To Dream - Ch29: Things Are Moving

Names/Pronunciations will come at the end of each chapter.

`*' signals a footnote

A/N: There are a few parts in this chapter that I take directly from the book b/c I couldn't think of a better way to say it. I think there are three such parts - they'll be italicized a very obvious. I hope I got the Ents right. I didn't want to go on an on about them b/c Tolkien did such a good job on them and I can't follow that kind of act. I just hope I wasn't too brief.

___________________________
Chapter 29.) Things Are Moving

***
Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing
I look far out into the pregnant night
And catch the gleaming of a random light

- Paul Laurence Dunbar
***

Recap: Oloriel and Nessúlë are off on their wild adventure. They rode south from Lothlórien, staying near the mountains. Elladan and the Rangers are on the move. Four days since last chapter.


Elladan rode up over the crest of the hill with anxious speed. It had been fifteen days since Elladan had sent the falcons out with a message for Elrohir, telling him to be at ------ in two weeks time. Elladan could only hope that their late arrival had given Elrohir the time he needed to make the rendezvous.

When Elladan finally broke from the cover of the trees he scanned the area quickly. The place seemed deserted, but this did not necessarily mean anything, good or ill. Elrohir would not be fool enough to loiter around in the open, so it was natural that this glade at the foot of the mountains should appear empty and undisturbed.

Halbarad and several of the other Rangers came up alongside Elladan as he finished his survey of the area. They were silent as Elladan called out in a moderately loud voice, "Elrohir, show yourself if you are here."

With hardly a breath of a sound, the form of an elf dropped gracefully down from the branches directly across from where the Gray Company* was waiting. With a cheeky grin, Elrohir straightened up and began to saunter toward them.

"Come now, brother," he chided, "Is your eyesight getting as bad as all that?"

Elladan just shook his head in exasperation. "Watch your tongue, youngling, and remember who invited you along."

Elrohir's eyes narrowed slightly. Elladan had held the fact of his eleven-minute seniority over Elrohir's head since they were children.

Deciding not to retaliate, Elrohir put his fingers up to his lips for a sharp, long whistle. Moments later, his horse came trotting out from the underbrush with twigs and leaves in his hair. Elrohir just rolled his eyes. If that horse was given but a moment of freedom he was bound to take a roll in the grass.

"When did you arrive?" Elladan asked.

"Late last night. And I would have despaired of you, thinking that you had already gone on and that I would have to ride without sleep to catch you, had I not kept one of father's falcons with me." At this, Elrohir broke off to look up at the trees. "He's still around here somewhere. It was he that spied your company from the air and was able to tell me that it was in fact you who were late."

Halbarad broke into the conversation then. "Well then we thank him for it. It wouldn't have done any good for you to go riding off into the south, chasing after phantoms. What a pretty lot of fools we would look then? But I'm afraid you'll have to excuse your brother's tardiness, Elrohir, it was mostly I that made the expedition start out late."

Elrohir sighed, "That is unfortunate. Now I shall have to contrive some other matter to harass him over."

"Come," Elladan declared, pointedly ignoring the barb, "We have much ground to cover and the day is still young. Mount up brother, as follow as you can - Rohan awaits."


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"It's no use!" Nessúlë declared petulantly, "This forest is set against us, I can feel it. We'll never find our way through it at this rate."

Oloriel gazed forlornly at the dark weave of branches above her. Against what some might perceive as good sense, they had crossed the threshold of Fangorn Forest in the afternoon two days past in order to seek cover, and were now rather lost. The sky was almost totally obliterated by the verdant canopy overhead, leaving their path murky and uncertain. Oloriel could no longer seem to tell which direction they were moving in, and the trees were of no help at all; in fact, they seemed to be down right hostile to the she-elves' presence.

"What shall we do then?" Oloriel finally replied. "I can't say for certain which way will lead us out, so there doesn't seem to be much else for it but to keep moving."

"There must be some way to get a look about us. I am may not be a Silvan elf, but I would climb one of these trees if I didn't think that it would cast me back down again. I don't like the feel of them."

"Neither do I," Oloriel murmured, "but perhaps we will come to a rise of land that can afford us a better view."

