Note: As many of you may know I have quite a few fics going at once involving Nariel the Red and Athriel Erynsaeliel, And although I try to keep them all updated sometimes my brain will decide to concentrate on one character or set of characters at a time. I also do not like gaps and as a result I have a sudden urge to write about Nariel and the other Beornings before Caraneth's death and Nariel's move to Rhosgobel. I don't know where the urge comes from. Maybe it's an urge to get my Beorn on paper before The Hobbit film comes out (although I am looking forward to the new films). Or maybe writing Missing Years and Raising Athriel is prompting me to write down more of the back story for Nariel and her family. Either way please let me know what you think.
Chapter 1 – Where it all started.
Beorn breathed deeply as he stepped out into the open air. Everything was just as it should be, the sky was blue and the sun was bright, just another perfect day in the forest. He had some chores to do outside in the fresh air, not that he thought of them as chores, chopping wood could be enjoyable on a day like today, but before he could get very far in his work he was interrupted.
Gildenaur and Arfaer came galloping up towards him. It wasn't often that they received visitors, which was how Beorn liked it, but the two horses had seen someone approach and came to warn him. They were distrustful of strangers as a rule and these new comers were no exception.
Once his two friends had conveyed their message they stood either side of him. Beorn almost smiled at their protectiveness. There were not many who could get past the bear man. But they were more than just his friends. They were family and he felt the same about them. As the newcomers approached however, Beorn waved the horses away.
"Ugh! Here they are! They don't look dangerous. You can be off!" He said laughing.
The two newcomers definitely did not look dangerous. Well at least the smaller one did not look dangerous. The taller of the two however Beorn could tell did not mean him any harm, but there was a power about him, a strength that the bear-man recognised but could not place.
"Who are you and what do you want?" He said as he stood tall in front of them.
Whatever they wanted this was his house and he was the master.
"I am Gandalf" The taller one said.
He was dressed entirely in grey with a large wide brimmed hat and he leant on a staff. There was definitely something familiar about this old man although Beorn knew that he had never seen him before, or heard his name.
"Never heard of him" He growled only half to himself.
He did not like being disturbed and definitely not by strangers. Their presence had unsettled Beorn. He turned his attention to the smaller creature who barely reached his knee.
"And what's this little fellow?" He asked stooping down to look the clearly nervous creature in the eye.
The taller man however was the one who answered.
"That is Mr Baggins, a hobbit of good family and impeccable reputation."
At the words the hobbit, dubbed 'Mr Baggins' Bowed.
"I am a wizard" The taller one said catching Beorn's attention again.
A wizard? So that was what it was, the power he recognised. He had known a wizard once. He had lived in the forest and was always good to the animals, but he could not remember his name. Fortunately this new wizard continued.
"I have heard of you, if you have not heard of me; but perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the southern borders of Mirkwood?"
That was the name, Radagast. He liked him, the wizard that lived so close that he had not seen in years. Beorn hadn't seen anyone except the animals that lived in his halls for years, more years than he liked to admit.
"Yes; not a bad fellow as wizards go, I believe. I used to see him now and again."
Maybe a little company today would not be so bad after all.
"Well, now I know who you are, or who you say you are. What do you want?"
It was strange this urge to socialise but Beorn was still a cautious man.
"To tell you the truth, we have lost our luggage and nearly lost our way, and are rather in need of help, or at least of advice. I may say we have had a rather bad time with goblins in the mountains."
Goblins? Had the wizard just said goblins? Beorn hated the goblins. They were a nuisance, making the mountain pass unsafe. If this wizard and this single little hobbit had fought goblins it may be a tale worth hearing.
"Goblins? O ho, you've been having trouble with them have you? What did you go near them for?"
The wizard seemed relieved when Beorn asked that question and the man assumed that the story was part of his plan. This Gandalf wanted help after all and had probably learned from his cousin that the great bear liked a good story especially if it involved trouble for the goblins.
"We did not mean to. They surprised us at night in a pass which we had to cross, we were coming out of the lands over west into these countries- it is a long tale."
