Disclaimer: I do not own The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or anything that you would associate with these stories. So, pretty much, I don't even technically own this fic!
A/N: Greetings and welcome! First off, I would have you know that Thais of the Star is the one you have to thank for having this chapter before I intended to post it. Said reviewer went above and beyond the call of duty by not only REVIEWING, but PMing me as well! In shock and awe, as well as gratitude, I decided to post this chapter before I originally intended on doing so. On to business: This fic shall be updated once a week, unless I happen to be out of town or some other such event. Several chapters are already written, so they should be there in case I am terribly, awfully lazy. Legacy shall go on to... well, the end. Several new characters will eventually be introduced, and I have done a lot of exploring into the lands spoken of in The Hobbit through the first few chapters. READ THE HOBBIT! It is a good book. You should understand everything even if you don't, though. Not to jump the gun, but I am already planning a sort of 'spin-off' using one of the new characters. You shall see. That will not appear for some time, though, so forget I mentioned it. Oh yes! Every chapter begins with a quote from a song, movie, or piece of literary work that I think fits. I'm done. Enjoy! Thanks as ever to my loyal beta reader! OH! And go back to Prophecy and watch the trailer for this fic, and rate it!
"If you must know more, his name is Beorn. He is very strong, and he is a skin-changer." - Gandalf The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
The Bear Man
Thick black clouds broiled over the sky and heavy rain drenched the wilderness in a cold grey light. Pools had gathered under the swaying trees, and thin mud clung everywhere. Five riders suddenly burst out of the light mist and reined their mounts to a sudden stop under a patch of open sky visible through the waving leaves. The first rider, who sat considerably taller than the others, whipped his cloaked head around to ensure that the others were close behind him. Then, another rider pulled to a halt and turned their fidgeting grey mount around to face the first traveler.
"Why are we stopping?" called a young, feminine voice from beneath the water-darkened hood of their cloak.
"Beorn's house is very near," the first rider replied. "It would be well for us to shelter there until this storm has passed and rest our mounts for the night."
Another rider cantered up, never really stopping but traipsing around in circles while the others talked.
"Beorn!" the third rider cried. "We're going to see Beorn?"
"Yes, I believe that is what I said," the first rider confirmed.
"I feel like an idiot," the second rider said to the third. "Here we are in the middle of an oak wood, situated very nicely smack-dab in-between the Great River of Wilderland and Mirkwood, and I couldn't think of where we were going!"
"It's fine, Maylin," the second rider laughed, "I hadn't the foggiest idea, either."
"Then I take it you have heard of Beorn," the first rider stated as the last two riders came trotting up together.
"Beorn?" one of them asked. "As in really-big-man-who-shape-changes-into-really-big-bear from The Hobbit Beorn?"
"Is there another one?" the third rider asked.
"Think more of the nice, wonderfully soft beds and a dry floor," Maylin suggested. "Not to mention a piping hot meal, or at least a meal with generous portions of honey."
"Sounds great," the last rider said flatly. "Would you people mind stepping on it so we could get there before this storm gets any worse?"
"I wouldn't mind at all!" the third rider exclaimed, preparing to kick their horse into a gallop.
"Wait, Leigh!" Maylin suddenly exclaimed. With an aggravated sigh, Leigh, the third rider, froze and turned to look back at her friend. "Shouldn't we do what Gandalf did? You know: go two by two so that Beorn doesn't get upset by the sudden mass of company?"
"Beorn I have met before," the first rider told her, "and I doubt he would object to such infamous heroes as yourselves being sheltered under his roof with an Elf lord of Rivendell."
"Glorfindel makes a good point," Leigh chirped. "Shall we go now?"
"YES," the fourth rider assented. "Let's go!"
Together with Leigh, he urged his steed forward and shot forwards through the ghostly trees. A sudden gust of wind rocked the shivering branches and clawed Leigh's hood back, sending her untidy braid streaming out behind her. Unfortunately, by the time they came to a halt the rain had thoroughly soaked Leigh's hair, and she was even more eager to get inside before a warm fire. The other three riders came cantering up a few moments afterwards, and sat quietly on their horses for a moment as they took in the sight before them.
Tall wooden gates stood before a cluster of low wooden structures standing glumly in the soggy weather. There was a very thick hedge of brambles racing away into the distance on either side, and nestled near them was a long line of straw beehives. Surrounding the houses was a wide ring of pasture which was still being used by a few stubborn oxen that refused to let the weather herd them indoors. Glorfindel leaped down and pushed open the heavy gates, let the others pass, leading his own horse, and then hauled them closed again. A group of three or four lovely, sleek horses walked out of one of the barns and quirked their ears towards the strangers that had just entered their territory. For a few minutes the two groups stood looking at each other, and then the horses suddenly wheeled and galloped away towards the house situated at the heart of the enclosure.
