That night, the ex-ranger’s son dressed in his rusty-brown trousers, moss-green tunic and his hooded cloak. He filled his quiver full of arrows, checked his bowstring and slung his bow and the quiver onto his back. His sword and knife were thrust into leather scabbards hung from his belt and a pack was crammed with food, flint and tinder, a coil of elven-rope and other necessaries.
The boy swung himself out of his window and crouched by the wall until he was sure that none were awake bar himself.
Akin to a shadow, he flitted across the moonlit grass to the stables and scrambled over the stone wall of the palace. He slunk through the sleeping city of Minas Tirith and slipped through the city gates past the slumbering guards and out into the world, setting off down the Great West Road.
* * *
The next morning, Minas Tirith was in uproar. The older son of the King and Queen had gone missing; Prince Connor of Gondor had run away! Palace servants told tales of palace life, embellishing the quarrels of the brothers and the argument between the King and his elder son. While wild rumours were spreading over the town and soldiers wondered what to do, the Queen was in tears, the younger Prince was smugly boasting to Theo and the King sat in his private chambers, staring silently out of the window at the rushing river and tumbling waterfall and praying his teaching would pay off and keep his son safe.
* * *
As his mother cried and his father contemplated, their son fought for his life. A black full-grown female wolf had come upon the boy and attacked him. His sword flashed in the sun and her teeth gleamed white, biting and tearing. The fight seemed to last a lifetime, but finally the wolf leapt at Connor and, missing her aim as he dodged, fell onto her side and, before she could scramble to her paws, the sword cut her throat. As her life’s blood stained the ground red, she snapped feebly one last time and died.
Breathing a sigh of relief and removing his sword from the wolf’s throat, Connor wiped it on the grass and slipped it back into the scabbard. He looked sadly at the wolf’s body, picked up his pack again and then re-began his lonely journey down the road.
Soon there was another noise mingling with the birdsong. Wondering at the source of the sound, Connor entered Druadan Forest and suddenly stopped dead as he saw a whimpering black half-grown wolf sitting in a small clearing. Not wishing to have another fight, Connor watched the wolf in silence. The animal appeared hungry and attempted to catch a rabbit. The rabbit jumped back into its hole and the young wolf’s efforts at digging it out failed.
Remembering the dried meat in his pack, Connor backed away from the wolf, his Elvish blood and father’s training enabling him to be unheard by the wolf, and searched his pack for some meat. He walked back into the clearing and the wolf whimpered again at the sight of the meat. Connor crouched down and held the meat out in front of him. It took a long time for the wolf to come to him, but Aragorn’s guidance had taught Connor patience. The wolf tried to snatch a mouthful and back away, but the tough meat didn’t allow that. Finally the wolf’s empty stomach ruled over his instinctive wariness and he settled down beside Connor to chew on the meat. After the meat had gone down the animal’s gullet, Connor stood up slowly and began to walk away towards the road. The wolf watched quietly and eventually rose to his paws to follow Connor.
Glad of the wolf’s tameness, the two travellers continued their journey on the Great West Road.