I kept my promise the next day, returning to that part of the forest I now called my own safe haven. Remembering the dream, I began a tentative exploration around the perimeter of the copse, half fearing to encounter that foul beast of my dreams, half hoping to encounter the Elf. It seemed as if nothing was stirring today, not even a birdsong to comfort the sighing of the boughs under a leaden sky. Despite the seeming gloom of the day, the trees in my copse appeared to glow as if softly lit from within. I gazed upward, marvelling at how the leaves and branches intertwined almost lovingly to form an intricate woven ceiling, thinning towards the centre to allow light’s passage to the forest floor.
I lay my hand upon the trunk of the tree nearest me – no rough bark here, but smoothness like rocks long polished in a fast running river. I smiled, and in a moment of sheer joy I wrapped both arms around the tree as far as I could reach, resting my cheek against the cool, smooth trunk. Suddenly I heard a soft rumbling close to my ear. Startled, I released the tree and backed away, thinking something fell was nearby preparing to attack me. I looked around fearfully, backing up against the tree. The soft rumble sounded again when my body touched the tree. I started again, not knowing which way would provide me the best escape. I suddenly felt a moment of irrational anger. How dare someone invade my copse.
If those boys had finally acquired the gumption to follow me into the forest, then they would not find a whimpering child. I picked up a fallen branch, tearing away the smaller twigs and dead leaves to fashion a rude club. I brandished it in as threatening a manner a thirteen-year-old girl-child could muster.
“Try and harm me if you dare, and risk the wrath of an Elf-witch!” I growled, feigning possession of a power I had not. It seemed the low rumble turned into a low chuckle. I was so surprised by this alteration in tone that I took a step backward and tripped over an exposed tree-root. I tumbled gracelessly into a pile of dried leaves, dropping my “club”, which caused another, louder rumbling laugh. I stared, astonished and speechless, watching the tree in front of me shake with mirth. As I continued to gape upwards, two indentations on the trunk “opened” up and a pair of golden eyes met mine. One solitary sound escaped my open mouth, a croaking gasp which threatened to become a high-pitched scream, if I could only unlock my frozen mind long enough to form it. The “tree” leaned over me, and the scream died before it was born. I scrambled backwards, terrified but unable to release my gaze from the golden eyes now focused on me and drawing nearer.
I began to babble mindlessly, “Oh, I’m so sorry...I didn’t mean it...really...I’m not an Elf-witch at all...I’m not even an Elf...I don’t think so...and I wanted...I thought you were...I wasn’t...I didn’t...I ...” and trailed off into a wide-eyed silence as that sylvan “face” neared mine. I realised after a moment that those glowing eyes appeared wise and kindly, as old as time itself. Fascinated now rather than frightened, I reached a tentative hand out to touch what could be taken as the creature’s nose, and it gave that rumbling sigh I’d heard when I first hugged it.
“It has been a very long time since creatures of good heart passed this way.”
Startled by the low deep raspy voice, I quickly withdrew my hand as if stung...it talks.
“A talking tree?” I whispered softly.
“Not a tree, little Elfling. I am an Ent,” the “tree” said.
“Ent? What is an Ent?”
“I suppose you can say we are the guardians of the trees in this forest, and all the forests of Middle Earth,” he explained.
“Do you have a name? Mine is Edhelanna.” I offered my hand instinctively, then stopped half-way when I realised what a foolish gesture it seemed.
“I am called Brethil, the Silver Birch.”
“Have you been in this forest for a very long time, Brethil?” I asked. “Why is it that Ents are not known by Men and Elves? Are there many of your kind in this forest? Have you seen any…”
Brethil’s branches shook as another rumbling laugh issued forth. “You speak with much haste, little one, and ask many questions. I will answer all....in time...hoom...for time it is I have and have had for a very long time...” and another deep chuckle rocked his branches as his jest surfaced.
So I have indeed found a friend in the forest.
From that day on, I spent every afternoon in the forest, after my duties to my mother were complete. In fact, she took advantage of my forays to ask if I would gather fresh herbs for her medicinal stocks on many occasions. She began to impart her knowledge of herbal lore to me, pleased that I showed aptitude and skill in healing and potions, thus preparing me to eventually take her place as the village medicine woman.
Brethil did not come to the copse every day, for he had large tracts of Mirkwood to manage, yet I did not feel alone even when he was not close at hand. I still felt a “presence” in the forest, unseen, yet comforting. I often thought about the Elf of my dream, and wondered why I had no further dreams of him. My dreams of late had been fewer and no danger presented itself to folk in my village. Even my mother noted how few accidents had occurred that summer, as if the whole village were under some unseen protection.
During extensive explorations of the surroundings of my copse that autumn, I had discovered a small niche under an overhanging rock in the ridge. There I contrived my own “treasure cave” of found objects gathered on my frequent excursions: a perfectly rounded rock as black as night, other coloured stones and acorns, a collection of multi-coloured bird feathers. There also did I keep a small hidebound book, quill and inkpot. I wrote my own lore and thoughts, and stories that Brethil told me of the old forests and of changes wrought throughout the long years of his seemingly ageless life. I also pressed wild flowers between the pages, and the scent of some would transfer to the parchment. On those pages I wrote my secret thoughts about the Elf in my dream.
Many months passed, seasons changed. The winter chill kept me indoors more, but often it was for my mother that I stayed close to home. She had most need of my aid in those months when coughing, runny-nosed children were brought daily to us for curing, often by their coughing, runny-nosed parent or sibling. My mother thanked me for my diligence and assistance in gathering so many necessary herbs during the summer and fall, for it seemed that even the large quantities were dwindling rapidly, and spring could not come quickly enough.
I languished as the rains of early spring continued long beyond the normal pass, wishing to be free of the household and revel in the new spring growth of my copse. When the sun finally broke through in the spring of my fourteenth year, I raced off toward the forest in a wild burst of energy, finally free of the seemingly mortal shackles of winter. My long golden hair streaming behind me, I dashed down the slope toward my copse and stopped suddenly, transfixed. The sunlight slanting through the trees was a soft misty green which seemed to dance as the leaves swayed in the wind. It shimmered on new pale green leaves and, on the forest floor, a carpet of white, golden and pink flowers had replaced the red-gold leaves I’d left behind not a few months before. The trunks of the trees seemed to have been scrubbed clean, for they gleamed softly blue-white, dappled in the misty light. I remembered to breathe again.
I walked reverently into the centre of the copse, and spread my arms wide as if to embrace the world. I was home again.
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.