"Beorn will be ready to welcome us," Glorfindel announced over the noisome wind and spattering rain. "The horses have gone to tell him of visitors."
Once the Elf had remounted, they formed a tight little knot, quite unintentionally, and carried on towards the house in the direction the horses had gone off. As they rode, even those who had not previously feared coming to the house of the shape-shifter began to squirm and have second thoughts.
"You know he won't have heard of us," Jaden, the last rider, pointed out. "So our reputations won't do us much good."
"Oh, do not fear being turned away," Glorfindel chimed. "There are numerous reasons why he shall let us stay. First and foremost, both Maylin and I are Elves, and Beorn is as partial to our kind as he is distrustful of Dwarves. Secondly, there are three ladies among us, and Beorn is a man of honor and would never turn them away to weather out the storm in the woods. Lastly, Jack, there is your horse. I am sure Beorn will find Fengel quite fascinating, and he might put us up for his sake alone, if for no other reason."
"Hear that, Fengel?" Jack, the fourth rider, asked his grumpy steed, who was unhappy thanks to the dreary weather and his sodden mane. "You're more special in this place than we are!"
The horse merely tossed his head and snorted, as if saying 'duh.'
After a couple minutes, they came into a small courtyard bordered on three sides by the main house and its two wings. The horses were standing there behind a huge, burly man with extremely dark hair and a beard that completely hid the lower portions of his face. With the horses' muzzles resting on his shoulders, like they were whispering something to him, the bear man, Beorn, looked over the five horsemen and women that had entered his domain.
"Here they are now," he said to the horses. "They don't look like a threat, a bit wet, maybe, but not dangerous. And one of these I think I know, Glorfindel the Elf! You can be off." Then the horses clattered back to their barn and the Four and Glorfindel were left alone in the presence of Beorn, the shape-shifter. The big man strode up and Glorfindel dropped down from his mount and demanded, "Who are this lot, and what do you want?"
"I am grieved to disturb you," Glorfindel said, bowing deeply. "As you seem to so keenly remember, I am Glorfindel of the House of Elrond, and with me are the Four Wanderers, as titled by the Lady Galadriel. They hail from far away and are now the wards of King Elessar of Gondor. One of their number, the elven lady Maylin, is betrothed to Legolas Greenleaf, the Prince of Mirkwood, and we ride with her as an escort to her wedding. We should not have bothered you but for this storm. We were caught without a place to shelter and feared that the bride would reach her groom in a sorry and sodden state."
Beorn threw back his head and heaved a mighty laugh. "And these other three, I trust that they too have names?"
"Indeed," Glorfindel nodded. "I present to you, sir, lady Leigh, lady Jaden, and lord Jack, the other three of the Four."
"Well I can hardly turn away three ladies from my doorstep, especially with one of them on her way to be reunited with her bridegroom, now can I?" Beorn rumbled, scratching his chin. His eyes shifted over the cloaked and shivering figures before him, and then his eyes came to rest on Fengel. "And what is this? Ah, he is a beauty, a wonder my mares didn't faint at the sight of him. Has he a name, little sir?"
"His name is Fengel," Jack informed him, hopping down and leading the horse over to the bear man.
With awe and respect in his eyes, Beorn reverently ran his hands over the stallion, murmuring under his breath and petting the horse's shining, wet coat. "Where in Middle-Earth did you come by him?" Beorn asked.
"He was a gift to me from the Lady Eowyn and King Eomer of Rohan," Jack replied. "Fengel is one of the horses of the Riddermark, and I daresay he knows it full well." In response, Fengel shook his mane and huffed at his little master who stood in front of him. Beorn guffawed again.
"You can shelter your horses in the barn with my own beasts," he rumbled cheerily. "And once you have finished that, you may return to the house, and I shall give you a hearty meal!"
The group bowed their thanks and hurried off through the rain. It only took a few moments to take care of their horses, and, what was more, they left them in good company. Through the mud and moisture, they dashed back to the warmth and dryness of Beorn's house. Once they were inside they shed their cloaks and spread them out to the fire to dry while Beorn's fabulous animals came in with food which they set on a long, low table with short seats.
Beorn examined his guests as they were freed from their soggy outerwear. At the same time, his guests examined him. While the bear man eyed Jaden's close-cropped hair with amusement, Jaden eyed the dogs, ponies and sheep bearing in dishes for the table. Leigh admired the blessed fire, and Beorn admired the fine elven blade strapped her hip. And so it went on down the line, and they all sat down to a good, warm dinner together around the low table.
