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15
A Battle of Wolves

For KayleeLupin and Starli-ght's birthdays. Much joy, my friends! Beta by Audrey.


~~~

A Battle of Wolves


The two princes of Mirkwood lay in wait, their bows and white knives at the ready, for the beasts they sensed were coming through the darkness of the trees. So many evil allies had the Necromancer gathered to himself over the years—at least one of the Nazgûl, orcs of many types, the vampire bats that drank the blood of whatever warm-blooded creatures they could find, wargs, trolls, and werewolves. Rarely did the last come out of the safety of Dol Guldur, but when they did they tended to ravage viciously any living things they came into contact with, sometimes attacking the trees themselves.

Those on patrol in this portion of the forest, therefore, had been surprised to see two of these monstrosities so far from the Necromancer’s keep. That the two were reported to be fighting was not that unusual—if they were both alpha males a struggle for dominance would be inevitable, the two Elves knew. But so far north of Dol Guldur it was likely that they would be unaccompanied by other fell companions, and thus easier to slay.

There was a glade ahead of them, uncharacteristically open to the light of the full moon. “Will they come under the light of Ithil, do you think?” the darker of the two whispered.

“I do not know,” Legolas answered. They lay in the shadows of the trees, intently listening. At last they heard it—the snarls of two battling monsters as they pursued one another through the darkness of the untracked forest, approaching the one available open space where they could fight unimpeded. Legolas nudged his brother, indicating an opening between two great beeches, beyond which a mighty oak raised its boughs. “Theron!” he hissed. “They come!”

Before he’d finished his short warning to his brother, two horrible shapes broke into the open, and the one leading turned, viciously growling, in threat toward the other.

Both were heavily muscled, but the second seemed to be in worse condition, as if it had not been able to exercise properly for some time. It appeared to have eaten less than it needed to maintain its best health, and its coat was less sleek than that of its enemy. But where the first slavered with battle-madness, the second showed purpose in its clearer eyes. The first was a danger to anything or anyone with which it might come into contact; the second had one enemy and one alone, or at least at the moment—the werewolf it faced. The muzzle of the first was stained with gore; the second’s muzzle was clean save for saliva, although blood still oozed from an ear that appeared to have been torn far earlier in their conflict.

They faced one another, both breathing hard as if to catch their breath as they each circled the clearing, walking sideways so as to keep their eyes on one another. Lying prone behind a fallen elm’s trunk as they were, the two Elves could not hope to use their bows as yet, and neither was willing to face either of the horrors to be seen in the clearing armed with knives alone. Both jumped, therefore, when they heard a human voice issuing from the first of the creatures.

“Give it up, Lupin!” the madder of the two werewolves growled.

“Never, Fenrir,” the second answered.

Unexpectedly, the first suddenly sat down, its tail about its haunches, its mouth looking as if it were grinning wickedly. “I’ve done for a few of your precious Order and the students tonight,” it said, and gave a yawn with an oddly dog-like yip to it. “I’ll not go unforgotten by those who have fought at Hogwarts on either side!”

The other did not give up its defensive stance. “Do you think that you’ll find any more innocents to bite and tear, here in this dark forest, Greyback? For I tell you, this is not the Forbidden Forest. I don’t know where we are, but it’s nowhere near Hogwarts, much less anywhere in Britain.”

“Just because you used Apparition on us when our jaws were locked….”

The second wolf shook its head, and its ears could be heard flapping with the movement. “One cannot Apparate into or out of Hogwarts—you know that! Nor can we in our lupine forms usually communicate with words, can we? We aren’t where we were. In fact, I suspect that we are both dead, although until you accept that idea I doubt either of us can go any further. Do you yield, Fenrir?”

“No, I don’t!” And the first was immediately upon its feet and leaping on the other, who sidestepped neatly and fastened its jaws on the throat of its enemy.

The Elves could barely make out the words it uttered as it held the first in its death grip, but somehow they understood. “No-other-person-shall-ever-be-bitten-by-you-again, Fenrir Greyback! No-one-else-shall-ever-be-cursed-as-I-was-or-as-Bill-Weasley-by-your-blood-lust! It ends----NOW!”

