Title: Sanctuary
Author: Eärillë

Number: N43
Challenges:
1. Landscape: Cove
2. The Silmarillion vs Harry Potter Matches: Huan vs (animagus-form) Sirius Black
3. Weather: Sleet

Summary:
Huan just wants to guard his mistress and guide her to his master. Sirius just wants to see his godson again and probably catch some particular rat. But how if they meet somewhere in the middle?

Rating: PG
Warnings: very mild adult themes, first draft, very mild swearing

Characters: Huan, Lúthien Tinúviel, Sirius Black
Genres: Alternate Universe, Crossover, Mystery
Place: unspecified
Timeline 1: First Age: Beren and Lúthien: before Angband
Timeline 2: Hogwarts Time: Book 3 (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)
Word Count (in MS Word):

Reference:
Cove: Sense 2: "nook in cliff: a small semicircular recessed valley in the side of a hill or cliff" – taken from Encarta Premium 2009: Encarta Dictionaries

Notes:
The author, not a native speaker of English and not quite familiar with the word "cove," had to research it in her dictionary. Please pardon her stupidity? You could ignore the reference above. But indeed, she planned to use that sense of the word instead of one that signifies a small bay on the shore of a sea or lake. She might also continue the story later, if enough people are interested in it and she has both the muse and inclination (and time) to write.
The story is again inspired by how Philosopher at Large depicted the relationship between Beren, Lúthien and Huan in her own works, sprinkled with the author's own imagination. Thus Huan in this story is the worldly incarnation of a Maia who has chosen to inhabit an earthly body instead of living as a spirit or in a forsakeable body like Melian, Ossë, Uinen, Olórin (in the Year of Trees), or Arien (before she steers the Sun). His speech between the quotation marks is not to be taken literally, however. He is still a dog, and the words are the author's best interpretation of all the noises he makes.
The difference in seasons between the two worlds is deliberate, by the way, and the author would like to leave the nature of the world-shifting means to the guesses of her readers.

Sanctuary

1. Huan

The greenery has become sparse, but my mistress' footsteps never falter. I follow close to her heels, padding on the rocky ground with just as much silence. I wish she would just ride upon my back so I could run faster towards my master her husband, but unfortunately both of us realised that I also need to conserve my strength for possible dangers ahead.

Daylight is failing, and I can smell nocturnal creatures beginning to stir as the diurnal ones return to their sanctuaries. In fact, I have to muster my reflexes not to chase the pair of rabbits which are going back to their nearby hole. Hunger is making its presence known in my belly, but I still have my duties to my mistress and – foolish, foolish – master. I shall hunt my meal only when Melian's child has found a good sanctuary for herself – as much as a sanctuary it can be in this rocky land.

But it seems I do not have to worry as much for her as I do her mate. I have just spotted a nook in the low cliff not to far ahead, and she seems to have spotted the same place judging from how she strides with more purpose there. I follow her with more vigor also, waggling my tail and making my happiness for her known by nuzzling her hand. There is no living danger around as far as I can sense and smell, and the thriving moss under the overhanging cliff I can smell from here will be a perfect bedding for my mistress. Then I can hunt my meal in relative peace…

2. Sirius Black

The rat… I must catch the rat. But it was satisfying, watching my godson walk down the street. He was too skinny for my liking though, and he looked more desolate and adult-like than a thirteen-year-old ought to be. I wish I could approach him and invite him to tell me, but by now he must view me as either a fugitive super-dangerous murderer or a man-eating dog. My godson, lost to me… Now I only have the rat to hang on for, to chase and kill – like he killed James and Lily.

I slink silently between two dingy alleys, then bound across the blocks of houses as fast as I can. Scotland is still far away, and I cannot reach it if I dawdle. I have passed several garbage bins already, smelling their stench before seeing them, but I ignore the temptation of rummaging in any of them for some food or rat. I can do that around Hogwarts or Hogsmead later; but first, I need to reach the school and probably see my godson for the second time.

