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by Robinka

The hunt had been fruitless so far.

It seemed, to a sharp mind and a keen eye, as if something – or someone – more powerful and threatening were hunting in the depths of the woods for there was almost no sign of wildlife. As if every beast lay hidden in their lairs.

Beleg knew what it was.

The winter had come with frost and hunger.

The chill in the air stung wherever it touched a bit of uncovered skin. The forest was silent, except for a while when the sound of horns blew high above the treetops. Beleg waded knee-deep in the fresh layer of snow, drawing his cloak neatly around him and looking up at the sky. It was snowing again, and Beleg shook free the snowflakes that had fallen on the hem of his hood. One of those icy gems landed on his nose, and for a brief moment it kissed him with its coldness only to die and leave a drop of water. Beleg brushed it away with a fingertip.

The cold wind gusted straight into Beleg’s face and made the snowflakes twirl, and with it came a tiny feeling of disappointment that nothing would be added to the pantry today, not even a single pheasant, wild rabbit, or hare. With every breath out of Beleg’s lungs, each hanging like a puff of smoke in the air, his disappointment grew, and he decided that he needed to go deeper into the woods, farther from the border, because the edge of Doriath seemed deserted.

And yet, a noise somewhere out there, in the shrubbery, got Beleg’s attention in a blink of an eye, and he removed the bow that crossed his back. The bow in his grasp, Beleg retrieved an arrow and waited.

The shrubbery shook; something was huffing and puffing, and a wild boar barrelled out of the tangle of withered leaves and twigs with its eyes fixed on Beleg and its tail raised in challenge.

A corner of Beleg’s lips moved up in a flash of a smile.

The young male, with its tusks barely visible in the thick bristle around its snout, was either scared of something and the fright blinded its instinct, or it had not absorbed much of the forest lore along with its mother’s milk. Either way, its lack of wisdom, Beleg mused, might bring death upon it. A swift, merciful death, with an arrow between the eyes, and the youth would not even know when it died.

But the beast did not advance, only dove back into the thicket before Beleg could let the arrow loose.

Beleg gritted his teeth, chewing a curse aimed at his apparent bad luck. He intended to follow the trace, bow at the ready. The careless animal might lead him straight to the herd.

It was in that moment that something other than the boar’s trail drew his attention; Beleg froze and cocked his ears. He looked around, barely breathing, and then he heard it again. A high-pitched cry for help!

Beleg might have been down his luck, but his pantry could wait. He decided to postpone the chase after the boar because apparently somebody was in dire straits. And he could be of help! With that in mind, he broke into a run, having thrown the arrow into the quiver and replaced his bow onto his back.

Several times he had to stop and listen, then he resumed running, his hood off of his head and his cloak billowing behind him like a standard. He knew he was on track, and soon he came eye to eye with three shadowy figures that hid, trembling and teeth chattering, in the snow-coated bushes.

Two men, ragged, battered, and – as it seemed to him – already giving up. And a boy, moving forward a little, with a challenge clear in his steel-grey eyes: the only one who was not ready to die yet.

Beleg halted and moved his hands up, palms out, so that the men and the child he encountered knew he meant no ill will and his weapons would not be used against them.

“Are you of the Grey Folk?” The boy braved a question as he stood up.

Beleg held out his hand and said, “Come with me if you want to live.”

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Title borrowed from a song by Dire Straits; the last line is a direct quote from “The Terminator” (1984, directed by James Cameron). Many thanks to the most generous Dawn Felagund for her beta and suggestions.

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About the Author

A lifelong president of the fanclub of Beleg Cúthalion, Robinka (also known as Binka) has a healthy dose of admiration for the Grey Folk of Doriath, but approaches the Noldor with reverence. She is a proud owner of a T-shirt with the caption: "Beleg lives! I don't care what Túrin says". Binka lives in Poland with her husband and a rescued dog. Her path in the fandom is rocky, but nothing short of adventurous.

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