The Adventures of Laramir Pt. 11 (AU) - The Roots Run Deep

Gandalf did not return in a week, or even a week of weeks' weeks. He did send news at the end of a fortnight, by a bird-messenger, and Treebeard seemed to have news of him from somewhere, fairly regularly. Or at least he knew when Gandalf was at Isengard, and when he was travelling elsewhere. One night Laramir woke in the middle of the night and heard him mumbling something, many words she could not catch, but one sounded like a Gondorian name: "Aragorn." She asked, him, half asleep, "Who's that?" But Treebeard only mumbled something about sleep and not wanting to explain then. He promised to explain in the morning, but by then Laramir wasn't sure whether it had been a dream of her own, the whole incident, and so she didn't press the issue.

It seemed to get colder, though you couldn't really tell, what with all the shadows and all--it never was as warm as it had been in Minas Tirith, to begin with. But the birds and squirrels had left the upper parts of the trees and were now always scampering along the ground and sitting on the lower limbs, and Laramir could feel the chill when she sat on Treebeard's shoulder.

She sat on Treebeard's shoulders often those days. The world was changing, Treebeard said, and the animals were worried. Treebeard had to travel far every day, easing their minds and seeing that everything really was in order. And orcs were roaming through the outer edges of the forest, clawing at dead trees and chopping at live ones. Sometimes they took the wood but more often than not they just left the corpses behind to rot. One day when they were out walking Treebeard came across a rotting trunk; he didn't say anything, but Laramir felt him trembling.

"Treebeard, there certainly are a lot of Ents, or at least there was when Gandalf and I first came. Where are they, and why can't these protect these trees?"

"Huorns. Not Ents. They do their purpose well enough, doing what I tell them. But they are not much good on their own, and if left alone will amuse themselves playing mischief on the trees. All in fun of course.

"There are only three Ents, really. Myself you know. Finglas there was also. But the natural thing happened when one does not imagine: he became too treeish. You have to understand, Lara, that I am old. Older than Gandalf, even. As is Finglas. And when you do not learn new things each day, you become weary. And if enough days pass, if your body does not give out, then you give into that weariness, and just remain. Finglas is little better than a common tree, these days. But he was great once, and I still hope that he might one day awaken. And Fladrif walked with me once, when we were only Entlings. He lives now north of Isengard, and -"

"Isengard? Isn't that dangerous?"

"Oh, yes. But I don't worry about him. Fladrif is wise, strong, and nimble, and he has lived many ages longer than Saruman. Saruman will have grown wise indeed if he can trouble Fladrif. Or foolish, if he thinks he can. I have not heard from him in many a day: Saruman won't let anything leave Isengard or the surrounding area. And I don't dare go there myself, because if I were harmed, who would watch over the rest of the forest? But he cannot harm Fladrif: of that I am certain!"

And with a mighty laugh that shot the squirrels away from him and up the chilly trees, he started down the path. But Laramir climbed down, branch by branch, until she dropped to the ground and absent-mindedly wandered over to one of the trees, and gently caressed its bark.

"This tree was hurt once, long ago, wasn't it?" she asked.

"Not that you should be able to see."

"Why not? Why the scar's right--" She stopped dead, then peered at the bark more closely. "I thought I saw a scar. A slash, some kind of a cut. But it's gone now. Fangorn?"

He sighed. "Evil elves. Long ago. Sauron took hold of many elves years ago, and some he tortured in body; those became the orcs, horrible twisted mockings of the glory of Eru. But some he did not have to twist to his will. They were fair on the outside, but rotten inside, and their minds and souls desired what he wished, without torture. They would come and walk west of the dark mountains of Mordor and talk to the trees. Or so they said, but after they had gone, the trees were weak, they did not sing in the morning. Only after many months did I begin to see the black scars covered with vines. That day I ordered the woods not to open themselves to any elves, be they evil or pure-hearted. It didn't really matter: those of Laurelindorean and the other woods hadn't walked abroad for years, by that point."

He was quiet for a while, watching Laramir feel the bark and stare at the tree. "But you saw the scar. That wound was centuries ago, and you did not see it with Gondorian eyes.

"I've wondered for quite some time the effect of the Ent on a human girl. Now I know: you are beginning to see deep."

~*~*~

That evening Laramir and Treebeard were sitting on the bench in Fimbrethil's garden, Treebeard telling her of the Valar while Laramir gazed at the stars.

"It was then, Lara, when Manwë--"

Then they heard the sound of hoofs approaching quickly, and then a sudden stop. "Quiet now, Lara," Treebeard whispered to Laramir. After a long pause a familiar voice said:

"You had better let me in, Treebeard, before I grow impatient and blow away your precious vines!"

"Gandalf!" Laramir cried, and ran through the vines. She jumped onto the back of Gandalf's horse and wrapped him in her now lanky arms.

"Why who is this wild thing? Laramir?"

"She has grown," said Treebeard.

"She's no taller than her cousins were at this age," Gandalf replied.

"That is not what I meant." Gandalf turned and looked at her eyes. "Yes," the wizard said, "you are right. She has grown, not in height, but in depth." He laughed out loud. "What will Denethor thinks when he sees the Ent-eyes! They are worse than the elf-glow to the like of him!" He dismounted and helped Laramir down.

Treebeard and Gandalf spoke quietly for a while in some ancient tongue that Laramir couldn't understand, but she was glad just to see the wizard again. Finally he turned away from Treebeard and looked at her again. "Lara, pay attention. I've brought your horse, too. It's time for you to leave this place. I'm going on a journey, a long journey. But first I must find Aragorn, and then find a good many other things. I'm sending you to Théoden's court; he has a niece, Éowyn, and you will be good friends for each other. She will need you, before the end. Treebeard, look to your western border. Saruman is no neighbor for you. He is killing trees. Yet, he is still wise, and we may need him some day. But keep watch!" He mounted his horse.

"Gandalf!" Laramir cried out. "Won't you stay for dinner, and tell us what you've seen."

"No." And with that he rode off into the sunset.

Treebeard turned to the girl and his eyes softened. "Lara, there is something I must tell you. I have already told you, but I must tell you again, because you have to understand. You remember about Fimbrethil, and the Entwives? Lara, we lost them, and now we miss them. Women and children are wonderful things. But once they're gone--well, we cannot find them. And now, I need her grace, my Fimbrethil. I need her calm." He paused, as if he was about to cry, but he went on. "Lara, there is glory and honor in the women's camp as well as the men's. I would have Fimbrethil, and all the rest, back. Don't you see that it is good, to be a woman, even if those around you don't appreciate you for it?"

"Yes," she said. "But would you have had Fimbrethil stay, miserable, pretending to be something she wasn't?"

The ent looked down at her with sad eyes. "Go to sleep, love. Tomorrow I must take you to the forest borders. Tomorrow you leave for Edoras."

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