1. Chapter 1
For a long time it had been my sanctuary, my refuge from torment, for the fear of dark things kept them from daring its borders. I had never known any darkness in that place. It seemed to embrace my presence as if I belonged there, and in safety I played among the trees and undergrowth, talking to no one but instinctively sensing someone was there listening all the same. Under the protective cover of Mirkwood’s canopy, I felt safe to be myself.
It is hard for a child to grow up different. All along I had stood out from the rest of Tawar-Edrain’s children in that I was the likeness of an Elf-child, not Mannish. My mother’s mother was Elven-kind, though my mother herself possessed no Elvish attribute save her unusual beauty, treasured among the mortals, and especially by my father. And then there is the matter of my grandfather, my father’s sire. My paternal grandmother must have endured much scorn and derision from her peers when her son was born fatherless, and she would not name the father. Only on her deathbed did she confide in her young son the reason why she had never said a word about his father. She said he was Istari, a “blue wizard”, and though he loved her, he could not stay with her. My father, too, seemed not to have inherited my grandfather’s blood, but his good heart, wisdom and foresight must surely be that legacy.
So it seems the full extent of the ancestry had combined itself in me, Edhelanna, named “elf-gift” by my mother, for so I appeared to be in a house of Men. Fairer than the other village children and wiser than my years, it was difficult to find friends among them as I grew up on the fringes of Mirkwood. My village, Tawar-Edrain, lay but a few leagues west of Lake Esgaroth. I had only been born a year after the dragon Smaug smote Lake-town, yet the tales of this deed and the ensuing Battle of Five Armies had become as legend already. Village boys recreated these feats daily in their play, and battle-scarred veterans regaled wide-eyed young ones with many first-hand accounts from those very conflicts. This is how, by the age of eight, I came to hear of the Elven-king and his army. Knowing that people more akin to me lived somewhere in the forests behind our village drew me to seek answers to my many questions there.
I have not yet outlined why I lived in Tawar-Edrain under duress. It was the dreams, you see. They began when I was ten years old, so real and so vivid that I appeared to be a spectator in a living occurrence. When they began to trouble my sleep so much I could no longer bear the thought of bedtime, I decided I could not keep them to myself. I told my mother of these dreams, and she dismissed them at first as childish and a product of my imaginings. Yet when things I had dreamt actually came to pass, my mother took more notice of my “visions”. She was the village medicine woman, having extensive lore of herbs and human susceptibilities and, as such, consulted by all in our village in matters of physical and mental health. After I began recounting my dreams to my mother, particularly if they involved a harmful outcome for the person in them, she took to giving these people indirect counsel so they may avoid meeting this danger. For a long while, my mother and I worked together to protect the people in our village from avoidable hazards.
Then I made the mistake of falling under provocation, and telling someone myself of a dream in which he would suffer a hurt. The older boys in the village would mercilessly tease me about my Elven ears and tweak them at every opportunity. One fateful day, I had been particularly annoyed at one lad, Brêg, who seemed to relish provoking me. I had told my mother of a recent dream that he would fall from his pony and break his leg, and my mother was conspiring to consult his mother into cautioning her son to have a care when riding. After enduring what seemed an eternity of “pointy ear” taunts and tweaks, I furiously rounded on Brêg and told him that I hoped he fell off his pony and broke his leg very soon so that he could stop his teasing. The next day he fell. He began to blather that I had “bewitched” him into falling. So began the torment of being labelled “Elf-witch” and the sudden mistrust that some villagers began to foster about me.
I first discovered my forest sanctuary as I escaped from Brêg, whose leg was long mended by then. Brêg and his cronies chased me, hurling taunts and invective, but I managed to outpace them. As I fled into the ever-darkening green of Mirkwood’s outer edge, I noticed my assailants gave up pursuit at the beginning of the tree line, content to shout how I would be eaten by foul creatures within the forest and they’d be rid of the Elf-witch at last. I wove and darted among fallen timber and brush, finally running down a long, gently inclined semblance of a trail. Ahead of me was a stand of ancient trees which seem to have created a circle of light amid the darkness by growing outward more than upward near the centre. A semicircular ridge of rocks rose on one side of the copse and seemed to enfold the trees in a granite embrace. I raced into the circle of light, breathing heavily, tears half-dried upon my face, and dropped into the cushion of leaves there. The sobs came soon after as I let my anger and distress wash over me.
I don’t know how long I lay there crying, yet after I had spent my tears I felt that, somehow, the trees seemed closer to me than they had when I arrived. When my sobs had subsided, I discerned other sounds around me: a small chirrup from a passing bird and, most welcome of all sounds, the gurgling of a nearby stream as it cascaded merrily over stones along its path. I walked over to the stream and scooped up handfuls of its crystalline water to drink and wash my tear-stained face. Not all sounds I heard there were familiar. Amid the creaks and rustlings of the copse’s wind-swept boughs I heard something which sounded like low rumblings. They seemed to come from the within the very trees themselves. I heard other sounds; soft footsteps followed by a pause, a twang and a scream of pain. I became agitated, thinking I had been followed after all. I quickly hid among some bushes and rock near the base of the ridge. Trying to breathe quietly, I waited for what seemed an hour. When nothing else happened, I peeked out from my hiding place, and returned to the copse. I looked around for the cause of the strange sounds, but whatever they were or whatever created them had long gone. A sense of extreme relaxation flowed over me and I felt protected and safe in this place. I vowed I would return again tomorrow, for it was getting late and my parents would be worried if I tarried here any longer. I rested my hand against the nearest tree as if to affirm my vow. I felt a strange reluctance to leave, as if I had made friends at last, yet nobody was present save myself.
That night I had a dream which I told no one of, as the person at the heart of it was not from our village. He was an Elf; tall, immeasurably fair of face and golden haired, dressed in the colours of the forest. He appeared in the copse, looking this way and that, a bow in his hand and an arrow ready to fire at any hint of danger. A hideous face loomed up over the ridge, yet the Elf flinched not and released his arrow into the foul creature’s eye. A scream issued from the beast and it fell back behind the ridge. I recognised that scream. The Elf looked around the copse, another arrow nocked almost as soon as the first was launched, his sapphire eyes keenly scanning for any more of the menacing creatures. Satisfied that danger no longer threatened, he lowered the bow and smiled. Oh, a smile that melted my heart with its sweetness! I awoke then, wondering who he was, and yet somehow knowing him. He would be a guardian presence in the forest every time I was there.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.