Prince of Cats by Suzelle

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“Tell me a story, Mama!”

Gilraen sighed. “What do we say, Estel?”

Please?” Estel looked up at her, eyes bright, “I didn’t complain about having to take a bath at all!”

“Yes, that was our deal, wasn’t it?” Gilraen laughed. “All right, then. Let’s get you tucked into bed, and then we shall have a story.”

“I want a scary story,” Estel said as he jumped onto the bed and wriggled under the covers, “Like the one about the dead soldiers in the marshes—you remember that one, don’t you, Mama?”

“I remember it well,” Gilraen shook her head at her son’s selective memory. Elladan had been swiftly and quietly banned from any bedtime activities ever since that evening. “And I seem to recall you didn’t enjoy that story at all. You had bad dreams for a week after, remember?”

“That was a long time ago,” Estel’s lip turned out in the stubborn way that reminded Gilraen so very much of his father. “I’m five ‘n a half now, Mama, I’m too old to be scared. I won’t have bad dreams.”

“Well, I’m not sure know if I know any scary stories…”

Please, Mama?” Estel pleaded, “You have to know some!

Gilraen sighed again as she thought back to the stories she herself had heard as a girl, sitting eagerly at her father’s knee when he would return from Ranger patrols. A memory came back to her, of a tale Dirhael had been particularly fond of retelling throughout her childhood, and she knew the time was right to pass this particular family tradition on to Estel.

“All right, Estel,” she said, “There is one that I know. But you must promise me that you will stop me if you become frightened—I don’t want you to have any more nightmares. Can you do that, my dear?”

“Promise,” Estel said, “I won’t ever be that scared.”

Gilraen cleared her throat.

“Long ago, in a land far away where the forests grow wild and thick, there lived a fell beast greater than any known to Elves or Men. All trembled before him, for his power was mighty and he had many servants who carried out his will. He was Tevildo the Terrible, Prince of Cats, and he was most evil creature you ever lay eyes on.”

“Prince of Cats?” Estel said incredulously, “but cats aren’t scary, Mama!”

“This was no ordinary cat, Estel,” Gilraen said, keeping her voice low and sinister. “This cat was three times the size of any man. He was black as night and he had whiskers like knives. His growl was like thunder, and when he yelled in wrath it turned the blood cold, and indeed small beasts and birds would be struck down lifeless at the very sound. This was how he caught the little boys and girls that he lured into his lair, so that they would have no chance of escape.”

“What would he do with them?” Estel asked, “He didn’t...he didn’t eat them, Mama, did he?”

“Aye,” Gilraen said solemnly, “That he did. Tevildo would send out his minions to do his bidding—fellow cats, only these were small enough to sneak into the nearby villages and disguise themselves as strays. Little children—about your size, maybe a bit larger—would take pity on the creatures and bring them into their homes. But Tevildo’s cats had a wicked magic about them, and they would cast a spell on the children in the dead of night after their Mamas and Adas had gone to sleep. They would lead the little boys and girls out of the village and into the forest for their master to feast upon.

“Some say that Tevildo bent knee only to an evil spirit that haunted the forest, and that he ate children so he could be strong enough to do the bidding of the spirit. But whether he was his own master or a slave to the spirit of the forest, Tevildo was the terror of all the villages nearby. All lived in fear, for you would never know if the black cat nearby was a harmless kitten or…a servant of Tevildo.”

“But someone kills him, right?” Estel asked anxiously. “Just like the men who slay the dragons in Ada’s stories? What happened to him?”

“No one knows,” Gilraen said mysteriously. “Some say he was defeated by great dog, near in size to Tevildo, who had traveled far and wide to defeat his sworn foe.”

“Like Huan?” Estel asked, eyes wide.

“Yes, like Huan,” Gilraen smiled. “Others say a mighty warrior traveled to the forest and slew Tevildo with his bare hands, to prove his love for a lady. And some say he haunts the old forests still, waiting to gobble up little boys and girls foolish enough to stumble into his lair.”

Estel’s eyes widened even further, but before Gilraen could worry if she had taken things too far, his expression shifted to one of childish disbelief.

“But he can’t still be alive, Mama,” he said. “There’s no such thing as giant cats!”

“Oh really?” Gilraen replied. “There are such things as trolls, and dragons, and eagles bigger than horses…you believe in those, don’t you?”

“But those are in Ada’s books,” Estel said, “and Erestor’s. They’ve got pictures of trolls ‘n dragons ‘n eagles ‘n everything!”

“Maybe Tevildo doesn’t want to be in Erestor’s books…and cats are sneaky, you know,” she leaned low over the bed and held her hands out like claws. “You never know when they just…might…pounce!

She sprung up over Estel suddenly, and he shrieked and laughed as she tickled him.

“And now bed, little one,” she tucked the covers around her son. “I’m sure if any cat comes this way you’ll frighten it off well before it has a chance for any mischief.”

Estel gave a sleepy nod, and to Gilraen’s surprise he voiced no objections as he settled back into the bed.

“That was a good story, Mama,” he said. “Scary, but not too scary.”

“Just the way they all should be,” Gilraen hugged her son tight. “Good night, Estel.”

Estel planted a wet kiss on her cheek. “Love you, Mama.”

“I love you too, my dear,” Gilraen said. “Sleep well.”

She closed the door gently behind her and turned to find Lord Elrond standing in the hallway, wearing an expression that lay somewhere between amusement and horror.

“What?”

“I have heard many a story in my time, Gilraen,” Elrond said, “I have traveled far and wide, seen more wonders than most could ever hope to. And never in my life do I think I have heard a tale as absurd as giant child-eating cat.”

Gilraen grinned.

“Oh, come now, Master Elrond,” she said. “Surely your people have their own legends and folk tales they pass on through the ages?”

“Legends of old, yes,” Elrond raised his eyebrows. “But they usually have some vague groundings in fact.”

“And who’s to say this one does not?” Gilraen objected. “Tevildo’s story most likely began with some poor drunkard who couldn’t tell a warg from a cat and somehow lived to tell of it.”

Elrond shook his head even as he laughed. “Wherever did you pick up such a tale?”

“My father,” Gilraen smiled. “He used to tell it to my brothers and me when we were children, I’m sure to keep me from bringing home any more stray kittens. I remember hearing him tell my mother he’d heard it in a tavern in Bree. Folk legends hold stronger in those parts, or so they say.”

“So it would seem,” Elrond said dryly.

“It would give my father no end of delight,” Gilraen shook her head at the memory, “Even as children we saw through to what nonsense it was, but it only encouraged him. The more incredulous we were, the more outlandish his stories would become.”

“You learned from a true master, then,” Elrond smiled as he held out his arm to her. “But, if you would care to hear a story that is based in both legend and fact, Glorfindel has prepared a new song for us in the Hall of Fire. Something about Asfaloth’s first test of battle...”

Gilraen laughed.

“I would like that,” she said, taking his arm, “I would like that very much.” 


Chapter End Notes:

"His purr was like the roll of drums and his growl like thunder, but when he yelled in wrath it turned the blood cold, and indeed small beats and birds were frozen as to stone, or dropped lifeless often at the very sound." -- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Book of Lost Tales 2, pg. 14.

Zopyrus has always imagined that the tale of Tevildo survived into vague folklore, and I have done my best to bring that to life here. This fic is for her, with great love and appreciation, as well as anyone else who might enjoy a story of giant cats going "thump" in the night.



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