I’m just going to break down and declare this blog on temporary hiatus so I can stop feeling bad about not being able to find Uvatha and get his replies out. The guiltier I feel, the harder it is to sit down and write for him. I just need a little break…sorry guys. Sorry.
((I have to apologize—it’s been quite hard to wake Uvatha up for replies lately. I’m sorry I’ve been making people wait. He’s always been a rather quiet muse (pun unintended) and lately he’s just been sleepier than ever.
A wolf-age, a wind-age.
Odin’s employees know they better work together.
The raven is sometimes known as “the wolf-bird.” Ravens, like many other animals, scavenge at wolf kills, but there’s more to it than that.
Both wolves and ravens have the ability to form social attachments and they seem to have evolved over many years to form these attachments with each other, to both species’ benefit.
There are a couple of theories as to why wolves and ravens end up at the same carcasses. One is that because ravens can fly, they are better at finding carcasses than wolves are. But they can’t get to the food once they get there, because they can’t open up the carcass. So they’ll make a lot of noise, and then wolves will come and use their sharp teeth and strong jaws to make the food accessible not just to themselves, but also to the ravens.
Ravens have also been observed circling a sick elk or moose and calling out, possibly alerting wolves to an easy kill. The other theory is that ravens respond to the howls of wolves preparing to hunt (and, for that matter, to human hunters shooting guns). They find out where the wolves are going and following. Both theories may be correct.
Wolves and ravens also play. A raven will sneak up behind a wolf and yank its tail and the wolf will play back. Ravens sometimes respond to wolf howls with calls of their own, resulting in a concert of howls and calls.
Sources: Mind of the Raven, Bernd Heinrich, The American Crow and the Common Raven, Lawrence Kilham
lord of the rings gif meme: whatever tickles your fancy → the fell beasts
“It was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank. A creature of an older world maybe it was…”
The gauntlets were heavy. Much heavier than Ji Indur had expected and he needed a moment to get over the surprise as he weighted them in his hands. How Uvatha could wear them and not be forced into a hunched over position all the time was another testament of the other wraith’s strength. And a testament of the pirate’s love for exaggerating facts. May it as it be, they were still quite heavy and it took him a while to put them on and get a feel for them by slowly lifting his hands.
Be a master. The advise sounded easy enough coming from a well experienced beast trainer but to Ji Indur it still seemed like a sealed book and even once opened he knew it would be written in a language he couldn’t read. It was truly infuriating but given the choice between anger and humor he’d chose latter. It just would be a waste of energy otherwise. Uvatha’s heavy hand on his shoulder made him almost buckle completely but he managed to push back against it, body feeling much heavier with a combination of fatigue and the heavy gauntlets. He had not expected that he could actually tire like this but overall even the unliving needed to replenish their energy at times.
"That…sounds like a good plan." he admitted with a light smile. While not overly fond of having somebody supervise his next attempt at flying the beast and have it follow his commands he knew that this was the best option and he could trust Uvatha and know that he wouldn’t spread the embarrassing details of what had occurred so far. And if this didn’t work then most likely nothing would. "And you’re sure I can’t just bribe them? I mean…I could drag a boar here and feed it. If it has a fully belly it might be more inclined to see me as a friend?"
The fell beast was becoming restless, its long snaky neck whipping and its leathery wings mantling like a hawk. Uvatha blew a sharp blast on his whistle and the beast subsided for a moment, but then opened its snarl-toothed mouth to shriek shrilly. They were powerful creatures, the fell beasts, with strict hierarchies among their kin-groups. This beast was not at the top, but not near the bottom, either. It needed to make its status known and Uvatha understood that and allowed it.
He checked to see if Ji Indur had securely fastened on the gauntlets, and reminded himself that later, he would suggest the gauntlets be added to the standard flying-garb of all the Nine, to aid them in controlling their mounts.
Uvatha laughed silently at Ji’s suggestion. «food help maybe» he admitted. «but (you) master not servant. servants feed beasts. orcs. Nazgul ride. Nazgul masters»
Reaching to seize the thick leathern reins, he handed them to Ji Indur and made a little bow. From another, the bow might have been a mocking sort of gesture, but Uvatha’s broad and open grin made it a jape and a jest, shared between friends who were nearly brothers—despite it all.
