron dwelt.
Cuiviénen:  The Eastern land of Middle-earth in which the Elves awoke.
Dark Lord:  See Sauron.
Dragon:  Great beasts created by Morgoth Bauglir to serve evil.  Also called ‘Worms.’  There are two main types – cold-drakes, who slither along the ground, and firedrakes, who fly and breathe fire.
Dragon-hoard:  Dragons will often collect silver, gold, precious jewels, weapons, and other objects and guard them jealously.
Dwarves:  They do not appear directly in this tale, but are a short and hearty race in Middle-earth most adept at quarrying and smithying.  Often called ‘Stunted Ones’ by Elves.
:  Quenya for ‘universe’ – all that exists
Easterlings:  An offshoot of Men who live in the East lands of Middle-earth.
Edain:  Sindarin for ‘Second People.’  The house of Men, who awoke second after the Elves in Middle-earth.
Eldar:  Those Elves who accepted the summons to Valinor.
Elu Thingol:  King of the Sindar Elves who married Melian the Maia.
Elves:  The first race to awaken under the stars.  Elves are immortal but can die through sword or pestilence.  They are mightiest in force of arms, wisdom, and knowledge in Middle-earth.
Fangorn:  Sindarin for ‘Beardtree.’  An old forest in Middle-earth.
Firedrake:  A dragon that can fly and breathe fire.
Gandalf the Grey:  One of the five Istari (Wizards) sent out by the Valar to combat Sauron in Middle-earth.  Gandalf helped to guide the Fellowship of the Ring and was a key figure in many of the battles in the Third Age.  He is renamed Gandalf the White after his return from his fight with the Balrog in Moria.
Glaurung:  Father of all dragons.  A cold-drake, he could only slither along the ground.
Gondolin:  A mighty, hidden Elvish city that eventually falls to Morgoth Bauglir and his minions.  It can be seen as the prototype for the city in this tale.
Helcar:  See Inland Sea of Helcar.
Huan the Wolfhound:  Also called The Hound of Valinor, he is an instrumental figure in the tale of Beren and Lúthien.  For this story, it is most important that he was given leave to speak thrice in his life.
Illúvatar:  Eru Illúvatar is the being who created the world.  In Quenya, Eru means ‘The One,’ and Illúvatar means ‘Father of all.’
Inland Sea of Helcar:  A sea in the Eastern lands of Middle-earth that was destroyed during the War of Wrath.
Istari:  Elvish name for Wizards.  See Wizards.
Kelvar and olvar:  In Quenya, Kelvar are the animals of Middle-earth, and Olvar are the plants of Middle-earth.
Maiar (singular Maia):  Lesser Valar who nonetheless have significant powers, knowledge, and wisdom.  Many Maiar chose to follow a particular Vala (for example, Ossë chose to follow Ulmo, and Sauron chose to follow Melkor).
Manwë:  King of the Valar, he is lord of winds, air, and clouds.
Melian the Maia:  Follower of Yavanna, she married Elu Thingol of the Elves and cared for the living things of Middle-earth.
Melkor:  See Morgoth Bauglir.
Men:  Second-born of Illúvatar’s children.  Men are mortal and die of old age, but are still capable of great deeds.
Middle-earth:  The birth-place of Men, Elves, and Dwarves.  The Dark Lord Sauron seeks to rule the entire continent.  The bulk of this story’s action takes place in this land.
Mordor:  Sauron’s evil stronghold in Middle-earth.
Morgoth Bauglir:  The great enemy of the Valar.  He is of the Valar himself, and all evil originates with him.  Sauron is his lieutenant.  He is defeated in the War of Wrath, though his evil spirit lingers in the world.  Before his fall, he is known as Melkor.
Moria:  An ancient underground Dwarf kingdom.
Noldor:  One of the greatest peoples of the Elves.
Orcs:  Twisted servants of evil made from the tortured bodies of Elves. 
Oromë:  One of the Valar, he is a great huntsman.  His hunting horn is called Valaróma and his steed is called Nahar.
Quenya:  Primary language of the Elves in the Undying Lands and Middle-earth.
Radagast the Brown:  One of the five Istari (Wizards) sent out by the Valar to combat Sauron in Middle-earth.  He loves most the animals and plants of Middle-earth, and does not figure prominently in the tales of the Third Age.
Rhûn:  A large land region in Eastern Middle-earth.
Saruman the White:  One of the five Istari (Wizards) sent out by the Valar to combat Sauron in Middle-earth.  The strongest of the Istari, he is also corrupted by Sauron and becomes an ally of evil.
Sauron:  Morgoth’s chief lieutenant.  Though Morgoth perishes, Sauron lives on and again takes form in the Third Age.  He seeks to gain control of Middle-earth, but is eventually defeated.
Sindarin:  A secondary Elvish tongue spoken in Middle-earth by the Sindarin Elves, or Grey Elves.  In its simplest structure, it is an estranged form of Quenya.
Smaug:  A great firedrake who is the antagonist in The Hobbit.
Sundering of Eä:  The end of the world.
Trolls:  Large, evil creatures of great strength.  Trolls are also known for their stupidity and love of flesh, whether it be man, elf, or hobbit.
War of Wrath:  A cataclysmic conflict in which Morgoth was defeated.  It reshaped much of the land in Middle-earth.
Wizard:  In this tale, Wizard refers to those five Maiar spirits in the guise of old men who were sent out by the Valar to Middle-earth to combat Sauron and to aid the free peoples.
Ulmo:  One of the Valar, he is the lord of waters.
Undying Lands:  See Valinor.
Valar (singular Vala):  The principal spiritual beings of Illúvatar’s creation.  They dwell in Valinor and wield great power, knowledge, and wisdom.
Valinor:  Also called the ‘Undying Lands.’  The dwelling-place of the Valar and many Elves, it is said to be the most beautiful continent of Arda (the Earth), and evil does not dwell there.
Yavanna:  One of the Valar, she cares for living and growing things.

