I did not settle that night. I sat with a rigid back and wide, flickering eyes filled with immense fear whilst a ragged breath whistled through my chattering teeth; matching the hammering of my quaking heart. Due to the continuous cold sweats which flooded from me as I trembled slightly at the slightest sound, whether it be the slight rustle of leaves on a nearby branch or a sudden snap as some animal crawled through the undergrowth and stepped on a small twig that lay in its path, my dagger kept slipping from my grip since the excessive sweating had made my palms so slippery; in the end, anger swelled so greatly inside of me by his small, insignificant action that I threw it away, way out of my reach. However, I quickly regretted this when a thought sprung into my mind; if something evil did attack us then I had no way to protect us, we were as good as dead.
Before dawns rosy fingers were able to filter completely through the small gaps in the trees, Treebeard had returned and his earth shattering footsteps could fill my ears. The fear seemed to disappear from me; not completely but enough so that I could wake up the Hobbits without them seeing it obviously in my eyes.
However, once we were moving, all three of us sitting side by side on Treebeard’s shoulders with Athae plodding along behind, did I allow myself to begin to relax; allowing the warming rays of the sun to wash over my flesh, removing the fear embedded in my soul completely.
“Authiel?” Pippin’s young voice called, startling the silence.
“Yes, Pippin?” I asked, smiling gently down at him.
“I do not know.”
Pippin’s innocent face morphed into a frown, his brow furrowing and his eyes screwing up slightly as he tried to understand what I meant. Smiling down at him, I ran a hand across his curly hair and slowly ruffled it. He laughed quietly and turned to face me completely; as did Merry on his other side.
“Pelior is as free as she is wild,” I explained, “Although she is loyal to me, she is a wild creature meaning that she will not stay by my side as Athae does; not all the time anyway. Pelior … she could be anywhere. She may be with Legolas and the rest of our company in Rohan. Perhaps she is somewhere nearby, watching over us; protecting us if dangers should arise. Or perhaps she has gone home; roosting in the trees that she has lived in for the past few thousand years. It does not matter. She will come when she is called.”
“She’s a very smart bird,” Merry whispered, looking up at me with a smile that made him look young; younger than I had seen him seen him in months; as young as he looked in Rivendell.
“How old is she then?” Pippin asked, “Pelior I mean?”
“I found her just before the forging of the Rings. In the forest of Lothlorien. She was a chick, had fallen from her nest. Abandoned by her mother and left to die in the jaws of some wild beast. Yet, I took her in. Helped rear her from that weak form. In repayment, the Valar allowed me to keep her as one of my companions. She will live until I die. But if she dies then I will still live. A strange concept really. It is the same for Athae; although I have had Athae for much longer, I was only young then, probably only a thousand years old; if that.
Pelior is almost five thousand years old.”
“An old, smart bird then,” Merry said, laughing at his words.
“Well, they do say that the older one gets, the wiser one becomes,” I replied, smiling down at him.
“Then why aren’t you wise?” Pippin asked, a cheeky grin on his face.
Playfully, I jabbed him in the ribs with my elbow; knocking him backwards. He smirked up at me and as quick as a bolt of lightning, I lifted my hand and messed up his already tangled curls. He let out a squeal as I did this, desperately trying to fight me off. Merry sat to the side, laughing his little head off; reminding me of the training that Boromir had given them and the ambush that they had pulled on him and Aragorn. That day seemed so long ago and the innocent in him seemed to have died so long ago; yet perhaps it had not died, instead he had only buried it, buried it deep within himself to create the serious Halfling that I had come to see every day. My eyes prickled with the hot tears as I watched Merry grab Pippin from behind and continue what I had been doing a few moments ago; my emotions wanting to burst forth at the site that I watching before me. But I calmed myself down and slowly closed my eyes; allowing silence to settle upon us. And as the peace dissolved over us, I allowed myself to bask in the warm rays of the sun once more. As the light filled my skin, I felt myself glow as the hope that I felt I had lost refilled me like a beacon; hope that it had all been a dream and that my imagination had only been playing with me.