I do not pay much attention to where I am going. There is only one destination in my mind: north, always north. It is far easier and faster, running with four legs instead of two, and I enjoy being a dog very much. It is as if I were back with my friends. We, the Marauders, were never without each other… until that day, that is. Damn Peter…

The scent of greenery and wildlife hit my nose, born on the breeze, before the countryside greets my view. For a dog, the prospect of being in an environment without the loud noises, hurting lights and sharp smells of the city is truly a heaven. And being in a dog form as I am, I fully embrace the same opinion. Barking happily, I put up another burst of speed and bound over the last of the asphalt, then bare dirt, and finally grass – lush, heavenly summer grass recently watered by rain and reheated by the late-afternoon sun. While there were only buildings, roads then buildings again in the first leg of my journey, now patches of wooded land accompany me, interspersed with cliffs – some are as low as twice my height while some are far taller than the trees – and grassy hills and knolls. Birds twitter everywhere, and hares and moles quickly scramble away and hide from my approach. Sad, really. They must taste better than street rats.

Dusk comes down on the surrounding landscape just when my muscles begin to protest loudly over the strain they have taken in two days straight. If I were in my human form, I would groan and totter away in search of a nice place to curl up. As it is, I am beginning to examine my surroundings more closely, searching for a suitable sanctuary for the night. Just my bad luck, the trees have thinned out and rocks and boulders have replaced them.

And there is something wrong in the air and in the rocky ground beneath my paws…

My hackles rise. Where am I? What is going on? What has happened?

There is what look like a small cave nearby and I approach it cautiously, with my ears straining for any out-of-the-way sounds and my nose trailing along the sparse, scraggly grass. But nothing seems to be wrong, and the cave is empty. Better, it has not been occupied by any other animals – or so my nose tells me. But then why do I still feel that I have been misplaced somewhere? My dog form has better, greater senses than my human one, so I usually trust my hunch when I am Padfoot. But can I trust it now?

Hesitating just briefly, I squeeze into the tight opening of the cave and pad along the length of the narrow channel with far greater caution. There is another opening ahead, and the feeling of wrongness is greater there. But I do need my rest – and some food – and this little tunnel is not comfortable at all for some lie-down.

Still, despite the reasoning, I find myself dithering just before the mouth of the opposite opening, hunkering down even more on the rocky bed of the tunnel with my tail clamped between my hind-legs. (If James could see me now, cowering like I never did in our schooldays…)

Hunger gnaws at my belly though, and at last it grows greater than the instinct of shying away from the unknown danger ahead. My human part tries to reason that there is no physical danger ahead as far as I can sense and smell it, but my dog part just wants to eat something, preferably a fulfilling meal, and go for some curl-up.

With one last sniff, I lift myself back on my legs as much as the ceiling of the tunnel allows it, then move reluctantly across the opening back to open air.

There is nothing dramatic in it, nor afterwards. I am greeted by more or less the same scenery I just left on the other side of the tunnel. A pair of wary rabbits have their hole conveniently close to the opening too. Sadly, they are too cautious for my present exhaustion. It is as if they have just escaped another predator moments ago. Damn.

I slink along the bottom of the cliff-face, now hoping to just lie down and probably energised enough to hunt for some food in the morning. I cannot chase little agile things now, nor can I fight with some other predator for the kill.

Quite unfortunate, really. My luck seems to run quite badly today…

3. Huan

My mistress has just lain her cloak over the moss when I sniff it – another male dog is nearby, exhausted but still a threat. I let out a low growl, both to alert my mistress and warn the stranger away from the cove. But, either his mind has been adulled by exhaustion or he is simply foolish, the stranger approaches anyway. On that, my growl rises into a near-snarl, and I can sense my mistress stiffening in alarm behind me. There is no time for apologies, however. The other male is coming into view – a skinny, dark-coated creature with matted fur and wild blue eyes sitting too big on his head, who seems somehow wrong in my perception, as if he is another being pretending to be a dog.

I let out a series of sharp barks. "Who are you? Do not come nearer! This is my territory and I will not hesitate to fight you for it, intruder."