Uvatha moved through Imladris, reveling in the fact that in this mortal form, he did not stand out quite as much as he had before. He was searching for Belenwen, and every glimpse of bright hair made his head turn. Unfortunately, many elves are blonde. He finally resorted to asking for directions, having momentarily forgotten it was even possible for him to do so. At last, he found her and lifted a hand in greeting. "Hello," he said simply.
She could not agree to the idea that she would not desire him when they met again. Since his loss, she had always thought it would be him that rejected her or that had found another. She had held too tightly to his memory, to the idea of him, and to others that she had lost and the fear of repeating the process again to think she would find another. No, she had always thought that because they met in the isolated location of Gondolin following great loss and grief that it had marred their relationship, that it created a bubble of existence that could not survive in a different setting. It was impossible not to think that in Tirion with his wounds healed that he would have found someone with as free of a spirit as him or that he would not want someone as weighed down and haunted as she had become.
She had a fairly predictable schedule as to when she was going to be on the training fields, eating, or where she tended to keep to herself when she did not leave the immediate settlement. It was not too often that someone she did not know came up to her. She looked up from where she was leaning against the railing of a narrow bridge. She had been watching the songbirds flitter from tree to tree.
She looked over with a soft ‘hello’ and a polite smile that did not quite reach her eyes before it dawned on her that he was very familiar. She paused before straightening up to her full height as she turned to face him, brow furrowing before her eyes went wide. ”Hello!” she returned with more exuberance. ”Look at you,” she reached out a hand and touched his shoulder lightly. ”You look so … vibrant!”
"Then I dare say you have truly earned the chance to sleep and are long overdue," she insisted with a smile as she made quick work of laces and buttons alike with practiced motions that did not require her to focus on them. Instead, she was trying to figure out why he had made such a face — fleeting as it was! — when she had offered him the chance to sleep. Had it been too forward or too unexpected? She had simply thought of things she would like to do if she was only given a day to do so. She would wish to spend it with friends, enjoy simple pleasures and a restful sleep in a safe place was among them.
With a little shrug disguised beneath a flip of her hair behind her shoulders to get it out of her way, she crouched down once fully dressed once more to gather up what little was left of their lunch. Briefly her attention lifted to him, taking a last parting glance at the ink that colored his skin before it was hidden beneath layers of fabric.
"That and I think once you make it back there, you will be more than happy for a rest," Belenwen added as a tease as she raised the basket on the crook of her arm and looked to the abundance of stairs ahead of them. He had been a bit winded on the way here, she had no doubt he might be on the way back.
She was slow as they walked back, allowing him to move at the gait of a living man rather than the steady, endless stamina that came with him as a wraith. Now and then she paused with him or offered a hand to help steady him or encourage him to keep up with relaxed smiles. While it took longer than it would on her own to return back to the gardens and buildings, she had not minded the added time at all or the chance at lighter banter.
Once they reached the building and the proper door for her rooms, she let him in without hesitation. Like the rest of the architecture in the valley, the rooms were open with large windows and exposed supports disguised as design details. The main room was sparse with few bits of artwork on her walls that depicted moments of her past in place of actual belongings from that time frame. There were bits of woodworking carvings in progress here and there, some of the tools on a shorter table near cushions by the balcony. Rich blues and warm purples made up many of the accent colors but the natural tones of the woods were allowed to remain as the primary points.
She set the basket down on a table and continued toward the bedroom without thinking of the implications of it. The bed was not made and instead the blankets were still strewn about as they had been in the morning when she got up and rushed out to go to training. Boughs of leaves and winding branches was the main motif of the carved headboard for the bed, but she had added birds carved in relief as well over the age. There were as many clothes put away as there were draped over edges of chairs and the open door of the wardrobe. It was hardly cluttered or messy though. In one corner stood her armor and other weapons, polished and preserved as a memory or perhaps in case she would need them again.
"If I had thought I might be having company, I would have made the bed and straightened up more," she decided with a sheepish expression as she looked to Uvatha.