"That would be lovely," Nessúlë replied in an exasperated tone, "But it's not very likely, is it?"

~~~

"Look! Over there - a patch of sunlight!" Nessúlë turned back to Oloriel with a broad grin. "Perhaps we may make it out of this gloom after all."

With lightened spirits, the two elleths urged their horses toward the small shower of light. They were even more heartened when they discovered what was to be seen there. A sheer incline, as though it were the tip of some long root thrust out from the mountains, stood before them. And in it, whether created naturally or otherwise, was a sort of rough stair which lead up to a high cliff. From there they would be able to see just above the tree line.

The two companions climbed up the large steps with dexterity. As they ascended out of the trees, the air became sweet and light, allowing them to breathe more freely.

"I am so glad to be in the presence of Anor* once more!"

Oloriel smiled at Nessúlë's enthusiasm. "Indeed, it is a pleasant change. And what is more, I finally have a bearing on where we are. There is the silver strip of the Entwash. If we can keep our wits about us, we should be able to reach the edge of the wood before nightfall."

"And then where to?" Nessúlë threw an inquiring glance in Oloriel's direction. "Have we had any inspirations yet?"

Oloriel tilted her head to the side and gazed out over the misty green vista before her. "We'll know once we get there."

Further conversation was then halted by the sound of a creaking and rustling behind them, accompanied by a deep, reverberating rumble.

"Hum, Hroom, what have we here?" The rumble developed into a deep-throated rendition of the Common Tongue. "Little she-elves? Hmm...What have you come here for? And why are you so hasty to leave my forest? And what will you learn when you reach its border?"

Both Nessúlë and Oloriel had reached for their weapons at the first sound. They now gripped them with greater determination and steeled themselves to turn around and meet their assailant. With hitched breath, the elleths swung around and brought their blades to the ready. For a few split seconds they were bewildered, unsure of where the mysterious voice had come from. But then it struck them with amazing force that, melting into the background of wood and bark and leaves that adorned the bluff, was a definite figure, and that staring out from that figure, unblinking, were two fathomless eyes.

Treebeard stared at them complacently, allowing them to assess his presence. He was not afraid of them. It was true that not all Elves in the history of the world had been good, but such examples were few and far between. And the Elves loved the trees, and had taught them how to speak. This was enough to keep the agéd Ent from acting hastily toward them.

"Nessúlë..." Oloriel called out to her friend in a tremulous voice. "Did... he just speak?"

Nessúlë nodded but did not answer, her tongue being rendered almost useless by her shock.

"Did you understand everything he said?" Oloriel whispered this time, never letting her eyes wander away from the silent form in front of them. "All I can discern is that he knows we are Elves, and that he knows of our intention to leave the forest."

"I think... I think he, if he is a "He", wants to know our business... but we can't tell him, can we? Who knows where his allegiances lie."

Oloriel nodded her ascent. "How do you think he can understand us?"

A small shifting of limbs on Treebeard's part startled both the elleths and made them step several paces back. Treebeard understood them well enough. Sindarin was as hasty a tongue as most non-treeish languages, but he had taken the time to study it many ages before. He thought about informing them, but decided that there was no need to rush anything; therefore, he merely blinked a few times and tilted his head slightly to get a better view of them. She-elves were such small things.

This was as much as the two maidens could cope with. The Ent's eyes were so piercing, and his stature so imposing that they felt a better acquaintance was not at all necessary at that time.

"He looks slow," Nessúlë murmured conspiratorially, "I think we can out-run him."

"I agree," Oloriel replied, looking hastily over her shoulder to ascertain that the horses were still very close by. "Now!"

With racing pulses and quick steps the two companions fairly flew down the rugged incline and leapt gracefully onto their horses, not bothering to look back at the solemn Ent, who remained standing on the ledge with a quizzical look adorning his face.

Thankfully, amid their hurry and bustling, Oloriel and Nessúlë still managed to keep a firm grasp on their heading, straight toward the Entwash, and toward Rohan.

~~~

As night began to creep across the sky, the trees of Fangorn gradually grew thinner, giving way in turn to the grass-covered, rippling plains of the East Emnet*. The girls were fatigued and somewhat intimidated by finally coming face to face with their destination, and so it really did seem like an opportune moment to make camp for the night and avoid altogether the question of where to go next.

