Until the End of Days: 4. Black Wood

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4. Black Wood

Part Four: Black wood

The wind came from the west, carrying heavy clouds with it. Clouds clad in black and heavy with rain, shielding the sun from view. Soon, the clouds let go of their burdens and rain fell.

The rain was thick, a wall of water. It pounded upon the ground almost like hail, hard and unforgiving. All living things sought sanctuary from the rage of the rain; under trees, rocks or anything that would serve as shelter.

The rain drowned out all other sounds, even the howling wind. Even the slow clip-clop of hooves and soft curses in dwarfish were drowned, only audible as the riders were upon you.

But nevertheless, they were there. Huddling forward, an Elf, a Dwarf and a horse were moving through the rain, as wet as if they had taken a dive into the sea. But still they rode onwards, determined. Their destination was Mirkwood, where Galadhbar had said the wizard Radagast had last been seen.

The skies wept on, grieving for things Men had long since forgotten and Elves barely remembered. The skies were never empty…

There was an awareness there. A being of former greatness, now foul and evil. It had been great once, but it had sought power and power had corrupted it. Forever would it hate things fair, a reminder of what it had been. A black heart made for a black spirit. And it was aware and awake, watching and reaching…

And the skies wept.

The trees lifted their branches, soaking in what they could. It had been long since it had rained last, and their thirst was great. The wind lifted the water from their leaves again, carrying it always further. Eventually the water would be returned to the sky again, the eternal circle of life.

As suddenly as the rain had come, it was gone again. The clouds cleared, the sun reclaimed the sky and began drying the wet land. The wind helped as best it could, growing in speed and strength.

And with the wind came a shadow, soaring high over the land until it reached the great forest of Mirkwood. A test of power, it was, an attempt to once more alter the world.

The shadow moved among the trees, slipping from tree to tree as silent as snow falling on snow. As it moved, it seemed to gain shape, become substantial. It was hunting, unblinking eyes always looking forward, never looking backwards.

The spiders fled from it, for they felt its malice in the air. Birds stayed away, leaving only faint cries as warning. A strange silence fell, and even the wind waited.

Ever forward the being crept, until it could feel the presence of the spirit it was seeking and it charged. A great fireball swept forward, claiming trees and grass alike. Fire was met with fire, a blaze seen even far, far away.

Legolas and Gimli saw it, as they were riding through the mud some leagues away. Gimli was complaining about the rain and how wet he was as the forest in the distance exploded in flames. The horse neighed wildly, rearing up and nearly throwing Gimli off.

The Dwarf let out a cry in his own tongue, but Legolas did not listen as he fought to regain control of the horse. It was frightened, and not just at the sudden fire. There was something else the horse felt as well, something that filled it with terror.

The fire seemed to have died out as suddenly as it had appeared, leaving smouldering remains and a foul stench in the air.

A strange silence fell, only broken by the wind sweeping by. For a moment Legolas was sure he saw a shape in the wind, a shadow, but it was gone within a heartbeat.

“The forest is silent,” Legolas said, his glance on the treetops of Mirkwood. Behind him, Gimli muttered and felt the handle of his axe, making sure it was near.

“That was wizard fire,” Gimli said, his voice grim. It had been too sudden, too violent to be anything but.

Legolas did not reply, merely charged the horse forward, galloping towards the thin smoke that were beginning to rise.

As they drew nearer, the forest rose ahead of them like a mighty wall of green. There seemed no end to the trees, and Gimli clutched on harder, not particularly keen to fall off. It was a small comfort to know he was with an Elf – where the elf began and the forest ended could be hard to tell at times.

Legolas rode the horse among the trees as if he had done nothing else in his life, which might not be far from the truth, Gimli reasoned. This was Legolas's home, as foreign to the Dwarf as the mines had to be to Legolas.

As they got further and further in, something bothered even the Dwarf – there was no life, no sounds but the horse. Forests should not be this silent, even dwarves knew that. There should be birds and animals, some searching for food, some hunting.

How long they rode, Gimli was unsure, for it was hard to see ahead and harder still to look behind. But suddenly the green made way for black. Black trees, black ground, a crater among the mighty trees. A sudden heat met them, and for a moment it seemed painful to breathe.

The ground was still smoking as Legolas dismounted, stepping on the ground with such light footsteps the ground merely sighed as he walked across.

A few trees had fallen, a few seemed to have become just ash, covering the ground like snow. Grey and black snow. Some ash were still twirling about in the air, rising in the warm air.

Legolas bent down, pushing away some ash and pulled out a blackened branch. It took a moment before Gimli realised it was no mere branch – it was the blackened remains of a staff. A wizard's staff.

“A wizard dies hard,” Gimli muttered, staring at the destruction. “What did this?”

“Nothing of this world,” Legolas replied, looking up at the sky. The wind had died, almost as if it considered its job done. More ill omens. For though a wizard's form could be slain, they did not die easily. And there were no body. Perhaps it had been burned. Perhaps…

He stared at the blackened wood in his hand and a cold chill moved down his spine.

There were two possibilities. Either this was the work of a new evil – or that of an old evil. An ancient evil.

Morgoth. This was not the work of Sauron, for Sauron's power had been in the One Ring. This was something fouler, something darker. Even Sauron would not have dared attacking Valinor.

Morgoth…Shadows and dreams. Were they signs of Dagor Dagorath?

“We have questions and no answers, and no orcs necks to cleave to get them,” Gimli complained, clutching his axe. “Where shall we ride, Legolas?"

Legolas's face was blank, revealing nothing of the turmoil the Elf felt. He reached out to touch a tree, closing his eyes as he did. Mirkwood was calling to him, calling for him to come home. But he could not.

What could a fairly young elf and a dwarf could do, he had no idea. But if the end of days had come, there was nowhere to hide. Not even in Mirkwood, the great greenforest.

And his greatest grief he did not mention to Gimli. For he could not feel his father's presence in Mirkwood, as he always had.

It was gone.

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.

Story Information

Author: Camilla Sandman

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 11/05/02

Original Post: 06/26/02

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