Beorn decided that it didn't matter why the wizard and his friend were here. They were no threat to him and he was strangely in the mood for company tonight. He wanted to hear this tale.
"Then you had better come inside and tell me some of it, if it won't take all day." He said as he led them through the door into his house and through towards the veranda he had built so that he could make the most of the southern side of his house.
Once his guests were comfortable Beorn sat and listened as Gandalf began his tale.
"I was coming over the mountains with a friend or two..."
Beorn's brow furrowed.
"Or two? I can only see one and a little one at that"
The little hobbit was looking at his feet while Gandalf smiled slightly.
"Well to tell you the truth, I did not like to bother you with a lot of us, until I found out if you were busy. I will give a call if I may"
Beorn did not even think about the question before he answered, he was actually enjoying himself with the wizard and his friend and wanted to hear the story.
"Go on, call away!"
Gandalf whistled and soon afterwards two dwarves came into view along the garden path and bowed.
"One or three you meant I see!" Beorn exclaimed, and surprisingly his good mood remained.
"Thorin Oakenshield, at your service!" one said and then
"Dori, at your service!" his friend parroted.
"I don't need your service, thank you" Beorn laughed. "But I expect you need mine. I am not over fond of dwarves; but if it is true you are Thorin - son of Thrain, son of Thror, I believe – and that your companion is respectable and you are enemies of goblins and are not up to any mischief in my lands. What are you up to by the way?"
The last question was an impulse one as it had only just occurred to him how strange it was for a hobbit, a wizard and a couple of dwarves to be travelling through his lands.
"They are on their way to visit the land of their fathers, away East beyond Mirkwood, and it is entirely an accident that we are in your lands at all. We were crossing by the high pass that should have brought us to the road that lies to the south of your country, when we were attacked by the evil goblins- as I was about to tell you."
His curiosity over their mission momentarily satisfied Beorn urged the wizard on.
"Go on talking then!"
He leant forwards with his head resting on his arm eager to hear the tale.
"There was a terrible storm; the stone-giants were out hurling rocks, and at the head of the pass we took refuge in a cave, the hobbit and I and several of our companions..."
That comment prompted Beorn to interrupt again.
"Do you call two several?" Beorn asked, although going by what had happened last time he could guess what the wizard was going to say.
"Well, no. As a matter of fact there were more than two."
The bear-man sat back and decided to play the wizard's game.
"Where are they? Killed, eaten, gone home?"
Things were really starting to get interesting.
"Well, no. They don't seem all to have come when I whistled. Shy I expect. You see we are very much afraid that we are rather a lot for you to entertain."
Beorn laughed. How many of them could there be hiding out there in the woods.
"Go on, whistle again! I am in for a party it seems, and one or two more won't make much difference."
Instantly two more dwarves rounded the corner. Beorn briefly wondered how they had managed it!
"Hullo! You came pretty quick- where were you hiding? Come on my jack-in-the-boxes!"
These dwarves were more amusing than he had thought they would be.
"Nori, at your service" One of the new dwarves started.
"Ori..." the other started but Beorn interrupted before he could finish.
"Thank you! When I want your help I will ask for it. Sit down and let's get on with this tale, or it will be supper time before it is ended"
The Grey Wizard continued with the tale.
"As soon as we were asleep, a crack at the back of the cave opened; goblins came out and grabbed the hobbit and the dwarves and our troop of ponies."
There it was again, Gandalf changing his story.
"Troop of ponies? What were you- a travelling circus? Or were you carrying lots of goods? Or do you always call six a troop?" Beorn was starting to wonder if he had enough space out here on the veranda for all of these dwarves.
"Oh no! As a matter of fact there were more than six ponied, for there were more than six of us- and well, here are two more!"
True to his word when Beorn looked up two more dwarves came around the corner. It was then that Beorn started to wonder exactly how many friends the wizard had with him. He frowned slightly but laughed when the dwarves kept bowing.
"Troop was right, A fine comic one. Come in my merry men and what are your names; and then sit down and stop wagging!"