Nessúlë, being eager to sleep beneath the stars, had urged Oloriel to set up their bivouac in the plains. But there was something in the air that night which had pricked at the consciousness of the Lothlórien maiden, making her wary and uncertain. She pleaded with Nessúlë to come back with her into the trees, and to make sure that any fire she built was both small and well protected from view. Nessúlë finally acquiesced and, after standing beneath the stars for some time, came back underneath the eaves of the forest to eat her supper and sleep.

It was not until the morning that Oloriel's suspicions were confirmed.

As the sun began to wash across the open grasslands that day, the elleths stood on the brink of the forest, bathed in golden light. They were silent and serious, concentrating their unbelieving eyes on a hazy dark mass in the distance.

"It is... you were right, my friend. Danger is afoot."

Oloriel nodded silently, "Yrch {Orcs}, and more of them than we'll ever be able to manage."

A silent discomfort hung in the air between them as they both realized that they weren't at all sure how much they could "manage".

"Shall we turn back or go forward? Do you think they can see us from here?"

Shrugging helplessly, Oloriel scuffed the ground beneath her with her soft leather boot and murmured, "I don't know... But I think that perhaps we should wait here."

Nessúlë shot a disbelieving glance in Oloriel's direction.

"No, no, not here here," Oloriel clarified, "But in the forest. ...I feel as though we should stay - stay and see what they are about."

Something about the way she spoke gave Nessúlë pause. There was more to all of this than met the eye. Things were moving, as Oloriel had once said, things that Nessúlë didn't pretend to understand. But for now, she would simply have to trust Oloriel and follow her lead. At least she could take some comfort in the fact that, while the trees may not have been very welcoming to their presence, orcs would likely engender a far worse reaction.

~~~

It was late that night when their course of action was finally decided for them. All through the morning the maidens had waited in nervous anticipation for the Orcs to arrive. However, in the afternoon their nervousness changed into astonishment, for from out of the southeast had come a host of riders, fair haired and armored. For several hours not much could be said of them, except that they appeared to pursue the Orc host. But, when a better view could be seen, Oloriel was convinced that these were indeed the Horse Lords, and her heart was lightened for the discovery.

As night fell the hoard of Orcs stopped at the top of a small hill, surrounded on all sides by the Rohirrim. However, neither company dove in for the kill. The riders set up watch fires all around the area, but stayed out of arrow's reach, and the Orcs milled around the hillock, quick beady eyes scanning the forest as though looking for something.

Their gaze made Oloriel shiver, but she did not have to endure it for long. Soon many of the Orcs abandoned their vigilance and turned to petty quarrels or sleep. Meanwhile the Horse Lords stood watch, waiting for the sun to return and aid them in their cause.

Several hours had passed before it all began to happen. Oloriel and Nessúlë, having both felt an evil presence, retreated somewhat northward and found shelter within a close-knit group of saplings. It was well that they had done so, for to their surprise, another group of orcs came stomping through the trees out into the plain. The riders dispatched with them quickly enough, at little cost to themselves, and were able to maintain their perimeter around the first Orc band. However, they were not so quick-sighted as to prevent two small figures from escaping their net.

Fortunately, Elven eyes can see many things, and they are keen to spot the face of a friend.

"Merry and Pippin!" Oloriel cried in quiet though excited voice. "How have they come to be here?"

Nessúlë narrowed her eyes as she bent down to avoid a branch as they walked. The two forms were blinking in and out through the trees, but she could discern that they were short, somewhat stout, and curly headed.

"You know them," she inquired.

"Aye. They were..." Oloriel faltered, "They were part of the company that passed through Lothlórien some days past... But what can have happened to the others? They cannot be dead."

Nessúlë had never met the others, but could hear the sorrow that filled Oloriel's voice. "Whatever the fortunes of the others, these two are not dead and are currently making their way into a very perilous region. They are going exactly in the direction from which we came. Come, if they are of good heart we must try to protect them. They do not strike me as hale warriors, and will likely be eaten alive should they come across some evil thing. If you were looking for a revelation, Oloriel, I think this is it."

Oloriel paused for a moment and then nodded slowly. "Aye, Nessúlë, I think you may be right."