The climb back up was long, and more arduous than he’d remembered. Living flesh was so much weaker than wraithly, but his ring still compensated and he was still strong. Remembering to breath was the hardest part; he had gone without needing to do so for so long that the habit of it had been lost, even if now the necessity of it had returned! He could tell that Belenwen was holding herself to a slower pace for his benefit and his teeth gritted together, feeling old and slow and foolish. She seemed to think he needed more help than he did and he had to resist the urge to push her offered hands away, some vestige of his nearly-forgotten masculine pride rearing up inside him.
But when the ground leveled out and they returned to the more traveled paths and passages of Imladris, his expression smoothed out and he took her hand when she offered it, unthinking of anything but the permission she granted to touch her in this small way. He rejoiced silently; he was unremarkable now, merely a tall, broad-shouldered Man in company of a resident and not a monster out of legend! It was so freeing, so cheering! Few gave him a second glance, though he did notice quite a few curious looks directed in Belenwen’s direction, and he wondered at that.
They reached her residence without incident and he paused in the main room, looking about curiously. He had not thought she would keep a cluttered home, but he found himself surprised by how few personal touches there seemed to be. He lifted a half-completed carving of some small bird or other—a swallow would be his guess—and traced its curves with calloused fingertips, feeling the soft grain of the wood. Uvatha smiled; he, too, was a carver, though he mostly worked with bone and horn and antler.
Setting the piece down with a strange reluctance, he turned to follow her into her bedchamber, a boyish nervousness overcoming him. His feet shuffled slightly and he hunched his shoulders a bit, keeping his eyes away from her face. His cheeks felt hot.
“No, I—I do not mean to intrude on your private living space,” he protested in response to her apologetic comment. “Your offer is so kind. But if you regret it now, I shall not be angered nor hurt by its retraction.”
While sign languages really don’t play a part in any of Tolkien’s stories, we learn from his more academic essays on Middle Earth that they did exist. Tolkien’s sign languages are basically split into two main types: elvish and dwarvish.
Elvish Sign Language (Hwerme)
Tolkien didn’t name this language, but since he explains since he uses the Quenya word “hwerme” to refer to gesture-codes, we’ll use that to refer to the elvish sign language.
Tolkien described Hwerme as “a fairly elaborate system containing a large number of conventional gesture-signs.” He says that the elves mainly used Hwerme if they were out of hearing range from each other (while elves had excellent hearing, their eyesight was even better, so they could clearly see each other’s gestures even when they could no longer hear each other.) Tolkien also mentions that the gestures used in Hwerme were obviously different from the more natural gestures used during everyday speech (which, by the way, he notes that elves were very fond of using as well.)
Dwarvish Sign Language (Iglishmek)
Iglishmek was the name given to the dwarvish sign language. Tolkien said that Iglishmek was far more elaborate and organized than the elvish sign language was. It was actually just as well-developed as Khuzdul, their spoken language, and was taught to children as soon as they started learning to speak.
Interestingly, Tolkien goes on to say that, while Khuzdul was very uniformly spoken across different dwarvish communities, Iglishmek tended to see a lot more regional diversity. So some dwarves might even “speak” different dialects of Iglishmek. And the dwarves were just as secretive about Iglishmek as they were about Khuzdul, generally refusing to teach it to outsiders. But, understanding how much the Noldor loved languages, a few Noldorin loremasters were taught the language, for academic purposes.
Finally, Tolkien says that Iglishmek was used for a very different purpose than Hwerme was. Dwarves were actually pretty short-sighted, so it wasn’t useful for long-distance communication. Rather, the dwarves used Iglishmek for the sake of secrecy when among outsiders (non-dwarves.) The gestures were very slight and subtle, so that (unless you were looking for it), others wouldn’t even recognize it as a sign language. This way, dwarves could communicate with each other while in public without anyone else knowing. Tolkien says “they could speak with their voices but at the same time by ‘gesture’ convey to their own folk modifications of what was being said. Or they could stand silent considering some proposition, and yet confer among themselves meanwhile.” (For anyone who’s read any of David Eddings’ Belgariad books, I imagine it’s the same as the Drasnian secret finger language.)