Legolas and Theron Thranduilionath heard the bones of the throat crunch under the pressure exerted by the second wolf, and they saw the realization that it was indeed dying—or perhaps dead already as the second had suggested—growing in the first’s eyes before they suddenly lost their luster. The second continued to hold on and shook the body of its foe to break its back. Finally it let go and stepped backwards, and the moonlight fell fully upon it----

----as it changed form, and stood up upon its hind legs, and showed itself a Man of a sort neither Elf had ever seen. One ear was barely clinging to his head. His hair was shorn unusually close to the scalp. He wore clothing such as neither Elf recognized, the shirt and leggings ripped ragged, one sleeve ripped from elbow to wrist. He was covered with bloody bites and tears over much of his body as he raised his face toward the moon and gave a howling cry that appeared to be equal parts of triumph and grief.

The two Elves rose to similar crouches, watching the unknown Man with disbelief and awe, awe that became sharper a moment later as a brilliant figure appeared before them with the scent of loam and wood smoke about it.

You have done well, child. Although the one who stood before the former wolf did not speak aloud as do most of the Children of Ilúvatar. You have won your battle, and at last he accepts his death, coming as it did in the end in the manner he expected, the proper manner for his kind.

The ragged Man was shaking his head. “Do you think that I wanted to kill anyone—or anything—in that manner? I never asked to become a werewolf! He made me one!”

And you have fought the baser tendencies of that curse ever since the day he did so. We are proud of you, Remus Lupin.

“Who are you? What more do you want of me?”

As you deduced, you are no longer in Britain, or in the world you knew. Nor are you alive as you were.

“I certainly feel agonizingly alive now, and wish that I were dead indeed! Why didn’t you let me stay dead when I was killed? My wife is dead, and her body lies in the ruins of Hogwarts. I only wish to be with her!”

And if we give the two of you the chance to live again—here, in my train, will you both accept it, do you think? This is, as you divined, a far different place, one in which creatures of evil such as he still abound. Will the two of you help to track them down and see them slain? For I am the Huntsman….

“Tonks? You can bring back Tonks? But our son----”

You knew when you went forth to fight that you might very well be forced to leave him to be raised by others. Indeed, you did so to make certain that he should not be threatened by the very curse you have borne. You almost hoped that you would end in the battle against this one and his fellows, that you should be free from the curse, did you not?

For a moment the Man stood still, thinking on the question. At last he admitted, “Yes, I wanted to be free of the curse, to be a Man fully once more—but that cannot be in our world.”

But you are no longer in your world. And here your condition can be far more of a blessing than it could ever have been there. He sought to bring you down to his level, but you would not be what he would have made of you. Only you, one of those intended to be his victim, could finish him in the end. But here those who are able and who do take both forms but who fight the baser tendencies can be blessed as they deserve. Again I ask you, will you join the Hunt?

“And Tonks can be with me?”

If it is her desire. The visage of the Huntsman became half wild with anticipation. You can know the blessing of the chase when the prey is of Evil and seeks to spread its evil widely. It is your choice, and hers. Will you hunt with me?

The Man’s expression became as feral as that of the Vala he faced. “If my son is in safe hands and safe also from following me as a werewolf, yes! If I cannot go back to him, then, yes, I will be willing to follow you, if Tonks is willing, too.”

Oromë gave a triumphant smile. Even now she is being questioned by our brother, into whose keeping she has come for the moment, and her answer is the same as yours—if you so desire, she wishes the same as you. Then come, friend! The Hunt awaits! Huan!

And a great hound came to stand beside him, even as the one called Remus Lupin took again the shape of a wolf, one that now healed as the two Elves watched even as he was nuzzled by the Hound of the Valar. His body filled out, and his coat grew as lustrous as that of Huan, and no longer did his ear bleed. Oh, there was a scar there, but it was blessed….

*******


It was some time before the glory faded, and the two Elves finally stepped out into the clearing to look down on the body of the one Lupin had called Fenrir Greyback. It was caught midway between the shape of a Man and that of the wolf that had embodied his nature. There was in its visage that surprise to be seen so often on the faces of the slain, the surprise to learn that death could come to them as well as to those they’d delighted to rob of life.

In unspoken agreement, the two sons of Thranduil set about preparing a fire to see this carrion properly burned so as to free Arda of its stain.

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