~~~

Nothing could quite describe Oloriel's embarrassment when she discovered that an Ent was nothing either evil or dark of purpose. She and Nessúlë had followed the hobbits silently until they reached the same out-look from which they had spied the Entwash, and when Treebeard had revealed himself again the two sallied forth in an attempt to "rescue" them. However, Treebeard had already taken them up in his arms. This gave him the leverage to direct the conversation and sort things out. The Hobbits learned that they had been followed by two elven friends, the Elves learned that an Ent was not so very bad after all, and the Ent learned that a Hobbit was not an Orc, and added their names to the `old lists'.

Much more there is to tell, of Wellinghall and Fangorn and Ent Draughts, and of the adventures of Merry and Pippin up until that time, but it has all been recorded before, and very skillfully too. All that need be known now is that, on the following morning, the elleths and the Hobbits went with Treebeard to Entmoot in Derdingle for the telling of news and for the deciding of actions - and decide the Ents did. Ents may not be quick to anger, but when they are roused their rage and strength is mighty indeed. Much was told at Entmoot of the treachery of Saruman, the growing shadows, and the destruction of trees; much was said to stir those ancient and noble hearts.

It was late in the afternoon when the moment came. The she-elves and Hobbits had gone away with Bregalad, that is Quickbeam in the Common Tongue, to his ent-house nearby and were awaiting the decision. Suddenly they were aware that everything was very quiet; the whole forest stood in listening silence. Of course, the Ent-voices had stopped. What did that mean? Bregalad was standing up erect and tense, looking back northwards toward Derdingle.

Then with a crash came a great ringing shout: ra-hoom-rah! The trees quivered and bent as if a gust had struck them. There was pause, and then a marching music began like solemn drums, and above the rolling beats and booms there welled voices singing high and strong.

We come, we come with roll of drum:
Ta-runda runda runda rom!
We come, we come with horn and drum:
ta-rûna rûna rûba rin!

Before long they saw the marching ling approaching: the Ents were swinging along with great strides down the slope towards them. Treebeard was at their head, and some fifty fillowers were behind him, two abreast, keeping step with their feet and beating time with their hands upon their flanks. As they drew near the flash and flicker of their eyes could be seen.

