Menrial of Mirkwood: Chapter 1 - The Thrush's Tidings
Menrial was the first to hear the news. She was out on scouting duty, patrolling the boundaries of the wood elves' domain, when faint cries from the treetops caught her ears.
"Did you hear that?", the elfmaid asked her partner, hardly daring to believe it. "The birds say that old Smaug is dead!"
Alduin, who was waiting impatiently for her to explain why she had suddenly stopped in the middle of morning patrol, looked skeptical. "How can you be sure it isn't just the crebain stirring up trouble again?"
"I can't.", Menrial said. "At least not from down here. But come, I saw an old oak a few paces back that looked big enough to climb. "
A few moments later, Menrial was almost at the top of the tree in question. The topmost branches were very slender, but she was smaller and lighter than most elves, and they bore her weight. Grimacing, she brushed away several spider's webs before pulling herself up through the canopy.
Above, the sky was gray and clouded, and a chill wind was blowing. But the treetops of Mirkwood had already turned vibrant shades of red and gold, and their bright beauty more than made up for the weak sunlight. Westwards, they stretched to the horizon, but when Menrial turned her eyes east she could faintly make out the lands beyond the forest. Closer by was what she sought: a flock of black birds, winging over the trees. This time, she was sure of their words.
"Smaug has perished, caw, caw!"
"Black wings!" she called. "Do you speak in truth or jest?"
"Truth.", came a voice at her ear, and then a small weight settled on her shoulder. "Smaug the Terrible has fallen, and it was Bard the Bowman who slew him."
Menrial drew in her breath sharply. The voice was that of a large thrush, sleek and dark with a pale, speckled chest. Its black eyes were full of intelligence. This was no ordinary bird.
"This is good news indeed.", she replied finally. "And I sense that there is some wondrous tale behind it."
"Indeed there is, but there is too little time for the telling. Now you must bring word to your king." The thrush's claws scraped against her shoulder and the tip of a wing brushed her cheek as it launched itself into the air.
"But wait !" Menrial cried. "What proof can I offer my people? And why are the crebain here?"
The thrush's voice came fluttering back on the wind. "When the Elf-King hears of me, he will understand. As for the crebain, they forbode only that which is to come."
Menrial watched the bird until it faded into the distance, trying to make sense of its enigmatic words. A faint cry from below finally brought her back to reality, and shaking her head as though to clear it, she began the long climb down to the forest floor.
She had some trouble convincing Alduin that the news was urgent enough to merit returning early from patrol duty. But eventually she brought him around, and they left the borderlands and headed back to the base.
Nenthel, the leader of the Elf-King's scouts, was less skeptical than Alduin had been.
"There've been others coming to me with stories like yours, although none involved anything but raucous crebain.", he said. "The thrush...now that's new. Birds of that type are seldom seen in these parts. And it spoke directly to you, you say, without being spoken to first?"
Menrial nodded. "I heard its voice before I saw it.".
"Well, I'll have word sent to the king immediately. If the dragon is truly dead, then there's much he'll want done..." Nenthel's eyes became distant and he trailed off into silence. There was a long pause, and then he seemed to remember that Menrial and Alduin were still there. "You may both go now,", he said. "and the rest of the day is yours for your good work."