- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Dark Themes
- Death - Child
- Discussion - Murder
- Discussion - Other Trigger Topics
- Discussion - Suicide
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
“This is beyond ridiculous!” Gandalf accentuated the outburst with a furious puff on his pipe, which was a bit ridiculous since every last trace of smoke—and more than a few singed leaves—just blew back in face. At the speed Shadowfax was flying, little more than Gandalf’s tone made its way to the dragon’s ears, though the Wizard had no compunctions about making his displeasure known in other ways. The moment he’d settled onto Shadowfax’s lean back he’d pulled down his hat and tugged up his collar, though the Dragon didn’t have the heart to tell him he looked more like a petulant child pouting away than a righteously fuming Wizard.
Shadowfax couldn’t quite blame Gandalf for the irritation since the last time the Dragon King invited Saruman to an egg hatching, the old bastard had actually come. The experience had been miserable for everyone involved.
Shadowfax was fairly certain that Gandalf had only been sent on this errand to punish him for one of the numerous untoward things he’d grumbled over the last few days. It was thanks to Shadowfax’s own great speed and mercy that they were able to take the slightly longer route to Saruman and fly over the Shire in the hope that the sight of Gandalf’s beloved Hobbits below might actually turn around his foul temper before he said something unpardonable to the White Wizard.
At this moment in our story, it would be good to note that Shadowfax had long since stopped believing in luck. He was old enough to know that all living things were all the servants of some will higher than their own, and that truth didn’t bother him nearly as much as it bothered some of the other Dragons and Riders who were all certain they made their own fates. But despite his own certainty, and the Wizard on his back, sometimes fate still managed to surprise even him.
Shadowfax slammed to a midair stop, too stunned to be gentle. He gave a few flicks of his feathery wings to keep himself hovering in place as he closed his eyes and drew a long sniff to be sure his nose wasn’t lying. Some part of him recognized that he could hear Gandalf’s indignant demands to know if Shadowfax had intended to buck him off as the Wizard scrambled to Wizard untangle himself from his travelling cloak.
But the smell, it was far more interesting than pandering to the wounded dignity of a Wizard.
“Have you lost the little of your mind that wasn’t already ruined by gnawing on barrels of pipe weed?” Shadowfax gave a huff. Honestly, confuse a Wizard’s pipe weed for chewing tobacco once, two hundred years ago, and he’d never let you forget it.
For all that Gandalf wasn’t his Rider, Shadowfax had spent centuries with the Wizard as his chosen companion. They knew one another as well as two unbonded people could, which meant that when Shadowfax looked over his shoulder, the Wizard knew precisely what he was thinking. “No. No, no, no, no. We’re flying over the Shire. Unless you think you’ve caught a whiff of Ranger roaming around in those woods there are no Riders for you to scent here!”
Once every few years—yes, few, because never let it be said that Dragons would ever do anything so mundane as lay their eggs on a schedule—searchers went abroad to find those they believed would be good companions for the draclings who were about to hatch. When that time was come, different Dragons were sent to sniff out all the potential Riders within the whole of Middle-earth, while one in particular was assigned a quick pass over the open space of Eriador and Bree.
Shadowfax was too old and powerful to be sent out on a search, but the scent of Rider was ingrained in his blood as it was in every other Dragon. He didn’t need practice to know that tucked safely away in those green hills was a Rider in the first flush of adulthood, ready to be plucked and brought to their Dragon.
“No, no, no!” Gandalf chanted while Shadowfax dove. “You’re being ridiculous! This is the Shire! There are no Hobbit Riders! There never have been, and there never will be!”
“I recall you rambling about how Hobbits were special folk who never ceased to amaze you.”
“Their adaptability does not change their nature!” Gandalf tried to shout over the sudden rush of wind, but still he clung tight to the joints of Shadowfax’s wings and the Dragon could smell his excitement on the air. Shadowfax skimmed across endless fields of green crops, drawing in deep lungfuls of scent. He parsed out the vegetables and livestock, slipped past the ancient fear and childish glee at the sight of him, and focused on that one scant scent that called to him deep in his bones.
The Rider smelled like early-morning hyacinth, summer rain on an earthen roof, and the bitter bite of grief. Whatever Gandalf might have said to try and convince him to leave this small creature content in the peace of his homeland, that gnawing edge of pain told Shadowfax that he was needed here. This Rider needed to find his Dragon, whoever that Dragon might be.
Shadowfax twisted to the north and Gandalf shouted up at him, “You ought to head to the south! The Tooks live that way, and any Hobbit Rider will come from their family!” Shadowfax ignored the Wizard and followed his nose every so slightly to the northeast, then began his real descent on the town appearing before them. “This is Hobbiton! Your potential Rider isn’t here!”
Judging by the stench of terror, and the shrieks of Hobbits diving back into their homes and leaping into ditches (as though a Dragon wouldn’t be able to see them there) Gandalf was right about most of these creatures.
But over the valley, across the lake, and up on a little hill, Shadowfax could smell it. The Rider wasn’t paying a lick of attention to the Dragon taking up the sky and coming for his door. No, the young Rider was too busy shouting at a fellow Hobbit to pay Shadowfax any mind.