The dwarves stood tall.
"Balin and Dwalin" They said before sitting down onto the floor.
Beorn turned impatiently to the wizard again.
"Now go on again!"
Gandalf nodded and tried to continue.
"Where was I? Oh yes – I was not grabbed. I killed a goblin or two with a flash..."
But the bear man could not keep his enthusiasm in check.
"Good! It is some good being a wizard then."
He was not used to letting others talk, or keeping his opinions to himself.
"...and slipped inside the crack before it closed. I followed down into the main hall, which was crowded with goblins. The great goblin was there with thirty of forty armed guards. I thought to myself 'even if they were not all chained together, what can a dozen do against so many?' "
Beorn was practically on the edge of his seat but he wasn't going to let Gandalf slip that in.
"A Dozen! That's the first time I have heard eight called a dozen. Or have you still got some jacks that haven't yet come out of their boxes?"
The man looked around eagerly. Now that he was getting into it Beorn was starting to think the more the merrier, which was unusual for him.
"Well, yes, there seem to be a couple more here now – Fili and Kili I believe." Gandalf said as two more dwarves arrived and started bowing.
"That's enough! Sit down and be quiet! Now, go on Gandalf!"
The bear-man was acting like a child but he didn't care. He wanted to hear the end of the tale. It had been a long time since he had heard a good tale.
The wizard continued with his tale detailing their fight in the dark, the discovery of the lower gate and their horror when they found that Bilbo had been mislaid.
"Well, I plunged the cavern into darkness and while I stabbed the great goblin I whispered words to break the chains that bound my friends and together we ran through the tunnels and away from the goblins. Goblins see well in the dark however and caught up with us as we fled. We fought them and made through the tunnels again until we found the lower gate and stepped out into the sunlight. When we reached a clearing however we counted ourselves and found that there was no hobbit! There were only fourteen of us left!"
The Bear-man's eyebrow lifted as he grinned widely, he was really enjoying this game.
"Fourteen! That's the first time I've heard one from ten leave fourteen. You mean nine, or else you haven't told me yet all the names of your party."
Beorn laughed as he talked waiting for the inevitable appearance of more dwarves. He was not disappointed in his expectations.
"Well, of course you haven't seen Oin and Gloin yet. And bless me! Here they are. I hope you will forgive them for bothering you."
Impatient for Gandalf to continue with his tale, Beorn ushered the dwarves along before turning back to the old man.
"Oh let em all come! Hurry up! Come along you two and sit down! But look here, Gandalf, even now we have only got yourself and ten dwarves, and the hobbit that was lost. That only makes eleven – plus one misplaced – and not fourteen, unless wizards count differently to other people. But now please get on with the tale."
Beorn listened intently as Gandalf continued. He became so swept up in the tale, that he almost forgot that Bilbo and the dwarves were there and for the most part he kept silent. Until he heard about the wolves and the wizard fire Gandalf produced.
"I wish I had been there! I would have given them more than fireworks."
The old wizard smiled, obviously pleased with the bear-man's enthusiasm.
"Well. I did the best I could. There we were with the wolves going mad underneath us and the forest beginning to blaze in places, when the goblins came down from the hills and discovered us. They yelled with delight and sang songs making fun of us. Fifteen birds in five fir trees…"
That was when Beorn interrupted again.
"Good heavens! Don't pretend that goblins can't count. They can. Twelve isn't fifteen and they know it."
Surely they must be near the end of the introductions, Beorn thought as two more dwarves came into view.
"And so do I. There were Bifir and Bofur as well. I haven't ventured to introduce them before, but here they are."
The dwarves bowed to the man before a third came into view.
The last and by far the largest dwarf came into view. Beorn laughed heartily at the latest addition.
"Well now there are fifteen of you; and since goblins can count. I suppose that is all there were up the trees. Now perhaps we can finish this story without any more interruptions."
And so Beorn listened to Gandalf on his porch surrounded by dwarves and a lonely hobbit. The man who had kept himself away from the world suddenly had a house full of guests and he was actually quite enjoying himself.