Lalaith sat cross legged upon the ground, her head down, her eyes upon her empty hands that sat open within her lap. But at the first, brief movement from the line of murmuring Ents, she lifted her head.
The low, steady murmur of the Ents had ended at last, and Treebeard was turning.
“Merry! Pippin!” She cried to the pacing Hobbits as she leaped lightly to her feet, and rushed toward the circle of Ents. Merry and Pippin followed behind her as she darted between Treebeard and another Ent beside him to stand beside the great rock in the middle of the circle, and raised her eyes to their faces.
“What is your plan?” She blurted as the Hobbits fumbled to a stop beside her.
Treebeard’s golden eyes studied her for a long moment, gazing out of his ancient, wizened face kindly and compassionate, before he spoke gently, “The Ents cannot hold back this storm.”
Her heart suddenly felt like a rock in her chest. Beside her, she felt Merry’s feet stutter, and she looked down, trading a glance with the Hobbit, whose usually cheerful face was now deadly serious.
“We must weather such things as we have always done.” Treebeard added slowly.
“How can that be your decision?!” Merry seethed beside her, his voice and his face furious.
“This is not our war.” Treebeard breathed gently.
“It is your war, Treebeard!” Lalaith cried, gulping hard, determined not to let herself cry. Her mother had said the Ents would help, once they realize they were needed. She had to make them understand. “It is the war of every good creature that is a part of this world!”
Treebeard rumbled deeply to himself at this as Merry, tears beginning to stand in his small eyes added, “And you are a part of this world!” He glanced desperately between the gathered Ents, “Aren’t you?”
The Ents groaned and creaked, glancing at one another as Merry continued, “You must help! Please!”
Lalaith glanced downward at the moss that edged the base of the stone, and softly added, “You must do something. Anything.” With a sigh, she lifted her eyes to Treebeard’s. “You know who I am.” She gulped desperately. “Your own mistress, Yavanna, is my kin. Does my word matter not at all, to you?”
Treebeard drew in a long sigh at this, and answered in his slow, deep, resonant voice, “You are young and brave, my little Valië, but your part in this tale is over. As is yours, Master Merry. Go back to your homes.”
“I am not ready to do that!” Lalaith cried, despairing. “Do you not understand, Treebeard? My friends are in this war! He to whom I have given the whole of my heart, is in great peril. I know it. I will not return to Imladris until after this war is won. If I have not died to keep it free.”
“Died?” Treebeard slowly shook his head. “No, no my young Valië. I promised Gandalf I would keep you safe.”
Treebeard put a hand up to stop her protest, and turned slowly away, signaling the end of their argument.
With a frustrated groan, Lalaith turned away, and marched with heavy step toward the Hobbits, who had returned to the edge of the clearing. Merry was reluctantly slinging his coat back on, and Pippin hovered nearby, his eyes trailing heavily to Merry, then to Lalaith and back again.
Lalaith glanced at Merry, and a look of bitter frustration passed between them as Pippin stepped closer.
“Maybe Treebeard’s right.” Pippin offered softly. “We don’t belong here. None of us do. It’s too big for us.” He glanced up at Lalaith’s darkened countenance. “Let’s face it Lalaith. Merry and I came for the adventure. And you came because of Legolas. What can any of the three of us really do in the end?”
He smiled wanly and said, “We’ve got the Shire. And you’ve got Rivendell. Maybe we should all go home.”
Merry shook his head at this, wordless, and glanced away from Pippin.
Lalaith studied the youngest, usually the most cheerful Hobbit with lowered eyes. Perhaps he felt helpless, that there was nothing more he could do. Perhaps he was thinking of his friend, Diamond, the Hobbit-lass he had spoken of before. And maybe he could not see all that he was capable of doing. But he could do so much more than he allowed himself to see right now.
“Pippin,” Lalaith muttered gently, falling to her knees to better face her friend, “perhaps those are the reasons why we came. But there are greater reasons now, why we should stay.” She drew in a breath, and looked away. “Sauron tried to kill me when I was a baby. If I cannot face and fight his darkness now, then it will only show that I have allowed him to defeat me. I cannot do that.”
Pippin sighed, and was about to speak, but Lalaith continued, “And Sauron’s minions killed Boromir, Pippin! Your friend! And mine, and Merry’s! How many others will be slain before the end of this war? Will Frodo die? Sam perhaps? What of Aragorn and Gimli?”
“Or Legolas?” Merry murmured, glancing at her with reluctant eyes.
Lalaith clenched her jaw and nodded, determined not to cry. “And think of the fires of Isengard.” She managed to gasp out through her tightened throat. “How do you think Saruman, keeps them burning? Doubtless, with the trees of Treebeard’s own forest! They are as alive as you and me, Pip. How would it be for you, if you were to know that Saruman feeds his fires with the slain bodies of Hobbits?”
“The fires of Isengard will spread.” Merry added to her words in a low, cheerless voice. “And the woods of Tuckborough and Buckland will burn. The rivers and waterfalls in Rivendell will dry up. And-,” Merry slowly turned to face Pippin, his face drawn in sober pain, “and all that was once green and good in this world will be gone.”
Lalaith bit her lip softly as Merry clasped Pippin’s arm, and studied the younger Hobbit’s somber eyes. “There won’t be a Shire, or a Rivendell for any of us to return to, Pippin.”