To my surprise, he goes down on his underbelly and presents his neck to me – a submission. I catch a feeling of resignation from him, alongside hunger and the exhaustion I have detected before. Now that he is close enough for me to examine, I also fail to sense any malice in his character. (There is some madness lingering in his mind and also a bitter vengeance towards another person, but he is fine to me in all that counts.) Still, I have my duty to secure my place here and my guardianship over Melian's daughter.

I amble towards him and lean down, clamping his throat between my jaws. He stiffens, the muscles on his throat tightening, but then he seems to be resigned to the worst. A whine escapes his gaping mouth, a hopeless plea.

What has happened in this young one's life that he is so broken? No other dog has ever capitulated so fast, even the most submissive of my pack. And now that I can inspect him at leisure, I also find that he is not an animal at all! He is not even like I am, a *(1)Spirit encased near-permanently in an earthly raiment. He is more like *(2)the Lords and Ladies and many of my brethren, shedding their raiments at will. He is not a Spirit though, that I can tell. There is a Secondborn side to him that I can faintly sense at present, wrought with misery. Has he been cursed? Or is it a natural trait of Secondborn that I never knew before?

I can hear my mistress coming up from behind me, but cannot muster a bark to warn her away from the stranger. (As stubborn as she is, she might not listen to my warning anyway.) And then she gently pries my jaws from the stranger's throat, and I yelp reproachfully at her.

She raises her eyebrows and shakes her head, and my protesting yelp turns into a displeased grumbling.

I stiffen in dismay and disapproval when she blithely approaches the stranger and crouches beside him, scratching behind his ear and crooning a soft song. What is she doing? Does she not realise the danger she might be in – such a small and lithe frame, caught in the jaws of a hungry animal twice her size?

But oddly, the stranger purrs contently and lays his head between his front paws, his eyelids drooping heavily. He is becoming more and more enigmatic in my perception, and I do not like solving riddles in these dark and hard days.

I cannot refuse him a shelter with us, however, when Melian's daughter turns around and gives me a pleading look. Besides, the sky overhead is beginning to darken and there is a stifling chill in the air that was not there before. The hot weathers are a thing of the past, and it is approaching winter now. Downpour has become frequent, and one may be caught in the throws of a sleet or early-winter hail if the *(3)Fallen Lord is getting into mischief. As reluctant as I am to bring a possibly-harmful stranger into our nook, I cannot in good conscience leave him to the pelting, freezing rain, much less ice-rain.

It is just in time, fortunately. As we huddle together in the small space of the cove, icy breeze begins to sweep the landscape and create howling noises grating to my ears. And then thunder rumbles overhead, lightning flashes, and downpour breaks. The stranger lets out a sigh, probably relieved to have found a shelter before the watery torture had a chance to finish him off.

It is my turn to sigh when I pick out the clattering sounds amidst the heavy barrage of rain, as in small hard objects falling onto rocks and hardened dirt. A sleet. We were just in time, indeed. And I am lucky to have chosen a more-or-less sheltered part of our sanctuary. My conscience twinges, telling me that the selfishness is uncalled-for since all evidence has pointed to the stranger's harmless intentions; but deep down I am still glad I am not the one yelping and whining when the small, freezing ice-drops are carried past the underside of the overhang.

Still, I am not heartless. Hoping to provide the young one all the comfort that I can give, I rub my cheek against his, and occasionally lick his eartips and nuzzle the back of his head. I can tell that he rarely got familial affection in his puppyhood, and hope that I can replace at least some of it.

The sanctuary is not safe nor stable enough, but it is a sanctuary anyway, and we can have some reprieve at last.

Footnotes:

*(1) Ainur. This wording (the word itself and the capitalisation) was also borrowed from Philosopher at Large's work.

*(2) The Valar and Valier, of course. But those are terms given by the Elves, and Huan is a Maia (however in dog form). I did not feel right making him call his elders and lieges "Powers" while he is a lesser Power himself and helped build the universe.

*(3) Melkor/Morgoth. I chose the title for the same reason. I wanted to use "Lord Melkor" but I was afraid you would get the wrong perception about him. Melkor has fallen, indeed, but he is still a Vala by other things that count, and a lesser Power that must have known him – and sung with or against him in the Great Music – might nott want to call him with something coined by the Elves.