“Look!” Pippin spoke up, disturbing me once again, “There’s smoke to the south.”
Opening my eyes once more, releasing an annoyed sigh as I did so, I saw that there indeed was a cloud of smoke standing out above the dark green trees of Fangorn and against the blue sky that belonged to the Valar like a dark omen.
“There is always smoke rising from Isengard these days,” Treebeard explained, tilting his head to the side in order to examine the cloud of death himself.
“Isengard?” Merry asked in a whisper.
Briefly, he and Pippin exchanged a glance before they both began to climb up the side of Treebeard’s head, so that they could get a better view.
“There was once a time when Saruman would walk in my woods,” Treebeard said, his voice warm as he remembered how things had once been in those peaceful times. As he continued to speak, his wooded voice grew cold, displaying his anger to change, “But now he has a mind of metal and wheels. He no longer care for growing things.”
“Curunír, man a-d car-enc amar? A-deith pen-boe. Man gar-d an usta-în-eg nimbi barad an onna taitë osp? -D gar pîn po; arma min in wá uin Fangorn pel-d. Man a-d ruin an onna taitë?” I whispered, staring at the cloud.
[Saruman, what are you doing to our world? You destroy it without need. What have you to burn in your cold tower to create such smoke? You have little possessions; nothing but the woods of Fangorn surround you. What are you burning to create such things?]
Furrowing my brow, I stared at it deeply and something struck me like the lighting of a match deep inside my very soul; allowing me to begin to understand what was happening. But no matter how evil Saruman had become, he would not …. he could not …. he was still a member of the Istari after all.
“What is it?” Pippin asked, his innocent voice chirping through the air.
“It’s Saruman’s army. The war has started!” Merry sighed, sounding almost disappointed.
“No, Merry. The war is not starting. It did not finish in the first place!” Sadly I explained, a sense of dread filling me.
The two Hobbits stared at me, confusion filling their sweet faces. Sighing, I smiled at them and continued to speak; running a hand through my hair as I searched for my words,
“Sauron did not die three thousand years ago when Isildur cut the ring from his finger and he seemed to combust spontaneously in front of my very eyes. We believed that the war was because we believed that he was dead – an army without a leader cannot be lead. Yet because of the Ring he did not die, meaning that all of this time we have been at war. A secret war; but a war none the less. It does explain the strange activity of the Orcs and other creatures fouler than that. This was did not end. It stayed in the shadows; teasing the light; tempting the innocent with its seductive secrets. But now they have gone past the stage of fear; they no longer care for hiding in the dark whilst we live in the light. Instead they want this world for their own and they will do anything to get it. They have readied their armour and sharpened their swords; discarding the dust upon them.”
A sigh slipped from my lips as I paused. Silently I changed my position so that my back was resting on the side of Treebeard’s head; allowing myself to stare hard at the horizon. Almost as if I was addressing the whole world, instead of the two Halflings beside me, “This war will continue and it will be greater than it was in the past. More collisions between the armies; creating more casualties; more destruction to the livelihoods of all.
We are about to face the greatest, most destructive war that this world has ever known; and there is little hope that anyone will be able to survive it.”
Silence settled. A heavy, shocked silence that hung thickly in the air. The one thing which disturbed this ringing silence was Treebeard; whether it be his heavy footsteps or his groaning breaths but they were the only sounds that greeted my sensitive, Elven ears. No birds chirped in the trees nor did the insects beat their tiny wings. It was an unusual silence for a forest that was once filled with life.
“Authiel?” A small voice whispered, startling me.
Looking around, I searched for the holder of the voice but there was no one else who could have spoken.
“Authiel, please, I need to talk to you.”
It was then that it hit me. I knew that voice. Yes, it had aged since I had last heard it, but I could still hear the hint of a boyish tone there. Sucking in a deep breath, I whispered, “Frodo?”