The Ents were going to war.

~~~

Neither Oloriel nor Nessúlë would forget how small they felt on the following day as they watched the great Ents raze the walls of Isengard. It was a sight to behold which words can hardly express. They pushed, pulled, tore, shook, and hammered... It was staggering. They roared and boomed and trumpeted, until stones began to crack and fall at the mere noise of them... Round and round the rock of Orthanc the Ents went striding and storming like a howling gale, breaking pillars, hurling avalanches of boulders down the shafts, tossing up huge slabs of stone into the air like leaves. And then, when all save the tower was torn into ruin, they broke the dams and diverted the water, cleansing Orthanc once and for all of its evil filth.

Once again Oloriel had to readjust her views concerning Ents. They were gentle and methodical, yes, but only toward that which was of good purpose and heart. Ents were serious creatures: hard and wise.

After the commotion, in which Oloriel and Nessúlë played but a little part, a watch was set up to guard the tower. Saruman still resided in his black spire and could not be drawn out.

It was with spinning heads and weary eyes that Oloriel finally laid down with her companions to sleep. Merry and Pippin seemed more sober than usual, and Nessúlë was absentmindedly stroking the petals of a soft flower. She had found it, alive and well by some miracle, hidden away in a crack by the eastern wall of Orthanc. Something had bid her to take it up before the waters came to cover.

Oloriel looked at her three silent companions and smiled sadly. `We all seem to have grown a bit more serious after this day. It is no wonder... I shall never forget what I have seen.'

Though their part had been small and largely unnecessary, both Oloriel and Nessúlë had proved themselves for the first time in battle. Oloriel had killed five: four with her arrows, but one at close range. An Orc had made it past the Ents and had sprung up behind her. After some tussling on the ground, she had finally managed to grasp one of the long knives that Kallindo had given her and thrust it up into the Orc's ribcage. She had a full view of his face as she did so, and didn't think that she would ever forget it. For the first time in her life she had actually felt what she believed was referred to by humans as queasiness.

She had found a small trickle of clean water with which to wash, but it hadn't done much good. She was still covered in grime and reeked with the smell of blood and smoke. But after such a day, she didn't care any more. With a few words of encouragement to Nessúlë and the Hobbits, she lay down onto a clean patch of grass and fell asleep.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Elladan cast a worried look in Oloriel's direction. This was one of the few times since the beginning of his journey where he had given himself leave to rest, but Oloriel's conspicuous silence was setting his mind on edge. It seemed a pity to him, for time passed in Elven dreams much as they do in human ones: it might be brief or it might seem quite prolonged, but when it was over it felt as though hardly any time had passed at all. Elladan didn't want to waste that precious time.

"Oloriel, are you alright?"

Oloriel turned and looked back at him with a forlorn expression. She was sitting slightly in front of him and to the side, knees pulled up to her chest. For a reason which Elladan could not discern, she had kept a small distance between them, and seemed to want to keep to herself.

"I... no, not really."

Elladan raised his eyebrows inquisitively. He hadn't expected Oloriel to be so honest. Taking that as a good sign, he stretched out his hand to her and spoke again. "Can I help?"

Oloriel let her head fall sideways onto her knees and looked at him out of the corner of her eye. This perusal went on for a moment or two before she whispered, "I hope so." Then, with a quiet yielding, she crept closer to him and let his arms enclose her in a safe and warm embrace.


*~*~*~Four Days Later~*~*~*

Aragorn rode with Gandalf and King Théoden of Rohan at the head of the company as they made their way from the Ford of Isen toward Orthanc. Directly behind them rode Legolas, with Gimli, and Éomor, while a company of twenty Rohirrim formed their rearguard. The Battle of Helm's Deep and been wan, and now Gandalf came to parley with Saruman and make him see reason.

The ruin of Orthanc was a sight indeed. The doors lay hurled and twisted on the ground. And all about, stone, cracked and splintered into countless jagged shards, was scattered far and wide, or piled in ruinous heaps... The ring beyond was filled with steaming water: a bubbling cauldron, in which there heaved and floated a wreckage of beams and spars, chests and casks and broken gear.

But, in contrast to all these sight was a most curious and bewildering sight. Near to the gates, on a pile of rubble sat two Hobbits, one fast asleep and one smoking a pipe, surrounded by bowls and bottles and platters, with very content looks plastered across their round faces. Before a few moments had past, the pipe-smoking Hobbit noticed their arrival and jumped to attention.

"Welcome, my lords, to Isengard!" he said, "We are the doorwardens. Meriadoc, son of Saradoc, is my name; and my companion, who, alas! is overcome with weariness, is Peregrin, son of Paladin of the House of Took."

As he spoke another figure and tentatively stepped out of the shadow the great arch that still stood standing.

"Ah yes," Merry continued, "And we are also accompanied by the fair and valiant Ladies Oloriel and Nessúlë of Lothlórien." With a very Hobbit-like enthusiasm he whispered conspiratorially, "Didn't think to see them here, eh Strider?"

Aragorn raised a slightly imperious eyebrow, and brushed his gaze over the uncommon company. No, indeed he had not.

Thus, with merely a few words, Merry had managed to rouse up a whole storm of question. Where was Saruman? What had brought them to this place? Where did they find the food? And, not least of all, how did two young elf-maidens find their way to Orthanc?


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Elladan leaned over the neck of his horse, as the ground past swiftly beneath them. He smiled with satisfaction at the time they were making. If they rode through the night, they would pass the Fords of Isen by the morning. Rohan was almost within their grasp. The only question that remained was, would Aragorn really be there?

***

1. I figured that I might as well start calling them that, since that's how Tolkien referred to them after they met up with Aragorn.

2. The sun.

3. According to my map, Rohan is divided into several sections: the Westfold, the Eastfold, the West Emnet, the East Emnet, and the Wold. The West Emnet, the East Emnet, and the Wold all border Fangorn.


Things to Know:

elleth: "she-elf"
I don't even think I need to keep saying that... you guys are smart, you can figure it out. = )

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