As the dinner things were cleared away and Glorfindel sat down with Beorn to share the remarkable story of the Four with him, Jack wandered over to the fire, where the three girls sat whispering and chattering. His harp was in the crook of his arm, and the cleaning tools he had packed along with it were unwrapped from their oilskin covering as he took a seat among them in front of the merry blaze.
"If I may ask," Jack inquired, "who exactly is Beorn, and, more importantly, what is he?"
"Beorn is the father of the Beornings," Maylin replied as she brushed out her damp hair. "They are skin-changers, as Gandalf called them. Heavens, Jack, when was the last time you read The Hobbit?"
"A while ago," Jack confessed. "And you didn't exactly answer my question."
"It's complicated," Leigh snickered. "Even Gandalf doesn't know for sure where they're from, but it is believed that they are descended either from the ancient bears or from ancient men from the Misty Mountains. Gandalf seemed to favor the latter theory in the book. Besides that, we don't know much about them."
"They are temperamental and if you mention anything relating to the deaths of animals in Beorn's presence, you had best watch yourself," Maylin advised. "They can be dangerous at times, but their hearts are certainly in the right place."
"If you want to know more, go read the book," Jaden sniffed.
Jack rolled his eyes and turned his attention to his harp.
Beorn left them soon after dinner, seeming to care little for news of the outside world, apart from the fresh and intriguing tale of the Four. The other animals had long since departed, and beds had been set up on a platform between the towering pillars supporting the roof and the outer wall. As the bear man lumbered past him, Jack thought he saw a distracted glint in his eye, like something in the near future was pulling away his attention from the present. Jack remembered everything the girls had told him about Beorn and his shape-shifting abilities. Suddenly he was very glad that the man was leaving.
When he reached the door, Beorn turned and looked upon his guests with a stern eye. "In this hall you shall be safe," he rumbled in his deep, gruff voice. "But do not stray outside until the sun has risen, on your peril." All those gathered within nodded, some more fervently than others. With that, he turned and strode through the thick door and left the five journeyers alone.
Glorfindel looked over his four charges with the metallic eye of a school instructor. "Take his words to heart," the elf warned them. "I for one would not wish to find what a giant black bear would leave behind if he should tear into one of you."
"Thank you for that lovely image," Jaden chirped. "Well, shall we all go to bed now? Glorfindel has provided us with the material for some truly lovely dreams." Maylin snorted, Leigh smirked, and Jack shuddered. Then they all went to bed, except for Glorfindel, who remained by the fire, watching the twisting tongues leap and die.
Deep in the night, Jack was startled awake by a strange, snuffling noise. Thoughts of the previous discussions with the other travelers flashed through his mind and he suddenly felt a horrible fear that perhaps the door had been left unbolted or some other such catastrophe. His breath was almost visible in the chill air, and he clutched at the warm coverlet fiercely, wondering how much good it would do him against a ferocious bear. His shaking eyes leaped around the room and he discovered Maylin and Leigh sitting with Glorfindel by the fire next to one of the beds, which had been moved closer to the light. The torches had long since been doused, and Jack suddenly felt a wild urge to get as close to the fire and his friends as he possibly could. An especially loud bang reverberated off of the door, and the teenager leaped up and hurried over to where his friends were now watching him.
"Lions and Tigers and BEARS! Oh, my!" Leigh squealed in a high-pitched mockery of Dorothy's voice.
"We didn't wake you up, did we, Jack?" Maylin asked. Another snort came from under the door and Jack whipped his head towards the noise. Maylin followed his eyes and smirked dryly. "Guess not."
"How are you guys so calm?" Jack hissed, wrapping a blanket around his shoulders. Leigh and Maylin exchanged a glance.
"We've been up for a little while," Leigh explained. "You get used to it."
"You do know how immature it is to quote The Wizard of Oz, right?" Maylin sighed.
"At least I didn't say 'We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto," the other girl shrugged.
"True," Maylin consented. "But it was a little cliché."
"Look who's talking, Miss Legomance!" Leigh chuckled.
Jack settled down comfortably between the girls and Glorfindel, who was pretty much ignoring the whole conversation. His eyes drifted back towards the misplaced bed, and he spotted Jaden's messy hair poking out from beneath the top of the sheet.
"She's still asleep?" he asked, nodding towards the fourth party.
Leigh and Maylin both looked back towards their slumbering friend and shared a mutual sigh.
"The bear, or bears, don't bother her," Maylin explained. "She was bothered by... other things."
"You know she's been afraid of the dark since she came back from... that place, Jack," Leigh elaborated, rubbing her eyes tiredly. "She was having nightmares and other troubles sleeping so we helped her move closer to the light."