We (probably) know of at least two Iglishmek gestures. According to Tolkien Gateway, in Vinyar Tengwar no. 39 (which I don’t have access to - if anybody else does, could you check this for me?), there are two signs described: to say “Listen!" you slightly raise both index fingers at the same time. And to say "I am listening”, you slightly raise your right index finger, followed by slightly raising the left index finger.
SOURCES: The Histories of Middle Earth vol. 11 (“Quendi and Eldar”); “From Quendi and Eldar, Appenix D” in Vinyar Tengwar no. 39
The thing watched him like a wild animal. What was it, a werewolf? Dwarf eyes see better in darkness than those of Men, and certainly its skin looked grey and its eyes crimson, like the stories Men told of the Dark Lord’s shapeshifters, though Thorin personally thought the eyes catlike in their reflection, and wondered why in hell a wolf would have red eyes at all.
Whatever it was, it acted like a wolf - the thought of dogs, which dwarves seldom have truck with, did not occur to him - but not a starving or rabid one. It just watched him, its expression difficult to read in the dusk and storm-light but its head tipped to the side as if curious.
And then it signed back. It signed! Not in Khuzdul, but language is not so hard to see if once you think to look for it. Thorin’s heavy brows drew down in concentration so intent that he hardly noticed his hands miming, a second behind the stranger’s, the movements of those huge spidery hands, as if he studied the motions of a new trade.
Some of the signals veered close to his understanding…had the thing seen Iglishmek often before? If it knew that language, surely it would use it!
The illustrative signs, though, any fool would know. He ventured a few steps forward, in a curved path that would take him closer to the thing at a more level footing, until he could see its face more clearly. Its…his?
"Yes. It’s cold as an elf-lord’s heart." This time he simultaneously in Westron and Iglishmek. "What are you doing here, and why do you want me to follow? I have no coin." Despite himself, he shivered. Maybe the thing would have a fire…he could not recall whether or not werewolves had a fear of flames.
Uvatha waited while the dwarf sized him up, still as a statue and as calm. He could feel his body tightening in the cold, however, and knew he could not stay out in this wind for long. Undead or not, more resistant to that which would kill a living being or not, cold was still a danger to him. It would not kill him, no, but it could freeze him in place until a thaw came to release him. He thought longingly of the small fire he’d kindled in his den, but he showed no impatience as the dwarf slowly approached.
His head tilted, though, as the other signed again. They were not his signs, but when paired with the words spoken aloud, the mute wraith could easily begin to see the basics of this system’s grammar and syntax. It was fascinating to him, and his fingers twitched minutely as he tried to commit the signs to memory. He hoped greatly that this dwarf would agree to the invitation; it had been a gesture of kindness at first, but now there was a selfish element as well, as Uvatha desperately wished to learn more of what must be Iglishmek.
Uvatha signed back in response to the dwarf’s questions, knowing the other would not understand but having no other way to answer. «live here. (you) follow now. cold too-cold. not-need coin. not-want. want help.»
And then once again, he repeated his gestures of shivering in the cold, and of invitation. This time he added a gesture as of negation or the pushing back of something offered, hoping the dwarf would see he asked nor wanted any payment. He stepped backward then, beginning the return to his sheltered cave den, hoping the dwarf would follow.
Belenwen had been less focused on Uvatha in that moment, she knew that her posture spoke of weakness and vulnerability. She was doubled over and had taken to a knee as she took a few ragged and quick breaths to try to steady herself. A coat of mail beneath her outer coat did little against a club, there was still a persistent blossom of pain radiating from the impact point on her midsection. There was no sharp, blinding pain that came with broken ribs but heat pulsated where she knew the skin would sport an array of blues and purples later on.
The savage snarl and clacking of jaws as the warg spotted her and prepared to make its attack had her attention. She knew there was not time to lunge to her feet or beyond the range of the attack, instead she braced her other leg where she could use it as counter leverage for her own lunge or to steady herself. There was not time enough to retrieve her bow, she knew the speed these animals could use to their advantage. It was the movement from Uvatha that caught her peripheral vision but the movement seemed out of place in the setting. Why would she cover her ears when she was more concerned with preparing herself for the imminent attack.
