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Of Rangers and Cats  by Linda Hoyland

Cats' Tales

B2MeM Prompt and Path: Purple path. Folklore, folk tales, and old wives’ tales

Format: Short story

Genre: Family, humour, tale within a tale.

Rating: PG

Warnings: None

Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad, OFC

Pairings: None

Creator’s Notes : Events directly follow “Things that go bump in the Night.” The story of the tabby cat is inspired by a variety of ancient Egyptian, Christian and Muslim traditions. The story of the cat and the dog is widely found on the internet, but I have been unable to discover the source.

Summary: Aragorn tells tales by the fireside.

With thanks to Med Cat

The Rangers had tracked the Orcs for two nights. On the third they caught up with them and swiftly despatched the vile creatures. They rode home in high spirits, pleased that the villages were safe and there had been no casualties amongst them. In fact, the only ailing Ranger was Aragorn, who was suffering from a slight cold and kept sneezing.

Inzilbeth warmly welcomed her son and her nephew home. She prepared a special meal to celebrate their safe return. The two young men ate heartily. Once the plates were cleared away, the three settled themselves around the fire for the evening.

“Stay out of the draught, Halbarad,” chided Inzilbeth when her son took a seat near the door. “You will catch Aragorn’s cold.”

Aragorn sighed. ”Aunt Inzilbeth, you are trained as a healer; you should know that colds are a contagion borne on the breath. Halbarad might well get a cold from sitting near me, but not from a draught! Master Elrond taught me that the body succumbs to contagions when overtired or otherwise weakened.” 

Inzilbeth snorted. ”We don’t all have the advantage of being taught by lore masters. I go by what I have observed.” Her old grey cat, Lithui, clambered on to her lap and she stroked her absently. “You, lad, should at least be wearing a thicker tunic and I hope you didn't get damp feet as that could bring on a chill.”

Aragorn sighed. “Aunt Inzilbeth, Master Elrond said....”

Inzilbeth snorted.

Halbarad hastily changed the subject. “How is Brann?” he asked. “Has he caught any more mice?”

Inzilbeth beamed. “He has spent most of his time in the loft where you sleep and has caught at least a dozen. A couple of rats too, which we are well rid of. Otherwise they'd have been into the winter stores.”

The big ginger tom must have heard his name mentioned as he chose that moment to saunter into the room, his tail aloft like a banner. Lithui stared at him as he passed, then closed her eyes again. Brann made his way towards Aragorn and settled himself on his lap. Aragorn began to stroke him and the cat purred happily. “He reminds me of the cat I had as a child in Rivendell,” he said. “He has similar markings.”

“I love the way tabby cats have a númen on their foreheads,” said Halbarad.

“When I was little, my mother used to tell me a story about why they do,” said Aragorn.

“I expect that was the same tale our mother told us as children,” said Inzilbeth. “I can’t recall the details as it’s so long since I heard it. Something about Elros, I think, or was it Elendil?”

“This story was about Elendil,” said Aragorn.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard it,” said Halbarad.

Seeing the others looking at him expectantly, Aragorn began. “When Elendil and the Faithful set sail for Middle-earth, a tabby cat jumped on Elendil’s ship just as they left the quay. The voyage was long and arduous and much to Elendil’s dismay, rats had got into the ship’s supplies before they left, threatening them with starvation. The cat, despite being heavily pregnant, bravely despatched all the rats. Elendil’s daughter was heavy with child too. She gave birth to a daughter one bitterly cold night. It was a difficult birth and as she lay fighting for her life, the new born child lay forgotten in its crib. Had not the cat jumped in beside it to warm it, the babe would have died.

Elendil loved the cat greatly for all she had done to help them. He laid his hand on her head and the letter númen appeared as a reminder of the West from whence they came.

Soon afterwards, the cat gave birth to eight kittens. They all bore the mark upon their foreheads. At that time, the ships had not yet become separated, so when the kittens were weaned one went aboard each ship.

Eventually, the ships reached Middle-earth and Elendil and his sons founded the twin kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. The cats too disembarked in Middle-earth where their descendants bear the númen on their foreheads to this day.” Aragorn continued to stroke the cat as he told the story and Brann tilted back his head as if listening to him. He purred loudly.

“A charming tale,” said Halbarad. “I wonder how much truth is in it.”

“I am certain Elendil would have had a ship’s cat,” said Aragorn. “Maybe tabby cats did come from Númenor along with the royal heirlooms and the plants he and his folk brought.”

“The heirlooms that are yours by right, nephew,” said Inzilbeth, glancing towards the Ring of Barahir on Aragorn’s hand.

“Maybe all the tabby cats in Middle-earth are yours too,” said Halbarad.

Aragorn laughed. “Only a fool would claim lordship over cats,” he said. “ When I was a small boy and wanted too much of my own way, Master Elrond used to tell me a story about the first Elves who woke beneath the stars who were lonely. Ilúvatar took pity upon them and sent them dogs to keep them company. The Elves were kind to the hounds who adored their masters who could do no wrong in their eyes. The Elves soon became very conceited and Ilúvatar was displeased. The Elves were then sent cats, who would obey no master and looked down their whiskers at all attempts to command them. None of the Children of Ilúvatar can maintain the illusion that they are supreme beings once they look into a cat’s eyes.” He yawned and shifted himself to a more comfortable position. Brann opened his huge golden eyes and glared at him balefully. “Alas, I have offended the great lord Brann!” said Aragorn. “He looks at me as if I were lower than a mouse!”

“And less tasty!” said Halbarad.

“An amusing story,” said Inzilbeth. “Cats and dogs were sung into being with the Great Music like everything else, though.”

“I wonder if the desire to create stories is part of the Great Music too,” Aragorn mused.

“You boys should be in bed,” said Inzilbeth. “She rose stiffly to her feet. “Rest while you may. There is much to be done on the morrow. I need you to mend the roof while you are at home.”

Aragorn and Halbarad bade her goodnight and made their way to bed.

Aragorn lay down somewhat apprehensively, fearing a repeat of the last two nights he had spent here. Brann, though, had done his job well as no scuffling and squeaking of mice disturbed his slumbers. He awoke at first light with his cold almost gone and pleasantly warm toes. Brann lay curled up at his feet. Aragorn smiled, recalling the legend of how Elendil’s cat had warmed the baby and drifted off to sleep again for another hour before breakfast.


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