"She's slept like a baby since," Maylin nodded.
Once again, Jack was struck by the changes that had happened in both himself and his friends. Jaden was scared of the dark, Maylin was engaged, and Leigh... well Leigh was a bit darker than she had been before, and she had a wicked sword. He was sitting in Beorn's hall for crying out loud! That was not something a teenager thought of throughout high school. At that moment, he would probably have been cramming before an exam or endeavoring to defeat one of his video games. College would have come next, and maybe someday he would start thinking about a family. Men who changed into bears, Elves, and towering, medieval halls did not fit into that equation. On the other hand, how many people would ever get a chance like that? ...Well, four.
Something scratched at the door and he was jarred out of his thoughts again. Glorfindel looked up from the glittering embers and looked passively at the noisy door. Then he looked back at his youngest little friend and smiled warmly.
"Go back to bed, mellon nin," he advised. "Morning will come swiftly, and Maylin shall be anxious to depart."
Jack agreed with a bob of his head and retired back to his bed, listening to the sweet refrains of elven verse as Glorfindel sang from the fire. Memories of trees that scraped the sky and dwellings floating in their branches drifted into his mind accompanied by the mystic beauty of the elven tongue as the young man slipped into slumber.
Beorn awoke the mortal members of the company the next morning when he tossed open the heavy doors and let a glaring flood of sunshine into the fire-lit hall. Groaning, Jack rolled over lazily and squinted at the towering figure walking briskly through the sunshine.
"A merry morning, my sleepy guests!" he roared happily.
Both Maylin and Glorfindel rose from where they had been seated by the fire and bowed respectfully to their host. The others were nowhere near that coherent, and struggled to free themselves from the twisted sheets. Of course, Beorn found this heartily hilarious and marched over to wear Jack was tossing off the last of his covers. In one swift swing, the bear man took the boy by the arms and swung him free of the bed altogether, plopping him back down on the floorboards with a definite thud.
"There now, awake and alert, little willow-wand?" he asked, clapping Jack on the back.
Jack nodded shakily and managed to squeak, "Yes, sir."
Once again, this was deeply amusing to Beorn, and he turned to see to his other guests. Leigh and Jaden had already scrambled free of their beds, judging it wise considering the aid Jack had been given by their enthusiastic host. With a clap of his hands, Beorn summoned his amazing animals, and breakfast was laid out much as dinner the previous night had been, though less formally set out. The Four tucked in readily, and Glorfindel ate at his usual, refined and painfully slow pace. It was Leigh's deepest fear that Maylin would become as slow and refined as the others of her new race.
Once the wonderful foods that had been laid out for breakfast, nearly all of which contained honey or could be covered with honey, Beorn leaned back in his strange, low chair and eyed them all knowingly.
"I suppose you mean to depart this morn," he rumbled. Glorfindel nodded.
"Indeed," the elf informed their host, "for there is still a long ways to go yet, and lady Maylin's anticipation is wearying when it chafes against one all day."
Maylin stuck her tongue out at the older elf.
"This I suspected," Beorn sighed, slapping his heavy hands down on the table and causing the Four to jump in their seats. "And so I have had goods for your journey packed away in your saddlebags, for I would not send you from my hall empty-handed."
"And certainly not empty bellied," Leigh chimed in.
Beorn laughed. "There is hope for this one."
The horses were ready and waiting to leave the nice but strange place when their masters came for them a few minutes later. The resident horses seemed almost put out when Fengel bestowed all of his attention on Jack as his young master stepped into the barn. There were a few cows stabled near the horses in the same barn, and the majestic warhorse seemed affronted to be left in the same building all night with cattle. Almost the moment Jack finished strapping on the saddle and fixing the reins, Fengel tried to nose him towards the door. For a while Jack managed to hold off the pushy beast, but in the end he had to go outside and wait for the others there thanks to Fengel's restless demands.
Sunlight was warming the chilly night air as the rest of the troop came outside leading their mounts. All of the beasts were glad to be setting out again, though they would be sad to leave the warm straw and fresh fodder of Beorn's stable. Their riders felt equal sentiments. Of course, they were even more anxious to start thanks to the festivities waiting at the end of their trip; Maylin was especially excited. Beorn came out to see them off with a mighty axe resting on his shoulder.
"You take care of this fellow," he told Jack, speaking about Fengel, "and he will take care of you."
"I'll be sure to remember that," Jack smiled.
He then wished Maylin a joyful wedding and good life and bid farewell to the entire company as they rode out through the gate and disappeared into the trees.
A/N: The other chapters are all REALLY long, so you should be very happy. Say 'Beorn' in your review if you have read my author's notes! Thankies much!