It did not take long for her to realize why he had covered his ears. It had been an encouragement for her to do so rather than something he was concerned about. The Noldo might possess the might and light of the Two Trees and have been among the few in Imladris that could set out against the Nine, but that screech was unlike anything she had encountered prior or since.
That sound made it feel as though the marrow of her bones filled with ice and her veins filled with despair. Her sword fell from her hands and clammered to the soft earth beneath her as she quickly covered her ears with both hands. She pressed the heels of her palms hard against her ears, hoping the sound of her own blood rushing through her veins would help to mask some of the sound but it was a rather futile effort, especially when so very close to the source.
Her eyes were nearly clenched shut but she forced herself to peek through her own lashes to watch as the remaining wargs and orcs made a hasty escape. The threat from them was over, at least for now. As the shriek came to an end and a haunting silence replaced it, hanging equally heavy in the air as no creatures dared to make a sound in their own terror. She was frozen in place for the seemingly endless few heartbeats that followed, time dragging on and slowing as reminders of old battles and wounds surged to the front of her mind and her own fears of his pack turning on her made themselves known. Belenwen had trusted them so far but the concern was there but they did not turn on her.
Belenwen was grateful for his assistance and the success his tactic had had but at the same time, her reaction was less than proper or ladylike. As her hands dropped from her ears and she shook her head to try to clear the ringing — and the feelings that were trying to take hold of her — a steady stream of profanities escaped. Some were louder than intended but her judgement of volume was off at the moment. She grabbed her sword and stood, wiping dirt and blood from the blade off on the fabric covering her thigh.
She looked up to Uvatha then, pausing before placing the sword in its scabbard once more. “Thank you.”
Uvatha cut his shriek off short as soon as its effects had been felt and the wargs and orcs had fled or fallen writhing. His borrowed weapons made short work of those latter, as did the teeth of his own pack. They, more inured to the Nazgul aura from their long companionship with him, had not been so discommoded by the sound of pure torment he had issued forth.
When the last threats had been dealt with, Uvatha turned his attention toward Belenwen at last, nervous and worried. She had not covered her ears as quickly as he’d hoped, nor would such a fragile barrier have done much in the first place. He had thought that an elf like she was would have a greater resistance to his shriek, one of the last few remaining “powers” he possessed after Sauron’s fall—but he was not certain of that. It had been a risk, and a calculated one. It would be better to risk the Black Breath, which was curable, than an orc-club to the head, which was not.
He nearly laughed when he heard the words coming from her mouth, though, finding himself torn between surprise and respect at the sheer inventiveness of her cursing, its length and depth and breadth. He supposed it was a sign she’d taken no real harm from his shriek, other than, perhaps, a mild headache and a not-so-mild shock.
He tilted his head in surprise when she thanked him, though; it was perhaps the first time anyone had expressed gratitude to a Nazgul for—well, being a Nazgul. He nodded his head in acknowledgement and gestured toward her questioningly. Are you injured? Are you well? he hoped to convey.
The big wraith could feel his own thick black blood oozing from several small wounds across his body, and felt a dull ache at his shoulder. Turning his head slightly, he saw that a blade had lifted a flap of flesh over his collarbone and the white of bone flashed there. With a soundless grunt, he closed that particular wound back over with his fingers and did something he hardly ever did any longer—he used the power of his ring, calling upon the preservative and healing forces laid into it by its elven designers to close up and re-knit his flesh.
Normally, Uvatha allowed Lelya to work as she needed, without his conscious control. His ring kept body and spirit together, substituting her own power for the life force of more normal beings; her magic meant he needed no food nor air nor true sleep, kept his muscles and ligaments supple and strong, kept illness at bay, and would, in time, have healed any and all of his wounds—and he would need to give as little thought to the process as he might have when truly alive. But he was more than her wearer—he was her wielder, and could use her powers at his will when needed. He judged it now less potentially upsetting to do so in healing than to show the white of his bone to Belenwen.