List of Further Readings

I used many of these books while writing this fan fiction piece.  Any Tolkien fan will want to read them all.  If you would like a further description of these works, or need help finding them, please let me know and hopefully I can steer you in the right direction.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Book of Lost Tales, Part One and Part Two by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien
A Tolkien Bestiary by David Day
Tolkien’s Ring by David Day
A Guide to Middle-earth by Robert Foster

Author’s Thoughts

            It was quite fun, but also challenging, to write this fan fiction piece.  There are so many people, places, and things in Tolkien’s world that it is hard to get everything straight.  If there are any errors in this work, especially with translation, they are mine alone.  Please let me know and I will try to fix them.  I think that the hardest part of writing this story was definitely coming up with decent riddles.  I very loosely based the format of the riddles on the ones told in The Hobbit by Bilbo and Gollum, if you remember reading those.  I hope they all make sense once you know the answer.  A fun game might be to ask others you know to see if they can guess the riddles.  Thank you to everyone who participated in the riddle that I put up on my Facebook!  The other greatest challenge was trying to come up with my own names that appear at least slightly credible next to Tolkien’s.  I think I have managed at least a decent attempt in this regard.  Some of the names were just made up on the spot, and some are actually part of translations from Quenya.  It was also interesting to write in the style that Tolkien adopted in The Silmarillion and other writings, because it is a more archaic form of English.  You may have noticed that the dragon, Valar, and other characters talk with ‘thees’ and ‘thous.’  While this may be weighty prose, I believe that Tolkien chose to do this because it set certain characters apart from others.  In this matter, I have simply adopted his conventions.  The last matter I wish to discuss is Nyérë’s Song.  I patterned it after Galadriel’s Song, which is 14 lines long and contains 14 syllables in each line.  The rhyme scheme is AABB.  I don’t write much poetry, but when I do it’s always a great deal of fun.  Thank you for reading this!  If you have any thoughts, comments, questions, or reactions, please post them in the comment section below.  Who were your favorite characters?  Which characters didn't you like?  If you have a friend who might be interested in reading this, by all means please share it with them.  I only ask that if you do copy it elsewhere, that you would provide a link to the original posting and keep my name with the writing.

Thank you,
M.R. Michel